This is the original letter to Sport Canada requesting a review of GymCan in its internal practices. You can read my original article about it here.
Support Athletes’ call for Independent Review of GymCan Leadership + Sport Culture
To: Vicki Walker, Director General Sport Canada
cc: The Honourable Pascale St-Onge, Minister of Sport
As current and former elite Canadian gymnasts, we have been and continue to be subject to a toxic culture and abusive practices within Canadian gymnastics. We are and have been members of the Olympic Team, the National Team, and other competitive programs. For almost a decade, the fear of retribution has prevented us and scores of other athletes from speaking out. However, we can no longer sit in silence. We are coming forward with our experiences of abuse, neglect, and discrimination in hopes of forcing change. We ask Sport Canada to take action to ensure the next generation of Canadian gymnasts is not subject to the physical and psychological trauma that we have had to endure.
Over the past five years alone, there have been multiple complaints about and even arrests for various forms of emotional, physical, and sexual abuse. The subjects of these complaints have been Canadian coaches, many of whom we were exposed to as minors at GymCan sponsored training camps, provincial/national competitions, and national team assignments. We know that there are many more examples of harm that have not yet come to light, and we know that abusive behaviours continue in gyms across this country today.
The current Board and CEO of GymCan have failed to address these issues and have failed to earn the trust and confidence of athletes. Their inability to adequately respond to ongoing systemic abuse, mistreatment, and discrimination is troubling. For example, the GymCan website says that complaints from gymnasts are currently directed to GymCan CEO Ian Moss, the very individual who wields significant power over athletes’ careers. This is just one illustration of GymCan’s ongoing failure to protect and support its athlete community. Despite GymCan’s lip service to addressing problems, their actions demonstrate an unwillingness and/or inability to change.
We have pushed GymCan to investigate issues internally and to change policies to ensure athlete safety. We have gotten nowhere. Therefore, we now call on Sport Canada to fund an independent, third-party investigation into the ongoing toxic culture and abusive practices that persist within Canadian gymnastics.
An independent investigation must incorporate the experiences of both current and retired athletes and include a public release of recommendations and findings – all while protecting athlete anonymity. The selection of any hearing body appointees or independent investigators must be agreed to by the athletes.
Many athletes who have experienced abuse suffer significant ongoing psychological and physical consequences, including depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and chronic pain. We continue to suffer harm while participating in programs run by GymCan, the very organization entrusted with developing and protecting us.
We also express solidarity with our fellow athletes from other sports who have bravely called for change in similar ways, including bobsleigh and skeleton athletes who are currently advocating for a similar investigation into their national governing body. We collectively support all survivors of abuse and applaud the courage of those who have come forward to share their stories to improve sport for everyone. We hope that Sport Canada will support us by commissioning the requested independent investigation and consider the ways it could use its funding powers to ensure sport is safe for all athletes.
Canadian Gymnasts, Past and Present, on behalf of Future Gymnasts
Thank you for reading. You can read and sign the open letter by following the link below.
— Coach José