During the last two years, the AO Board of Directors and staff have been focused on strengthening the safe sport environment for Athletics in Ontario. At the core of this safety net is a robust new safe sport policy framework. We want all Athletics Ontario athletes, coaches, parents, officials and volunteers to feel safe and trust the sport system. It is crucial that safety in sport is understood and applied across all sports, with no exceptions.
The new Safe Sport Policy Manual gathers together nine policies that form an important part of the initiatives we have been taking to foster and maintain a safe sport environment. AO has had many of the components of these various polices for some time, but we have updated the policies and procedures and consolidated all of them into a single and easier to follow manual. The new Safe Sport Policy Manual will include the following components:
- Code of Conduct (Updated)
- Children & Vulnerable Adults Policy (NEW)
- Complaints, Dispute Resolution and Discipline Policy (Updated)
- Alternative Dispute Resolution Policy (Updated)
- Appeal Policy (Updated)
- Event Discipline Procedure (Updated)
- Screening Policy (Updated)
- Whistleblower Policy (NEW)
- Concussion Management (Updated)
With the use of a detailed table of contents, you can easily find the exact information you are looking for, and navigate throughout the manual with ease.
The Manual introduces clearer language regarding expected behaviours, prohibited behaviours, and a clearer recognition of the implications of power imbalances in relationships.
The Manual also explains what to do if you experience something that you believe constitutes inappropriate conduct/wrongdoing or if you simply witness or hear about it. Furthermore, it outlines the process that AO will follow to address a complaint and the potential disciplinary actions that may result from confirmed cases of wrongdoing.
We have also introduced a brand new Whistleblower Policy. This policy allows the possibility of making an anonymous complaint or making a “whistle-blower’s” report. These complaints can be difficult to investigate, however these policies demonstrate that we recognize how difficult it can be to come forward, and that we do not want issues to be left unattended to or unresolved.
These policies, including the updated Screening Policy as well as the obligations outlined in our Membership Policy, represent an integrated, concerted and proactive effort by Athletics Ontario to prevent problems before they occur. We are committed to preventative measures but also to severe penalties for those who choose to breach our policies and codes of conduct.
The screening policy addresses the individuals who have actual contact with members, particularly athletes. The selection process is explained in the Complaints, Dispute Resolution and Discipline Policy.
The launch of our new Safe Sport Policy Manual also includes a simplified complaint form, which focuses less on the categorization of the misconduct and more on how to best address the complaint. The new form provides a clear identification of who the participant can contact to help them start the complaint process. Please click the link above or go to the Policies and Governance page of our website to view the form.
As part of the updated Complaints, Dispute Resolution and Discipline Policy, we will be appointing a minimum of three “Safe Sport Officers” to be the first point-of-contact for all complaint and discipline matters reported to Athletics Ontario. The Safe Sport Officers may be employees or other representatives of Athletics Ontario or independent individuals volunteering or retained by Athletics Ontario for this purpose. Safe Sport Officers must all be trained through a variety of courses before appointment. View the current Safe Sport Officers on our Safe Sport Information page.
The new Safe Sport Policy Manual is just a part of the continued effort to foster and maintain a safe sport environment. Other critical aspects include the training of coaches and members of club management. Safe Sport requires everyone in positions of authority to help to create a culture of mutual respect and safety, where people can feel safe questioning behaviours they perceive as inappropriate and reporting misconduct. It is a continuous and ongoing process, and the changes we are making will continue to be reviewed, questioned, tested and improved.