Athletics Canada believes that everyone has the right to enjoy the sport at whatever level or position they participate. Athletes, coaches, officials and volunteers have the right to participate in a safe and inclusive training and competitive environment that is free of abuse, harassment or discrimination.
Athletics Canada believes the welfare of everyone involved in the sport is a foremost consideration and in particular the protection of children/athletes in the sport is the responsibility of each individual, member and special interest group in the swimming community.
In order to help maintain a Safe Sport environment Athletics Canada instituted the Commissioner’s Office at the Annual General Meeting in July 2015. It is the first office of its kind in a national sport organization (NSO) dedicated to resolving complaints independently from the NSO.
Athletics Canada’s Board of Directors has taken a firm stand with its Code of Conduct and Ethics Policy. A motion was passed at the 2018 Annual General Meeting to revise the Rules and Bylaws pertaining to sexual harassment.
The following document highlights these changes. We strongly encourage all members, including branch representatives, coaches, athletes and their support teams, to read the full policies regarding code of conduct and harassment.
About the Commissioner’s Office
The Athletics Canada Commissioner’s Office is unique in Canada. It is the first, and only, office in a national sports organization (NSO) dedicated to resolving complaints within the NSO as an independent office. The Athletics Canada Commissioners are not employees of Athletics Canada; they have been selected by Athletics Canada to act as independent officers whose sole function relates to complaints resolution. There can be between one and three Athletics Canada Commissioners. They are selected based on their knowledge of sport, experience in law or dispute resolution, and sport specific dispute resolution, mediation, or arbitration; as well as geographic, gender, and language balance considerations.
The Commissioners Office is established by the Athletics Canada Rules and Bylaws
What is the specific role of the Commissioners
The Athletics Canada Commissioners Office is established to receive, review, and to try to resolve appeals and complaints in in five specific areas, which are established in the Rules and Bylaws.
The five areas where the Commissioners have jurisdiction are:
Athlete appeals of carding decisions;
Athlete appeals of selection decisions;
Athlete appeals of eligibility decisions;
Disputes relating to the Athlete Agreement, as those are brought forward by athletes; and Complaints of violations of Athletics Canada’s Code of Conduct and Ethics.
The Commissioners have a great deal of discretion in the way they conduct a appeal or complaint review and resolution process. They will work with the parties by providing information, using active listening skills, and by providing suggestions, options or alternatives towards resolution of issues. The Commissioners will be responsive to the needs of the parties, based on issues such as language, gender sensitivity, ensuring the lack of bias, etc.
In all appropriate cases the Commissioners will consider the possibility of mediation, and the parties themselves may request mediation. The mediation may be conducted by a Sport Dispute Resolution Centre of Canada resolution facilitator.
The Commissioners may appoint an outside and independent investigator when they feel independent fact finding is necessary to help clarify the issues or the circumstances concerning a code of conduct complaint.
While the Commissioners may make final and binding decisions in some cases, they may also use alternative dispute resolution techniques to resolve complaint, where it is appropriate to the circumstances, and the needs and interests of the parties.
Statement on neutrality and independence, email security and privacy
The Commissioners are neutral and independent officers of Athletics Canada. They are appointed as outside consultants or contractors to act as Commissioners after a public call of interested parties, and a transparent selection process which includes athlete representatives. Commissioners carefully avoid cases where there could be a real or perceived conflict of interest.
Athletics Canada maintains specific email addresses for the Commissioners. While these are hosted on the Athletics Canada server, no one has access to the emails except the Commissioners. Athletics Canada follows all of the rules established for data security and privacy under federal and provincial laws. The general email address for the commissioners is Commissioner@athletics.ca.
Fairness principles in sport dispute resolution
The Sport Dispute Resolution Centre of Canada has produced a number of documents which may be of interest to persons making or considering making a complaint to the Commissioners.
The Guide to Administrative Fair Play outlines some basic principles of administrative fairness in sport. These include principles such as openness, accountability, transparency, and fairness.
Athletics Canada participants should also be aware of SDRCC publications relating to team selection and carding.
Dr. Frank Fowlie
Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) Mediator; Sport Dispute Resolution Centre of Canada (SDRCC) Board member 2009 – 2015; Doctor of Conflict Resolution; Chartered Mediator; former United Nations Olympic Games Officer; Chef de Mission, Individual Olympic Athletes (East Timor) Sydney Olympic Games 2000; Bilingual.
A Canadian lawyer and former track and field athlete, Michele Krech is currently conducting doctoral research at New York University (NYU) School of Law, where she studies and teaches on the subject of global sport governance reform, particularly initiatives aimed at advancing gender equality.
A member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police for 39 years, retiring with the rank of Superintendent. John is also a lawyer and was the Director of the RCMP’s Adjudications Branch. During his career he ran the national witness protection program and worked in commercial crime
The Honourable Hugh Fraser Former National Track Team member; Member of 1976 Canadian Olympic Team; Judge & Arbitrator
The Honourable Sharman Bondy Lawyer, Provincial Court Judge, Parent of an Olympian
Catherine Pitre Former Case Manager at the Sport Dispute Resolution Centre of Canada; Lawyer; Gymnastics Ontario Judge; bilingual
Filling a Complaint
How to be an effective complainant
The following suggestions were generated by participants of the “How to Complain Effectively” workshops, part of Ombudsman Ontario’s Community Education Program.
- Let your anger motivate and give you energy. Try not to express it negatively.
- Be calm, cool and collected when expressing your complaint.
- Be clear and concise when describing the problem.
- Treat people who you are talking to as you would like to be treated: with respect and courtesy.
- Listen carefully to the other person.
- Keep detailed records of the names of people you spoke to, the date and time and their response.
- Ask questions.
- Find out about any relevant complaint and appeal process.
- If you are not satisfied with a response, ask for a referral to someone at the next administrative level.
- Put your complaint in writing and keep copies of all documentation.
- Decide what you want and what you are willing to settle for.
- Be flexible and open-minded in attempting to resolve and find a solution to the problem.
To make a complaint about the Code of Conduct issues, Athlete Agreements, or eligibility; or to reach the Commissioners, please complete the contact form.
To make a complaint about carding or selections, please complete this form.
Updates to Athletics Canada’s Code of Conduct (Approved at 2018 Annual General Meeting)
SDRCC – Team Selection
SDRCC – Carding
Do I need to have a lawyer to make a complaint to the Commissioner?
No, while any party to a Commissioner’s proceeding has the right to be represented by a lawyer, it is not necessary to have a lawyer to make a complaint, or to respond to a complaint.
Can the Commissioners give me legal advice or tell how they think my complaint will end up being resolved?
No, while some of the Commissioners are lawyers, it is inappropriate for them to give legal advice in the cases they are working on, and they can’t give you a ‘best guess’ about what’s going to happen to your complaint.
You can always take a look at previous appeal decisions by the Commissioners here.
Is my appeal or complaint kept secret?
The work the Commissioners do is done in private and is considered confidential. This is especially true if an appeal or complaint is resolved in mediation. However, if an appeal or complaint results in a written decision by the Commissioners, the decision itself will normally be posted on the Athletics Canada Appeal page. Also, the Commissioner’s Office is the first recourse available to complainants. The Commissioners’ decisions may be appealed to the Sport Dispute Resolution Centre of Canada (SDRCC); and the SDRCC decisions may be appealed to local courts, or the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS). The institutions outside of the Commissioners’ Office will have different rules around confidentiality.
Will there be a hearing that I must testify at?
If they determine that it is necessary to be able to resolve the complaint, the Commissioners may require a hearing to be held. The hearing may take place in person, where all of the parties meet in the same place, or it may take place by teleconferencing. The Commissioners may also decide that documentary evidence is the best way to share and consider the evidence. (Rule 140.07.9 and 10 and Rule 140.08.12 and 13)
Is there any cost to make a complaint to the Commissioners?
Yes, there is a $250 fee to initiate a complaint, but this is refunded if your complaint is successful or found to be legitimate (Rule 140.06.11). It is not necessary for you to hire a lawyer to participate in a Commissioners process. If you do hire a lawyer, you will be responsible for your own legal fees. You may also investigate the SDRCC Pro Bono list to see if a lawyer will represent you for free.
How do I make a complaint or an appeal?
To make a complaint about the Code of Conduct issues, Athlete Agreements, or eligibility, please complete the Commissioners’ contact form.
The Commissioners’ Office is an Associate Corporate Member of the ADR Institute of Canada.