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Canadian sport organizations develop governing documents and policies as a roadmap to the desired state of operation within their organization. But implementation of this roadmap can be a challenge. Equity, diversity and inclusion are necessary to see meaningful change, especially at the community level where the vast majority of Canadians participate in sport. Effecting grassroots change can help ensure all Canadians can access safe, quality sport and feel that they belong.

In recent years, increased awareness of racism and discrimination brought throughout society and within the sport sector have forced a necessary reflection on policies and practices. As the understanding of equity, diversity, and inclusion evolves, examining the past and the present of Canadian sport policies and programs can shed light onto the future of inclusion in sport.

Preventative rules, policies, and regulations are one way sport organizations can protect their athletes from injury. For example, helmets in skiing and snowboarding have reduced the risk of brain injury, the elimination of body checking in hockey age groups has reduced the risk of concussion and there is new evidence in mouthguards better protecting athletes in contact sports.

The Spring 2022 SIRCuit is now available!

The SIRCuit is designed to highlight important research and insights to advance the Canadian sport system. With the Canadian Sport Policy set to be renewed in 2023, this is the first of a 2-part SIRCuit edition exploring the future of sport of Canada. In this edition, sport and physical activity researchers, practitioners and policymakers share data, insights and best practices to help shape inclusive sport practices and policies for all Canadians.


Over the past few years, the racism and discrimination brought to light throughout society and within the sport sector have forced a necessary reflection on policies and practices. While the concepts of diversity, equity and inclusion were seeded in government policy many decades ago, the context has evolved significantly. Today, these terms have new meaning, in light of events in broader society and our responses to them. There’s a renewed urgency for sport stakeholders to adopt new policies and programs to bring about cultural change that can ensure the future of sport includes all Canadians.

In this article, we discuss how sport policies and programs in Canada have evolved and how they contributed to the development of safe and inclusive sport for all Canadians.

The past: Policy development

As early as 1971, the Government of Canada adopted an official multiculturalism policy to recognize the contribution of cultural diversity to the Canadian social fabric. The policy’s goal was to promote inclusive citizenship. In the next decades, the focus shifted to language of social exclusion and supporting specific groups who were identified as particularly vulnerable to economic and social marginalization, such as recent immigrants, “visible minorities,” religious minorities, sexual minorities, “urban Aboriginal peoples,” and individuals with disabilities. (Note: Certain terms above are drawn from that policy. Over time, the terms have evolved to reflect ongoing updates to appropriate, inclusive language.)

By the time the first Canadian Sport Policy was endorsed by federal-provincial/territorial governments in 2002, “social inclusion” and “equity” and other similar concepts were regularly included in policies, and shortly thereafter in legislation, in the Physical Activity and Sport Act (2003).

Through extensive collaboration and consultation, and over 2 years of work, the first Canadian Sport Policy reflected the interests and concerns of 14 government jurisdictions, the Canadian sport community and countless other sport stakeholders in Canada. That policy introduced the guiding principle that “sport is based on equity and access” as in:

Sport is welcoming and inclusive, offering an opportunity to participate without regard to age, gender, race, language, sexual orientation, disability, geography, or economic circumstances.

CSP 2002, p. 13

While consultations didn’t target specific groups, there was a noted effort to pay “specific attention to the issues of inclusion and equity” throughout the consultation and policy development process. That process welcomed and sought to involve everyone who didn’t currently consider themselves a part of the sport community or system, but who had the potential and desire to contribute.

The first Canadian Sport Policy reflected a new approach to shared leadership and collaboration to enhance participation, excellence, capacity and interaction in sport. The accompanying action plan prioritized the increased “participation of women, persons with a disability, Aboriginal peoples, and visible minorities.” The commitment from all governments for a common vision was an important step in aligning and committing to advancing sport equity in Canada.

A decade later, the renewal of the Canadian Sport Policy took a stronger approach. The Canadian Sport Policy 2012 (CSP 2012) expanded upon and embedded “inclusion and accessibility” in the policy’s values and principles:

“Sport delivery is accessible and equitable and reflects the full breadth of interests, motivations, objectives, abilities, and the diversity of Canadian society.”

CSP 2012, p. 6

The consultation process introduced targeted questions relating to under-represented populations and participation in sport. Additionally, it included questions about the lived experience of participants as well as the availability of accessing sport programs and services in both official languages. The answers provided valuable insight into inclusive and accessible sport, and the ability and likelihood for participation.

Important findings were that most consultation participants felt efforts should be made to increase the participation of under-represented groups in sport. In particular, these groups included: Indigenous people, racialized people, women and girls, persons with a disability, children and youth, new Canadians, and people who were at an economic disadvantage. Consultation participants felt that increasing participation would be a positive effect on health, community-building and personal development. It would also reinforce the priority of accessible sport.

As a result, increasing diversity was identified as a Policy Objective and desired outcome in the CSP 2012:

“Opportunities provided for persons from traditionally underrepresented and/or marginalized populations to actively engage in all aspects of sport participation including leadership roles.”

CSP 2012, p. 9

Sport Canada policies evolved along a similar trajectory. In the decade following the launch of the first Canadian Sport Policy, Sport Canada introduced several new policies targeting the same areas of inclusion and access:

More recently, the Canadian High Performance Sport Strategy (2019) identified 3 visionary pillars, 1 of which was a high performance culture based on integrity, trust and inclusivity. That strategy identifies what’s now known as the Indigenous Long-Term Participant Development Pathway, as an inclusive tool for supporting Indigenous participants in sport and recreation.

The present: Policy implementation through programs

When policy meets program that’s when inclusive sport can happen. The Canadian Sport Policy is delivered through the collaboration, engagement and commitment of provincial and territorial governments that advance this work within their unique jurisdictions. Bilateral agreements between the federal government and all 13 provincial and territorial governments are in place to support policy in action. Inclusive sport participation is the overarching objective of the bilateral agreements. Specifically, they:

At the federal level, implementation of sport policy is delivered through Sport Canada’s 3 funding programs: the Hosting Program, the Athlete Assistance Program and the Sport Support Program.

AWG Dene GamesThe International Multisport Games for Aboriginal Peoples and Persons with a Disability (IMGAPPD) component of the Hosting Program is inclusive by design. It provides competitive opportunities for designated under-represented groups in Canada facing systemic barriers to sport participation. Specifically, IMGAPPD supports the hosting of 4 eligible events in Canada: the North American Indigenous Games, the Arctic Winter Games, the Special Olympics World Games and the Deaflympics.

The Athlete Assistance Program provides grants to eligible, high performance Canadian athletes, including women and girls, athletes with a disability, those with any number of intersecting identity factors. Sport Canada works with National Sport Organizations to identify objective and merit-based evaluation criteria for athletes.

Under the Sport Support Program, policy has historically been implemented to eligible and funded organizations through reference-level funding (formerly called core funding). National Sport Organizations, Multisport Service Organizations, and Canadian Sport Centres are allocated protected funding to promote equitable access to information for Canadians in both official languages with accompanying accountability measures. Organizations recognized as providing programming and services to athletes with a disability are also provided funding that is protected for this purpose.  

Historically, while Sport Canada’s approach to programming and funding has provided reasonable stability to support official languages and athletes with a disability, it was recognized as insufficient in terms of supporting inclusive sport. Over the past 5 years, Sport Canada has been considering funding differently, expanding programs, and making space for innovation. As a result, there has been a significant shift and investment in creating a more diverse, inclusive and equitable sport system in Canada to align with the goals of the CSP 2012.

Sport Canada is beginning to see meaningful impact on inclusion in sport across Canada. This is happening through project-based funding to support new organizations that are piloting programs or working in communities. There are also new protected funds being allocated to existing funding recipients.

Here are examples of this ongoing, inclusive work:

Beyond program funding, the Minister of Canadian Heritage and the Parliamentary Secretary for Canadian Heritage (Sport) held a general Sport Town Hall and a series of roundtable discussions on sport in fall 2020. They covered the following topics to advance Government of Canada priorities relating to diversity and inclusion:

Those discussions included women’s groups, LGBTQ2+ organizations, Indigenous organizations, as well as sport organizations. Sport Canada has continued the discussion by engaging with experts, including the Federal Anti-Racism Secretariat and the LGBTQ2 Secretariat. Those engagements had to happen before embarking on a series of consultations to support the development of an Equity, Diversity and Inclusion and Sport for All Strategy. Lived experiences shared through consultations and data collected (for example, qualitative data from stakeholders, and disaggregated data) will ensure that evidence-based decision making is well supported in the future. Sport Canada will use collated evidence to evaluate how to update, adapt or improve its policies and programs to support the identified needs of Canadians. This marks an important shift in the way progress will be measured and in how funding and programs will be delivered. The shift aligns with the necessary move toward prioritizing safe, welcoming and inclusive sport.

The future: Where to next?

This is only the tip of the iceberg of the work that must be done. Sport Canada recognizes that the work can’t be done in isolation. After all, Canadian sport is a complex and dynamic network of intersecting systems that integrate context, geography, organizations, people, places and infrastructure. In December 2021, the Mandate Letter from the Prime Minister to all Ministers provided clear direction on the importance of incorporating the views of Canadians when considering our systems:

“We must continue to address the profound systemic inequities and disparities that remain present in the core fabric of our society, including our core institutions. To this effect, it is essential that Canadians in every region of the country see themselves reflected in our Government’s priorities and our work. As Minister, I expect you to include and collaborate with various communities, and actively seek out and incorporate in your work, the diverse views of Canadians. This includes women, Indigenous Peoples, Black and racialized Canadians, newcomers, faith-based communities, persons with disabilities, LGBTQ2 Canadians, and, in both official languages.”

This is a clear driver for all policy in Canada in the years to come. In the Mandate Letter specifically to the Minister of Sport and Minister responsible for the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec, the Prime Minister provides an even more specific commitment. He outlines the importance of ensuring “a holistic and balanced strategic approach to sport development in Canada that supports the purpose and goals of the Canadian Sport Policy, including improved health and wellness for all Canadians through community sport, increased accessibility to sport programs, reduced barriers and the achievement of social and economic goals through the intentional use of sport.”

Work is underway toward the next iteration of the Canadian Sport Policy with consideration for incorporating the diverse views of Canadians. The inclusive nature of the engagements to be undertaken by the federal, provincial and territorial governments will help shape the future of the Canadian Sport Policy. The sport environment has changed since the development and publication of the first 2 policies. However, sport in Canada continues to require a policy for aligning the activities of the many organizations making up the sport system and for creating a shared vision for sport’s future. Fill out the Canadian Sport Policy Renewal Survey to have your say.

The intent of the Canadian Sport Policy is to continue to serve as the roadmap for progress to the desired state of Canadian sport. It’s informed by current evidence and by stakeholder consultations around various themes (including diversity, equity and inclusion).

The implementation is the challenge to policy makers, program deliverers and the Canadian sport community as a system. In acknowledging that diversity is defined differently in different contexts, we must also acknowledge that equity, diversity and inclusion are products of design. They’re necessary to see meaningful change, especially at the community level where the vast majority of Canadians participate in sport.

It’s no easy task to design inclusive programs. It requires intention and listening to the needs of those you wish to serve. It requires learning to have difficult and honest conversations. It requires flexibility and innovation. It requires willingness to try and fail forward. It means using individual power and privilege to create safe and accessible spaces for equity-deserving Canadians to engage in sport. All this must happen while also recognizing that sport policy in Canada is supported by limited resources, built on the backs of volunteers, and it requires sensitivity to the unique needs of each group.

It’s certain that the language of diversity, inclusion and equity will continue to evolve. As that happens, new terms and concepts will better describe intentions. What matters most is that the language doesn’t distract from the critical goal of effecting grassroots change to ensure all Canadians can access safe, quality sport and feel that they belong.

“Often we say, ‘Don’t do this’ or ‘Don’t do that’ but we rarely say, ‘What does that Safe Sport environment look like?’ and ‘How do we make it safe?” says Kristin Noonan, Manager, Coaching and Safe Sport at Softball Canada. Learn more about the creative and engaging strategies that national sport organizations are using to advance the Safe Sport movement in the SIRCuit.

Today is Rowan’s Law Day! Commemorated annually on the last Wednesday of September, Rowan’s Law Day raises awareness about concussion safety. Take some time to explore and share what your sport is doing to improve concussion safety, for example, through concussion protocols and policies. Remember, everyone contributes to making sport safer!

Over the past few years, national sport organizations have implemented several strategies to advance Safe Sport and optimize the sport experience for all. To create safe, welcoming and inclusive sport environments, top strategies include building and strengthening policy to align with documents such as the Universal Code of Conduct to Prevent and Address Maltreatment in Sport (UCCMS) and developing creative tools and resources to get the Safe Sport message out, and make it stick!


Perhaps not surprisingly, the unofficial theme of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games has been ‘safety first.’ Postponed from 2020 to 2021 due to the COVID‑19 pandemic, the Summer Olympic and Paralympic Summer Games are scheduled to take place respectively from July 23 to August 8 and from August 24 to September 5.

Even before the word COVID‑19 entered our global vocabulary, safety was top of mind for national sport organizations (NSOs). In the years leading up to the pandemic, more and more high-profile abuse and maltreatment cases in sport had made national and international headlines. From these revelations, the Safe Sport movement was born.

The words safe and safety often make us think of preventing physical injury or harm. But the Safe Sport movement is about more than that. It’s about optimizing the sport experience for everyone involved in sport. Safe Sport involves the reasonable expectation that the sport environment will be free from all forms of maltreatment (that is, abuse, neglect, bullying, harassment and discrimination) and that it will also be accessible, safe, welcoming and inclusive.

A prime example of how Safe Sport has advanced in recent years is the Universal Code of Conduct to Prevent and Address Maltreatment in Sport (UCCMS) coming into being. Officially released in 2019, the UCCMS encourages a Safe Sport environment by providing NSOs with guiding principles, defining prohibited behaviours and outlining sanctions for misconduct.  

With both the Tokyo and Beijing Olympic and Paralympic Games set to take place over the next several months, NSOs have been hard at work on Safe Sport policies and initiatives. NSOs want to ensure the safety and well-being of their sport communities, from the grassroots level all the way up to their national teams. In this article, we take a deep dive into how 4 NSOs (Alpine Canada, Gymnastics Canada, Hockey Canada and Softball Canada) are advancing Safe Sport. We also discuss tips, strategies and lessons learned for other sport organizations working to optimize the sport experience for everyone.

Building and strengthening Safe Sport policies

For all 4 NSOs we interviewed, advancing Safe Sport meant first addressing policy to protect their sport communities, including athletes, coaches, staff and others involved in the sport environment. For example, after the UCCMS was established, each sport went straight to modifying their existing bullying and harassment policies.

“The Safe Sport movement has allowed us to re-address some of those areas, and certainly start to build and strengthen them as we move forward,” says Todd Jackson, Director, Insurance and Risk Management at Hockey Canada.

Male gymnast performing on rings.

The idea of Safe Sport as a “movement” was echoed by other NSOs. They viewed the UCCMS as more than just a document to integrate into their existing policies, but rather the driving force behind a cultural shift in the way we see, think, and speak about maltreatment in sport. That shift has begun to take hold, but it requires continued action.

“While updating our organizational policies has been an important step for enhancing safety, there is still much work to do in education and advocacy to bring them to life in practice,” says Ellen MacPherson, Director, Safe Sport at Gymnastics Canada.

Part of that shift is to consider the language we use to describe and discuss Safe Sport. For instance, the use of terms like maltreatment have been adopted to discuss abuse and harassment in sport. According to Kristin Noonan, Manager, Coaching & Safe Sport at Softball Canada, consistent terminology was an important part of Softball Canada’s first step toward revising their policies and developing Safe Sport initiatives.

“With the release of the UCCMS, we wanted to ensure the terminology used within was consistent with the terminology on our website, within our own policies and in all of our Safe Sport initiatives,” says Noonan.

Having a shared understanding of key terminology and being consistent in its use is an important step for any organization, club or team when making changes and advancing toward a “new normal” or culture. Something as simple as creating a glossary can help make sure everyone is on the same page.

Another strategy is to seek out and lean on experts in the field. As part of their efforts to refresh policies, the NSOs we interviewed touched on the importance of consulting with experts in the field, including researchers and lawyers.

“I think anytime that you’re integrating new guidelines like that, to have the experts around you and have people who can give you input on what you’re doing and not doing is a real benefit and helps to alleviate some of those challenges,” says Jackson.

diverse group of childrens' hands cheeringFor example, Gymnastics Canada developed a new policy, dubbed the “Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Policy,” in collaboration with researchers and experts within and outside of the sport. In addition to that policy’s launch, Gymnastics Canada is currently creating supplemental eLearning resources that highlight key aspects of the policy and can be shared by the broader sport community. According to MacPherson, “The Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Policy is a foundational policy from which further initiatives designed to enhance diversity, equity and inclusion in Canadian gymnastics can be built.” It was put in place to ensure all participants feel welcome, respected and have equitable opportunities to experience the physical and mental health benefits of sport participation.

Finally, NSOs are increasingly turning to independent third parties to resolve violations of Safe Sport policy. For instance, Alpine Canada formed the Alpine Independent Supervisory Board: A group of professionals including lawyers, researchers and other independent investigators who are external to the organization and solely responsible for the adjudication of major infractions. In addition, the Government of Canada recently announced that the Sport Dispute Resolution Centre of Canada has been selected to establish and deliver a new Independent Safe Sport Mechanism that will oversee the implementation of the UCCMS for federally funded sport organizations. Establishing a third party to specifically handle violation cases not only helps to strengthen policy, but also allows for a neutral adjudication process that minimizes bias and conflicts of interest.

However, according to Joseph Gurgis, who recently left the role of Safe Sport Manager at Alpine Canada to pursue a Postdoctoral Fellowship at Cape Breton University, Safe Sport is about more than policy. “A multifaceted approach that extends beyond policy implementation to include education, advocacy, independent complaint mechanisms, research, monitoring, and evaluation is required to ensure that we adequately advance a culture of Safe Sport,” he says.

This leads us to another cornerstone of Safe Sport: education.

From the ground up: Education and awareness

What is maltreatment? What does maltreatment look like? And what is Safe Sport? Gurgis reflected on this new terminology and how an important part of Safe Sport is making sure people know what it is.

“There’s a lot of behaviours in sport that are harmful but normalized by stakeholders, who are often unaware of how certain sport practices may be harmful to a person’s physical or psychological welfare,” says Gurgis.

Team Canada competes in Para Ice Hockey action in Ostrava
Photo: Canadian Paralympic Committee

Ironically, when discussing Safe Sport with those who are meant to benefit from it, few can articulate what Safe Sport is and what it’s meant to achieve. For Jackson and Hockey Canada, it all boils down to 2 words: education and awareness.

“I think that’s where the education and awareness become so important, because you not only have to put a policy in front of an organization or put a policy in front of people, you have to explain why you’re putting that policy in front of them. And you also have to give them a little bit of background on how to work within that policy,” says Jackson.

Jackson highlighted the Speak Out! program as a foundational component of Hockey Canada’s approach to Safe Sport. Speak Out! Was originally created in 1997 to educate and prevent bullying, harassment and abuse in hockey across Canada. Hockey Canada established the Speak Out! Subcommittee to oversee the building of the Speak Out! program as it progressed.

“[The Subcommittee] put together a framework for the program that included policy building, education at our grassroots levels, screening, which continues at all levels of the game, and creating awareness around the prevention of bullying, harassment, and abuse,” says Jackson. “It continues to be delivered by our members in various forms, to our volunteers, to our coaches, to the people involved with young players across the country.”

More recently, NSOs across Canada have focused their efforts on creating effective and engaging educational tools focused on maltreatment and Safe Sport more generally, especially before sending their best athletes off to Tokyo. This includes increasing awareness of practices that may be harmful or problematic, as well as resources that are available to participants for reporting and assistance. As part of this process, many NSOs are requiring mandatory screening in addition to Safe Sport training for all Olympic- and Paralympic-bound participants. This screening is now also being carried out at lower-level sports organizations.

Little girl doing gymnastics moves with ribbon in studio lit by warm sunlightThe NSOs we interviewed also described unique initiatives to educate and engage their communities from the ground up. For example, Gymnastics Canada has launched a new Safe Sport Learning Series and a Safe Sport Champions Series this summer. Designed to complement one another, these series leverage research experts and mentors in the field of Safe Sport. They’ll share insights and practical tips for creating healthy, safe and positive environments for participants at the grassroots level all the way up to Gymnastics Canada’s national and high-performance teams.

“We’re building on this [Safe Sport] momentum in the lead up to Tokyo by continuing IST (Integrated Support Team), as well as inviting experts and mentors to deliver webinars and workshops for the national team and high-performance community. Topics will include positive coaching practices, enhancing mental health, self-awareness, building resilience and staying positive, and supporting nutrition and healthy eating,” says Gymnastics Canada’s MacPherson.  

At Softball Canada, Safe Sport Onboarding is the newest educational initiative. The Safe Sport Onboarding program is designed to educate, protect and empower all members of Softball Canada. And the program has already been mandated for players, coaches and support staff heading to Tokyo for the Olympic Games.

“Leading up to the Olympics, we are providing a Safe Sport education package to the team and we will also be giving a Safe Sport presentation specifically for our Women’s National Team Program prior to their departure for the Games,” says Noonan.

This initiative will educate Softball Canada’s participants on the reporting processes, policies, guidelines and contacts related to Safe Sport at the Games. Understanding that individuals won’t necessarily read through all policy documents, Noonan spoke to the importance of this education program as a way of providing key stakeholders with the main pieces of information in a more digestible and engaging way.

Thinking outside the box (and other advice for sport organizations)

While policies and educational initiatives are important, they need to be developed and delivered in a way that resonates with intended audiences. The NSOs we interviewed stressed the importance of getting creative with educational tools and policy resources. That creativity is essential not only for promoting key messages, but perhaps more importantly, for making Safe Sport messages stick.

“It’s got to be delivered in a way that’s user friendly, and at the same time effective. Engagement is so important so that people will be responsive and so [the Safe Sport movement] will continue to grow,” says Hockey Canada’s Jackson.

Young high school softball players in action, making amazing plays, during a game.To reach provincial/territorial sport organizations (PTSOs) and grassroots clubs in each sport, some NSOs have come up with innovative strategies to increase uptake. Softball Canada offers a great example. It shares its policy templates and resources, including access to lawyers, with softball PTSOs. Doing so limits the work needed by PTSOs to adjust their policy suite, meaning that implementation is quicker and more consistent across all levels of sport.

“The UCCMS became a backbone for us moving forward with our provincial/territorial alignment, allowing us to take our complete policy manual and provide templates to each of the [PTSOs],” says Noonan.

Her most important tip for sport organizations that are working to build up their Safe Sport initiatives is to think outside the box. “[Think about] what can be done in addition to those policies and procedures. Make it fun and provide awareness by getting it out there in different ways than just on a piece of paper,” Noonan says.

French and English backstop signs developed by Softball Canada. Please remember These are kids This is a game Coaches are volunteers Umpires are human Everyone deserves respect! Softball Canada logo N'oubliez pas Ce sont des enfants C'est un jeu Les entraîneurs sont des bénévoles Les arbitres sont humains Tout le mode mérite le respect! Logo de Softball Canada

For example, Softball Canada has created a short video to educate stakeholders about Safe Sport. It has also developed postcards and backstop signs that reinforce key Safe Sport messages for spectators, including parents and guardians, at youth and adult softball events.

“They [the signs] hang on the backstop so that all the fans and parents can see them. A gentle reminder for all involved that everybody deserves respect,” says Noonan. “Fun, outside-the-box ideas are what has made our initiatives so successful because they’re simple and tangible. It’s more than just reading a policy.”

In addition to getting the message out in an engaging way, it’s important to ensure that the voices of stakeholders are included in decisions about Safe Sport policy and initiatives. At Gymnastics Canada, that involves hearing input from voices within the gymnastics community. Hearing from people who are experiencing or implementing Safe Sport principles was important for figuring out if there were any gaps, resolving any, and thinking about ideas for future development.

“Safe Sport is an ever-evolving portfolio. It’s important to work collaboratively with our stakeholders and incorporate their input to ensure the safety, health, well-being and inclusiveness of all participants,” says MacPherson.

Para-alpine skier going down the hill.For its part, Alpine Canada established a National Safe Sport Committee comprised of 25 individuals, including parents, athletes, coaches and sport administrators, from across Canada’s skiing community. “The advancement of Safe Sport requires the collective efforts of all stakeholders in sport. So, the purpose of this diverse collaboration is to engage participants, from each stakeholder organization, in meaningful conversations regarding Safe Sport and to provide them a platform to openly discuss their Safe Sport needs,” says Gurgis. This committee gathers 4 times per year to discuss key Safe Sport concepts, establish and discuss Safe Sport goals, identify stakeholder responsibilities for advancing Safe Sport in the community, clarify ways to monitor and advance Safe Sport, and evaluate Alpine Canada’s Safe Sport progress overall to provide recommendations for next steps.

Moving toward Safe Sport in Canada

As shown, sport organizations across Canada have taken various steps to advance the Safe Sport movement. Safe Sport, and the UCCMS specifically, are direct in what is “unacceptable” behaviour in sport. However, there’s a growing need to prepare organizations and participants with information about “acceptable” behaviours and best practices.

Ice Hockey Players Celebrating

“Often we say, ‘Don’t do this’ or ‘Don’t do that’ but we rarely say, ‘What does that Safe Sport environment look like?’ and ‘How do we make it safe and welcoming? It really is about following those True Sport principles and reminding everyone what a supportive environment looks like,” says Softball Canada’s Noonan.

Similarly, Gurgis encourages sport organizations to think about Safe Sport beyond the conceptualization of preventing maltreatment.

“At Alpine Canada, it represents so much more. Safe Sport isn’t just about eliminating maltreatment, but it’s also about optimizing the sport experience to ensure that everyone understands their fundamental right to participate in and access a version of sport that embraces values such as respect, inclusion, and fair play,” says Gurgis.

It appears that Safe Sport is more than just a phase, but rather the “new normal” for sport. There’s still much to learn and do to create Safe Sport spaces across Canada, but Alpine Canada, Gymnastics Canada, Hockey Canada and Softball Canada have demonstrated important lessons and learnings to protect the safety and well-being of all participants. For other NSOs looking to advance Safe Sport within their sport communities, key learnings include:

Employing these tips and strategies can help sports to build, strengthen, educate and grow awareness of Safe Sport. Join the movement to optimize sport experiences for all!

Recommended resources

Additional information, the Universal Code of Conduct to Address Maltreatment in Sport (UCCMS) and resources on safe sport in Canada can be found on SIRC’s website:

Trend reports can be a valuable source of insight for sport organization boards of directors who are working to develop their strategic foresight skills. Reflecting on emerging developments in consumer behaviour and attitudes, government priorities, and industry innovation can help ensure your organization stays relevant into the future.