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 athletic 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.
Filing 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.
What is Harassment
The following are excerpts from Section 129 Code of Conduct and Ethics taken from the Athletics Canada Rules and Bylaws. To see the Code of Conduct in its entirety visit this page.
Athletics Canada believes that eliminating Harassment in sport is vitally important. Complaints related to Harassment are additionally addressed under Athletics Canada’s Harassment Policy.
Harassment is an unwanted behaviour directed at another identified person that:
a) Is repeated or pervasive (although a single incident may be viewed as harassment), and
b) Has the purpose or effect of violating an individual’s dignity or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for that person.
a) Happen between an individual against another individual, either at the same hierarchical level or between individuals with different hierarchical levels and/or different contractual status;
b) Take the form of bullying, characterized by the underlying perception of an imbalance of power, and by the repeated or habitual use of force, physical and/or emotional aggression or coercion to intimidate or dominate others; or
c) Occur between a group and an individual, in which case it is referred to as “mobbing”.
Harassment may be obvious or it may be insidious, and interfere with the recipient’s ability to carry outtheir functions or perform to their abilities, and it may create an intimidating, poisoned, or hostile environment. Harassment can make someone feel anxious, angry, frustrated or humiliated. While somepeople may try to “fight back” in some way, others may become frightened and de-motivated. Stress, loss of self-confidence and self-esteem caused by Harassment, bullying or mobbing can lead to job insecurity, illness, absence from work or social activities, and even resignation from work, depression, or withdrawal. Performance is frequently affected and relationships suffer.
Harassment may be present in the form of words, gestures, or other actions that alarm, threaten, abuse, demean, intimidate, belittle, or cause personal humiliation, embarrassment or emotional distress to another person. Harassment may not necessarily happen face-to-face but may also occur in written communications, email, phone, and supervision methods.
Harassment also includes Workplace Harassment and Sexual Harassment.
Harassment should not be confused with legitimate, reasonable management or coaching functions that are part of the normal work relationship or athlete-coach relationship, such as:
a) Performance measurements;
b) Strategies taken to correct performance deficiencies such as placing a worker/employee on a performance improvement plan;
c) Imposing discipline for work infractions or legitimate discipline pursuant to this Code of Conduct and Ethics; or
d) Requesting medical documents in support of an absence from work as part of the accommodation process or as a part of understanding the care and treatment plan for an athlete.
It does not matter whether there was intent to offend. The test of Harassment is whether the person knew or should have known that the comments or conduct were unwelcome to the other person. For example, someone may make it clear through his or her conduct or body language that the behaviour is unwelcome, in which case the behaviour should stop immediately.
Although it is commonly the case, the harasser does not necessarily need to have power or authority over the recipient. Harassment can occur from co-worker to co-worker, supervisor to employee, employee to supervisor, employee to Athlete, Coach to Athlete, Administrative Staff to Athlete, Athlete to Athlete, etc.
While Harassment is generally a course of conduct or comment, even single acts of Harassment may be sufficiently serious to violate this Policy and satisfy the test of Harassment.
d) “Harassment” – A course of vexatious comment or conduct against an Individual or group, which is known or ought to reasonably be known to be unwelcome.. Types of behaviour that constitute Harassment include, but are not limited to:
i. Written or verbal abuse, threats, or outbursts;
ii. Persistent unwelcome remarks, jokes, comments, innuendo, or taunts;
iii. Leering or other suggestive or obscene gestures;
iv. Condescending or patronizing behaviour which is intended to undermine self-esteem, diminish performance or adversely affect working conditions;
v. Practical jokes which endanger a person’s safety, or may negatively affect performance;
vi. Hazing, which is any form of conduct which exhibits any potentially humiliating, degrading, abusive, or dangerous activity expected of a junior-ranking athlete by a more senior teammate, which does not contribute to either athlete’s positive development, but is required to be accepted as part of a team, regardless of the junior-ranking athlete’s willingness to participate. This includes, but is not limited to, any activity, no matter how traditional or seemingly benign, that sets apart or alienates any teammate based on class, number of years on the team, or athletic ability;
vii. Unwanted physical contact including, but not limited to, touching, petting, pinching, or kissing;
viii. Deliberately excluding or socially isolating a person from a group or team
ix. Persistent sexual flirtations, advances, requests, or invitations;
x. Physical or sexual assault;
xi. Behaviours such as those described above that are not directed towards a specific person or group but have the same effect of creating a negative or hostile environment; and
xii. Retaliation or threats of retaliation against a person who reports harassment to Athletics Canada.
e) “Workplace Harassment” – Vexatious comment or conduct against a worker in a Workplace or against an athlete in an Athlete Workplace that is known or ought reasonably to be known to be unwelcome. Workplace Harassment should not be confused with legitimate, reasonable management or coaching actions that are part of the normal work/training/competition function, including measures to correct performance deficiencies, such as placing someone on a performance improvement plan, or imposing discipline for workplace infractions. Types of behaviour that constitute Workplace Harassment include, but are not limited to:
ii. Workplace pranks, vandalism, bullying or hazing;
iii. Repeated offensive or intimidating phone calls or emails;
iv. Inappropriate sexual touching, advances, suggestions or requests;
v. Displaying or circulating offensive pictures, photographs or materials in printed or electronic form;
vi. Psychological abuse;
vii. Excluding or ignoring someone, including persistent exclusion of a particular person from work or team related social gatherings;
viii. Deliberately withholding information that would enable a person to do his or her job, perform or train;
ix. Personal harassment;
x. Sabotaging someone else’s work or performance;
xi. Gossiping or spreading malicious rumours;
xii. Intimidating words or conduct (offensive jokes or innuendos); and
xiii. Words or actions which are known or should reasonably be known to be offensive, embarrassing, humiliating, or demeaning.
f) “Sexual Harassment” – A course of vexatious comment or conduct against an Individual in a Workplace or Athlete Workplace because of sex, sexual orientation, gender identify or gender expression, where the course of comment or conduct is known or ought reasonably to be known to be unwelcome; or making a sexual solicitation or advance where the person making the solicitation or advance is in a position to confer, grant or deny a benefit or advance to the Individual or Athlete and the person knows or ought reasonably to know that the solicitation or advance is unwelcome. Types of behaviour that constitute sexual harassment include, but are not limited to:
i. Sexist jokes;
ii. Threats, punishment, or denial of a benefit for refusing a sexual advance;
iii. Offering a benefit in exchange for a sexual favour;
iv. Demanding hugs;
v. Bragging about sexual ability;
vi. Leering (persistent sexual staring);
vii. Sexual assault;
viii. Display of sexually offensive material;
ix. Distributing sexually explicit email messages or attachments such as pictures or video files;
x. Sexually degrading words used to describe an Individual;
xi. Unwelcome inquiries into or comments about an Individual’s gender identity or physical appearance;
xii. Inquiries or comments about an Individual’s sex life;
xiii. Persistent, unwanted attention after a consensual relationship ends;
xiv. Persistent unwelcome sexual flirtations, advances, or propositions; and
xv. Persistent unwanted contact.
g) “Workplace Violence” – the use of or threat of physical force by a person against a worker in a Workplace or against an athlete in an Athlete Workplace, that causes or could cause physical injury to the worker or athlete; an attempt to exercise physical force against a worker in a Workplace or against an athlete in an Athlete Workplace, that could cause physical injury to the worker or athlete; or a statement or behaviour that it is reasonable for a worker or athlete to interpret as a threat to exercise physical force against the worker in a Workplace or the athlete in an Athlete Workplace, that could cause physical injury to the worker or athlete. Types of behaviour that constitute workplace harassment include, but are not limited to:
i. Verbal or written threats to attack;
ii. Sending to or leaving threatening notes or emails;
iii. Physically threatening behaviour such as shaking a fist at someone, finger pointing, destroying property, or throwing objects;
iv. Wielding a weapon in a Workplace or Athlete Workplace;
v. Hitting, pinching or unwanted touching which is not accidental;
vi. Dangerous or threatening horseplay;
vii. Physical restraint or confinement;
viii. Blatant or intentional disregard for the safety or wellbeing of others;
ix. Blocking normal movement or physical interference, with or without the use of equipment;
x. Sexual violence; and
xi. Any attempt to engage in the type of conduct outlined above.
h) “Discrimination” – Differential treatment of an individual based on one or more prohibited grounds which include race, citizenship, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, marital status, family status, genetic characteristics, or disability.
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.
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 an 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
John F. Reid, Supt. (retired)
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
Updates to Athletics Canada’s Code of Conduct (Approved at 2018 Annual General Meeting)
SDRCC – Team Selection
SDRCC – Carding
|Name||Membership category||Status||Effect period|
|George Barber||Coach – ON||Suspended||Lifetime ban|
|Andy McInnis||Coach – ON||Suspended||Until completion of investigation|
|Ken Porter||Coach – ON||Suspended||Until completion of investigation|
|Desai Williams||Coach – ON||Suspended||Lifetime ban|