By Donna Spencer, The Canadian Press on December 19, 2023.
Sarah-Eve Pelletier will resign as Canada’s first sport integrity commissioner early next year.
The Quebec lawyer and former artistic swimmer was appointed in April 2022 to head the Office of Canada’s Sport Integrity Commissioner (OSIC) that opened two months later to handle reports and complaints of abuse and maltreatment.
After her 18 months in the job, the Sport Dispute Resolution Centre of Canada that established OSIC has announced Pelletier will step down in early 2024 for personal reasons.
OSIC’s stated purpose is to be an independent handler of abuse reports and complaints, although it’s jurisdiction is limited mostly to the federally-funded sports organizations required by the sports minister to become signatories.
Most provincial, territorial and community sport bodies are not yet signatories and thus not under OSIC’s jurisdiction.
It’s independence has also been questioned. Sport minister Carla Qualtrough announced last week that OSIC will be moved outside the umbrella of the Sports Dispute Resolution Centre of Canada (SDRCC).
“As sport integrity commissioner, I have been driven by a deep motivation to act as an agent of positive change for the Canadian sport community – with athletes at the very heart of it,” Pelletier said Tuesday in a statement. “Since taking on this role, my passion for this mission has never wavered. I am proud of the groundwork accomplished within the Office of the Sport Integrity Commissioner (OSIC).
“I am certain that it will serve as a springboard for the Abuse-Free Sport program’s evolution, one that can only be beneficial to the advancement of safe sport for all.”
An SDRCC spokesperson said Pelletier made her intention to step down known before Qualtrough’s Dec. 11 announcement about the decoupling of OSIC from the SDRCC.
“Sarah-Eve has been instrumental in these early days of Abuse-Free Sport,” said SDRCC chief executive officer Marie-Claude Asselin. “She and the team she has built have laid impressive foundations for the future of the program.”
OSIC was designed to take the complaint and investigation process away from national sport organizations.
The federal government’s 2022 budget provided $16 million to fund the office over its first three years of operations.
Once signed with OSIC, a sport body and the people in it are bound by the Universal Code of Conduct to Prevent and Address Maltreatment in Sport (UCCMS), which covers grooming, neglect, physical, sexual and psychological abuse, as well as retaliation, failure to report maltreatment, false allegations and misuse of power.
In its first year, OSIC received 193 complaints with 66 deemed to be under its jurisdiction.
There were 78 new complaints and reports between July 1 and Oct. 31, 2023, with 38 under OSIC’s jurisdiction and another six under review for admission.
Illegal sports betting, conflict of interest, team selection or athlete assistance program (carding) disputes don’t fall under OSIC’s purview.
Pelletier has said if a complaint isn’t under OSIC’s jurisdiction, her office will look for an alternate remedy or venue to handle the case.
OSIC’s Year 1 report stated that 86 sport bodies signed on represents 17,000 participants at the national level.
Another 60,000 would fall under OSIC’s jurisdiction while participating in national championships.
Volleyball Canada the was first national sport organization that brought its provincial and territorial counterparts with it to the Abuse-Free Sport program for a total of 70,000.
Nova Scotia was the first province to sign on with the intent of having its sport organizations become signatories by the end of 2023.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 19, 2023.