Women gymnasts to take the floor as MPs begin hearings on safety in sport

After months of imploring the federal government to clean up their sport, Canadian gymnasts will finally have the floor in Ottawa.

Gymnasts will be among the first to testify before members of Parliament Monday as the Standing Committee on the Status of Women begins its hearings on the safety of women and girls in sport.

“It feels like there are a lot of possibilities for good outcomes to happen,” said Kim Shore, a former member of Gymnastics Canada’s board of directors. “We’re really optimistic, particularly with the bipartisan approach that we’ve seen, which is essentially sport, isn’t it? The power of sport to bring people together, even if they have different world views.

“To come together on behalf of protecting children, protecting human rights, and the opportunity to make sport better in Canada fills us all with a ton of optimism.”

Shore is among the more than 500 former and current gymnasts _ Gymnasts for Change _ who’ve been tirelessly lobbying the government for an independent investigation. Gymnastics is one of several sports that have been vocal about the toxic environments of maltreatment.

The status of women study comes after repeated calls from hundreds of current and retired Canadian gymnasts for an independent investigation into their sport.

Shore hopes this study leads to a national judicial inquiry into sport.

“That’s exactly where these early steps must lead,” said Shore. “Gymnastics is but one example of many, many sports and many, many athletes who are facing very unsafe, unhealthy environments. And the only way to move forward on behalf of sports in Canada is to fix the system from the top down and the bottom up.

“And all the people that are saying that we should just look at a positive future and put the past behind us, we cannot do that. Because by not looking at the past, we risk making those mistakes over again.”

Last week saw the continuance of Hockey Canada’s examination by members of Parliament. That national sports body has been mired in controversy for months after the organization mishandled sexual assault allegations involving members of the 2018 world junior team.

An investigation into that sexual assault has been opened by London, Ont., police and Halifax police are investigating group sexual assault allegations involving members of the 2003 men’s junior team as well.

None of the allegations have been proven in court.

“What we’ve all learned from the Hockey Canada hearings is that people in positions of power, who are trying to hold onto the power, aren’t going to voluntarily come to the table, transparent, and with all the information we need to know to make things better,” Shore said. “And that’s why judicial inquiry is important, because we need the subpoena power to compel individuals to turn over documents and to share what has gone wrong in the past so we can fix the future.”

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