Feds freeze funding for national gymnastics organization after open letter

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The federal government will freeze funding for Gymnastics Canada, a move that comes after more than 500 gymnasts signed an open letter alleging abuse the national organization failed to protect them from.

The letter, published Thursdayurged Sports Minister Pascale St-Onge to suspend funding to Gymnastics Canada (GymCan) and conduct an independent investigation, adding that this request had been ignored for months by GymCan, Sport Canada and also the government.

In an exclusive statement to CTV News, St-Onge said Thursday night that funding would be frozen pending the organization’s cooperation with the new Office of the Sports Integrity Commissioner (OSIC), which was installed last month. last to deal with reports of abuse in sport.

“I understand the sense of urgency that drives these athletes and I share their call for meaningful change,” she said in the statement.

“A few days ago, I informed GymCan that they needed to expedite their OSIC registration process, and that funding would be on hold until they met this requirement.”

The minister is expected to send a letter to GymCan on Friday confirming the suspension of funding.

Gymnastics Canada is a national sport organization dedicated to supporting gymnasts across the country.

According to hundreds of gymnasts, the sports body not only does not support them, but has failed to protect them from abuse.

“We called for change,” Amelia Cline told CTV National News.

Cline is with Gymnasts for Change Canada, which released the open letter detailing the abuse allegations.

The letter represents over 500 active and former gymnasts. Many claim to have been physically, mentally and sexually abused while playing the sport.

“There have been so many opportunities for Gymnastics Canada […] to really be a leader in these issues,” Cline said. “And unfortunately that just didn’t happen.”

The letter said the gymnasts had raised flags about abuse and shared heartbreaking stories of their experiences over the past four months, but to no avail.

The lack of change is why they lobbied for GymCan’s funding to be cut – just like what happened with Hockey Canada last month.

The funding change comes after new allegations of abuse.

Earlier this month in Lethbridge, Atla., gymnastics coach Jamie Ellacott was accused of sexually assaulting a child during practice. The alleged abuse is just one reason why Abby Spadafora says the sport needs urgent attention.

“It has to stop,” Spadafora said. “I want to see support for all the survivors out there.”

Spadafora is a former elite gymnast who spent six years on Canada’s national team.

“I was mentally, verbally and physically abused by my male and female coach and I was sexually abused,” she said.

As a survivor, Spadafora is committed to ensuring that future athletes are better protected.

“I think the only way to do that is to investigate, get to the root of the problem and hold those responsible accountable,” she said.

Gymnasts are also calling for an independent investigation into GymCan’s handling of abuse cases.

GymCan was asked to comment on the letter, but said it would post a response on Friday.

Another Canadian child gymnast has been sexually assaulted and the Canadian government continues to ignore calls from athletes for an independent third party investigation into abuse in Canadian gymnastics.

Gymnasts4Change Canada asks @PascaleStOnge_ take urgent action. pic.twitter.com/WBxGFHy44L

— ����Gymnasts4Change Canada (@Gym4ChangeCan)
July 21, 2022

With files from The Canadian Press

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