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Local sports clubs say they’re left on their own to protect young athletes from abuse

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This story is the second of a three-part series by CBC News and Sports on abuse in amateur sport in Canada.

Brian Jessup hasn’t put on his figure skates in years. They belong to a chapter in his life that he has desperately tried to forget.

“I was robbed of being able to have a normal life and being successful,” he said. “That opportunity was taken away from me.”

Jessup came to figure skating relatively late, at age 10, but picked up the sport easily, and in the 1980s, was one of Ontario’s up-and-coming stars. “I had huge aspirations and goals. I wanted to be the best in the world.”

Things changed when Jessup was just 12 years old, and he said his coach, Kevin Hicks, a former top Canadian skater himself, began to sexually abuse him.

Brian Jessup started figure skating at age 10, and was once touted as an up-and-coming star in Ontario. (Submitted by Brian Jessup) It continued for six years.

“He was in complete control of not only my skating career but my life as well,” said Jessup, now 48. He made Jessup feel “that I would be nothing if he wasn’t part of my life. And he was quick to remind me of that, often.”

A joint investigation by CBC News and Sports has revealed Jessup was one of more than 600 minors in Canada who had been a victim of a sexual offence by a coach, and whose abuser was charged in the last 20 years.

Jessup left skating when he was 19, without telling anybody what had happened. Tormented by his experience, Jessup ended up abusing drugs and alcohol for two decades, until he found the strength to tell his family and, ultimately, the police.

Hicks was arrested in 2012 and later convicted of one count of sexual assault on Jessup and three additional counts of sexual assault on another skater (whose name is protected by a publication ban).

Jessup said back in the 1980s and ’90s, nobody talked openly about sexual abuse, and there were certainly no resources in place in his local club for vulnerable athletes.

More than two decades after Jessup was victimized, local sports clubs and associations across Canada are largely left on their own to develop and implement policies to root out problem coaches and protect athletes.

Watch Brian Jessup share his story on The National:

Brian Jessup is one of the victims of predatory coaches in Canada’s amateur sports system. An investigation by CBC News and Sports has revealed hundreds of coaches have been charged with a sexual offence against a minor in the last 20 years. 6:23

For example, figure skating clubs or baseball leagues across the country may have different rules and policies, with little guidance from their national sports bodies.

And that means some young athletes are left in precarious situations.

‘National level has limited oversight’

Sexual abuse in sports has been on the federal government’s radar recently.

A number of high-profile sexual assault complaints involving national team coaches prompted federal sports minister Kirsty Duncan to announce new rules. Beginning in 2020, sport organizations that receive federal funding must have a policy in place to address abuse and provide mandatory training to their members.

They must also report incidents of abuse directly to the minister, and will be required to make an independent third party available to hear athlete-abuse allegations. It’s something athletes from a number of national teams have been pushing for.

These are good ideas that will help athletes competing at a national level, experts say, but they question what they will do for the hundreds of thousands of Canadian athletes who don’t compete in sport at the elite level.

Noni Classen, the director of education at the Winnipeg-based Canadian Centre for Child Protection, has been asked by many clubs and sport organizations to advise on best practices for child safety. She is concerned by the “chaotic” hierarchy in sport, where “no one has authority over anything.”

  • If you would like to access victim support services, click here for a directory of resources in your area​

Classen said national sport organizations (NSOs) may have great policies on paper, but have little way of effectively communicating rules and codes of conduct about the way a coach should interact with a child.

“The national level has limited oversight over the provincial level. So they would have policies in place for the national level, but that doesn’t necessarily trickle down to the provincial level in terms of having authority that they put policies in place. It’s more so recommendations,” Classen explained.

Differing policies

CBC contacted 133 provincial sport organizations (PSOs) — covering eight provinces and 17 different sports — to ask about their policies and procedures around sexual abuse. Of the 61 replies we received, 21 deferred their response to their respective NSO.

Softball Alberta was the only one to say they currently do not take direction from their NSO, Softball Canada.

Many national sports organizations CBC spoke with confirmed that they offer guidance to their PSOs, and that the PSO ultimately governs local clubs and members.

Gymnastics Canada told CBC it is “working closely with our provincial and territorial partners, however, to align our Safe Sport policies and procedures to ensure consistent enforcement and duty of care across all levels of gymnastics in Canada.”

Canoe Kayak Canada said their policies are currently being reviewed at all levels to articulate who is responsible. But “regardless of the level, CKC will intervene as necessary.”

Experts point out that in many cases, the PSOs operate with limited resources.

For example, Judo Quebec has just six full-time employees. Jean-François Marceau, director of Judo Quebec, told CBC they take the safety of athletes seriously, but their diligence is constrained by a lack of resources.

Noni Classen, the director of education at the Centre for Child Protection, is concerned by the ‘chaotic’ hierarchy in Canadian sport organizations. (CBC)

For one thing, they said they cannot confirm if all local clubs are conducting background checks on potential coaches, or offering them the proper training.

‘You want to see consistency’

Experts say that for the most part, local clubs bear the burden of doing the difficult work of addressing abuse claims and athlete safety.

The Leaside Baseball Association in midtown Toronto runs programs for about 750 children, and like most leagues in Canada, it relies on volunteers from the community.

Jesse Harrison, LBA’s director of coaching and development, said that when he joined the league a few years ago, he was not given any guidance from Baseball Ontario or Baseball Canada on how to implement necessary safety measures.

“It’s scary that these policies and procedures aren’t unified across the province or country, because it’s something that needs to be dealt with,” said Harrison.

“You want to see consistency across the associations, throughout the province. I would like to see if one of our players moves to another city in Ontario, that they are going to get the same education in terms of abuse training.”

Baseball Canada declined to comment to CBC.

It’s scary that these policies and procedures aren’t unified across the province or country, because it’s something that needs to be dealt with.– Jesse Harrison, Leaside  Baseball Association director

Jessup said he has managed to reach a good place in his life — he is supported by family and comfortable talking about what happened to him.

But he’s concerned that kids today are no better protected from potential abuse than he was more than two decades ago.

“What tools can we put in place to make a kid feel safe enough to come forward and tell somebody?” Jessup said. “That’s something that we all need to figure out.”

— With files from Devin Heroux and Marie Malchellosse

Editor’s Note: CBC Sports acknowledges that it has ongoing contractual agreements to produce, broadcast and stream various events with several national sport organizations.​

​For readers under the age of 18, if you have questions or have ever felt uncomfortable, talk to a parent, guardian or adult you trust. If you don’t have someone you can talk to, call KIDS HELP PHONE at 1-800-668-6868 or live chat them at KidsHelpPhone.ca.

If you have something to share on this story please contact Lori Ward at lori.ward@cbc.ca or Jamie Strashin at jamie.strashin@cbc.ca. You can also send anonymous tips through CBC Secure Drop.

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Ottawa Book Expo 2020 – Authors, Publishers look forward to a top-notch Canadian book fair

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Diversity has always been a complex issue, no matter where you look.Case in point, world-famous writer, Stephen King, has recently come under criticism for his views on diversity. The best-selling author had stated, “I would never consider diversity in matters of art, only quality. It seems to me that to do otherwise would be wrong.” Many criticized the novelist as being out of touch and “ignorant,” but one cannot deny that King’s opinions on diversity, mirror the thoughts of a whole lot of people in the creative industry.

The Toronto Book Expo is coming back in 2020, with a multi-cultural concept that aims to include marginalized authors.  The Expo intends to celebrate literary works of diverse cultural backgrounds, and the entire literary community in Canada is expectant. Book-lovers and writers alike, are invited to three days of uninhibited literary celebration where diverse cultural works will be prioritized. At the event, authors will be allowed to share their culture with a broad audience. The audience will be there specifically to purchase multi-cultural works.

Multicultural literary expos do not come every day. In Canada, there is a noticeable lack of literary events celebrating other cultures. This leads to a significantly lower amount of cultural diversity in the industry. The Toronto Book Expo would aim at giving more recognition to these marginalized voices. Understandably, more recognizable work will be prioritized.

The Toronto Book Expo is making a statement that diversity is needed in the literary community. The statement is truly motivating, especially if you consider the fact that this could mean more culturally diverse works of literature.

There is a lot of noticeable cultural ignorance in literature. This is an issue that needs to be addressed and books are one of the best means of improving multi-cultural diversity in literature. The Toronto Book Expo is going to fully utilize books to fight ignorance in the literary industry.

Real progress cannot be made if there is a substantial amount of ignorant people in the industry. In spite of advancements made in education in recent years, there is still a considerable percentage of adults who remain unable to read and write.The Toronto Book Expo aims to bring awareness to social literacy issues such as illiteracy.

It is important to uphold high literacy levels in the community and to support those who are uneducated. A thriving society cannot be achieved if the community is not able to read their civil liberties and write down their grievances.

The major foundation of a working and dynamic society is entrenched in literature. Literature offers us an understandingof the changes being made to our community.

The event would go on for three days at three different venues. Day 1 would hold at the York University Student & Convention Centre at 15 Library Lane on March 19. Day 2 would be held at the Bram and BlumaAppel Salon Facility on the second floor of the main Toronto Reference Library near Yonge and Bloor Streets in downtown Toronto on March 21 and day 3 of the expo would take place at the internationally famous Roy Thomson Hall.

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A Week In Ottawa, ON, On A $75,300 Salary

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Welcome to Money Diaries, where we’re tackling what might be the last taboo facing modern working women: money. We’re asking millennials how they spend their hard-earned money during a seven-day period — and we’re tracking every last dollar.Attention, Canadians! We’re featuring Money Diaries from across Canada on a regular basis, and we want to hear from you. Submit your Money Diary here.Today: a biologist working in government who makes $75,300 per year and spends some of her money this week on a bathing suit. Occupation: Biologist
Industry: Government
Age: 27
Location: Ottawa, ON
Salary: $75,300
Paycheque Amount (2x/month): $1,930
Gender Identity: Woman

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Ottawa doctor pens nursery rhyme to teach proper handwashing

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An Ottawa doctor has turned to song to teach kids — and adults, for that matter — how to wash their hands to prevent the spread of germs.

Dr. Nisha Thampi, an infectious disease physician at CHEO, the area’s children’s hospital, created a video set to the tune of Frère Jacques and featuring the six-step handwashing method recommended by the World Health Organization.

Thampi’s 25-second rendition, which was co-authored by her daughter and Dr. Yves Longtin, an infectious disease specialist at the Jewish General Hospital in Montreal, is featured in the December issue of The BMJ, or British Medical Journal. 

Thampi said as an infectious disease physician and a mother of two, she thinks a lot about germs at home and school.

“I was trying to find a fun way to remember the stuff,” she said. “There are six steps that have been codified by the World Health Organization, but they’re complex and hard to remember.” 

Thampi said she came up with the idea to rewrite the lyrics to the nursery rhyme on World Hand Hygiene Day in May, when she was thinking about how to help people remember the technique. 

She said studies have shown that handwashing is effective in reducing the risk of diarrhea-related illnesses and respiratory diseases. 

“So I’d say it’s one of the most important and easiest things we can do.”

The video includes such often-overlooked steps as “wash the back,” “twirl the tips around” and “thumb attack,” which pays special attention to the first digit.

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