Minister of Sport and Physical Activity Carla Qualtrough says she supports a “formal process” looking into abuse in sports, and also spoke positively about the national women’s soccer team’s fight for pay equity.
“I am absolutely committed to having a formal process [that] is trauma informed, where we support our victims, where we hear stories and we learn as much as we can to improve the system,” Qualtrough told reporters in Australia during a visit in support of the women’s team, which is competing in the World Cup.
Qualtrough is new in her role as sport minister, taking over from Pascale St-Onge. She declined to say specifically what sort of process she would support.
“I don’t have my mandate letter yet from the prime minister, so we’re going to have to wait and see on that one,” she said.
Calls for a public inquiry in sport have grown after successive revelations and allegations of abuse across multiple sports. Both the parliamentary committee on the status of women and former sport minister Kirsty Duncan have backed a public inquiry.
St-Onge was supportive of the idea, but had not detailed its exact form.
“I’ve already committed to bringing a national inquiry. It’s a matter of time,” St-Onge said in May. “I’m still working on it. When I’m ready to announce it, we will. But I’ve said again and again that it’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of how.”
Qualtrough, who previously served as sport minister from 2015 to 2017, said she was looking to build on the work done by St-Onge.
“I’m going to work really hard to restore that trust, to put in place mechanisms to make sure all athletes are safe and supported and really get back to kind of the basics of why we all love sport,” she said.
Support for women’s team
Qualtrough also voiced her support for the Canada women’s national soccer team, which has been locked in a dispute with Canada Soccer, the national sports organization, over pay.
The Olympic champion women wanted the same support and backing ahead of the World Cup as the men did before their soccer showcase last year in Qatar. Both teams want Canada Soccer to open their books and explain why their programs are being cut this year.
“My background is as a human rights lawyer, so you’re never going to hear me say anything but pay equity, equal pay for work of equal value. Our women deserve equal opportunities as our men and we’re going to make sure they have it,” Qualtrough said.
The women’s team reached an interim deal with Canada Soccer earlier this week, but the team says there will be more negotiation in the future.
“We have been forced to choose between compensation and the funding required to hold necessary training camps. We have been forced to choose between receiving a fair share of the rewards from our teams’ successes at the World Cups and our commitment to equal pay and equal treatment,” the team said in a statement Friday.
“These are choices we should not have had to make.”
Qualtrough called the deal a good “baby step” but added she knew there was more to do.
“We all have to keep going on this, and so I’m behind the women 110 per cent.”