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Quebec unveils new bill targeting abuse in sports

Quebec Sports Minister Isabelle Charest, seen above in 2020, has presented a new bill intended to prevent abuse and harassment in sports.   (Jacques Boissinot/The Canadian Press - image credit)
Quebec Sports Minister Isabelle Charest, seen above in 2020, has presented a new bill intended to prevent abuse and harassment in sports. (Jacques Boissinot/The Canadian Press - image credit)

The Quebec government has tabled a bill intended to reduce harassment and abuse in sports.

Bill 45, as it is currently known, would see the government appoint an integrity ombudsman to handle abuse and harassment complaints in sports and recreation.

The bill also expands government oversight of recreational organizations and sports federations and imposes background check requirements on all those involved in recreational activities involving minors or people with intellectual or physical disabilities.

"No matter what role someone plays in a sports organization, we won't make any compromises on their integrity," said Isabelle Charest, the sports minister, who tabled the bill on Tuesday.

In a message on the social media platform X, Premier François Legault said the bill was aimed at the few "bad apples" in children's sports. "We want to do everything we can to prevent them from being in a position where they can hurt our children," he wrote. "Isabelle Charest's bill will help prevent that."

The Regroupement Loisir et Sport du Québec (RLSQ), a government organization, already tracks complaints of abuse and harassment in sports. A spokesperson for the organization said in an email that it had received more than 1,000 complaints since Feb. 1, 2021, the vast majority of them in the past year.

But, a spokesperson for the organization said approximately 51 per cent of those complaints were more to do with general issues, that a child wasn't receiving sufficient playing time, for example — not harassment or abuse.

In February 2023, a National Assembly committee looked into acts of violence in sport and, in particular, during hockey initiations.

In a report published last year, investigators with the Education Ministry flagged shortcomings in criminal record checks for coaches in school sports.

Trevor Williams, a basketball coach who runs the Trevor Williams Kids Foundation, said a new, stricter law to prevent abuse and harassment in sports is long overdue.

"At this time that we live in, it's absolutely necessary for this type of bill," he said. "There have been a lot of bad incidents in sports and this will prevent a lot of negative behaviour in the future."

Tom Grainger, the president of Beaconsfield Hockey, welcomes any new mechanism that makes it easier for participants to denounce abuse.

"Anything that's brought forward that will allow people that are falling into a situation where they're abused, assaulted, whatever, is a great mechanism and will help out a great deal," he said.