Experts call on the Canadian Government to become a world leader in developing solutions
Leading researchers on the causes of sexual violence in sports have sent an open letter to Canadian politicians urging them to to begin taking meaningful action to prevent sexual violence and abuse in hockey and other sports (read the letter).
The letter, signed by 28 academics from 21 universities, was sent to the Canadian Sport Minister and a Parliamentary committee investigating allegations of violence in elite junior men's ice hockey. The letter was written to ensure politicians were aware of the ‘scientific consensus’ on key issues they will be exploring with leaders from Hockey Canada at hearings in Ottawa on 26 and 27 July.
There have been decades of warnings that sexual violence is a “widespread” problem in Canadian sport requiring urgent action from the Canadian Government.
Signatories include the co-authors of two scientific "Consensus Statements" issued by the International Olympic Committee (Margo Mountjoy and Sandra Kirby) and researchers who have conducted multiple recent studies into sexism and misogyny amongst elite junior hockey players in Canada.
"Many Canadians are understandably shocked by the allegations of sexual violence in hockey and outraged by the responses to these problems from Hockey Canada,” said Dr. Taylor McKee, who conducts studies on hockey and sport culture at Brock University.
McKee helped organise the letter because he felt men needed to start ‘stepping up’ to help fix the culture in sport.
“Researchers who study these problems are also outraged by these incidents, but we are not surprised. Sexual violence in hockey has been documented in multiple studies over the last two decades, yet Hockey Canada and the Canadian Government have failed to take action to prevent these problems. We are hopeful that this will now change. We need strong leadership from the Canadian Government and investment in the development of evidence-based methods to fix the cultural drivers of these problems,” said McKee.
Dr. Helen Lenskyj, from the University of Toronto, also helped organise the letter. "I have been researching this topic for nearly 40 years and change to Canada's sport culture has been incremental and slow. We wrote the letter to give politicians the tools they need to understand the depths of the problems and begin leading the transformation of Canadian sports."
"The lack of progress has been primarily due to a lack of leadership from the Canadian Government and strong resistance from the men who control hockey and most other Canadian sports. Instead of taking meaningful action, sport leaders typically look for quick-fixes such as creating one-off ‘sensitivity' or 'diversity' training programs.' These programs are not enough to fix the deeply entrenched drivers of sexual violence and other forms of abuse in sport," said Dr. Lenskyj.
She continued: "Sport leaders and governments often also focus on creating "complaint-lines" for victims. This inappropriately places the burden for reporting these problems onto the victims, rather than on the people responsible for safeguarding vulnerable athletes and setting the values in Canadian sport."
Dr. Taylor McKee, Brock University
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Dr. Helen Lenskyj, University of Toronto
Media coordinator: Dr. Erik Denison, Monash University