Sport-More than two dozen Canadian sport organizations asking Trudeau for national inquiry

FILE PHOTO: Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau delivers a keynote address at the Federation of Canadian Municipalities annual conference and trade show in Toronto, Ontario, Canada May 26, 2023. REUTERS/Carlos Osorio/File Photo

(Reuters) - More than two dozen sport and activist organizations are calling on Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to launch a national inquiry into what they say is a toxic culture of abuse in sport in the country, in the latest plea for a widespread examination.

"On behalf of thousands of Canadian athletes, we are calling on you to exercise your powers as leader of this country to protect every child, youth, and elite athlete...," said Thursday's letter, which was also posted on social media.

Sport Minister Pascale St-Onge announced a series of reforms in early May aimed at holding the country's national sport organizations (NSOs) accountable, but the many who have been calling for a national inquiry for months said St-Onge's measures do not go far enough.

"To date, more than 1,000 athletes from over 14 sports have called for a national inquiry," said the letter signed by 27 organizations.

"Their demands have been echoed by Scholars Against Abuse in Canadian Sport, Global Athlete, the Coaching Association of Canada, Canadian Women in Sport, Own the Podium, and the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport."

St-Onge's recent announcement, they wrote, have not staved off calls for an inquiry, but rather fuelled them.

"Many sport organizations and agencies have openly said the system is broken and needs to be fixed," the signatories said. "They, along with athletes, are begging for help."

St-Onge's reforms came after athletes from a range of sports gave evidence to parliamentary committees over the past year and shared stories of physical and mental abuse they suffered at the hands of coaches and other officials.

Under St-Onge's reforms, non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) or non-disparagement clauses cannot be used to prevent athletes and other sports participants from disclosing any abuse they have experienced or witnessed.

An NSO's annual financial statements must also be audited and posted on the organization's website within six months of the end of the year, and board meeting minutes must also be published online. St-Onge told Canada Soccer earlier this week they must undergo a financial audit and governance review.

Rosemarie Aquilina, the American judge who famously sent U.S. gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar to jail for life after he was found guilty of sexually assaulting hundreds of female athletes, has been vocal in her support of Canadian athletes.

"My message: Canada needs to launch an Independent National Inquiry!" she tweeted on Thursday.

The letter was signed on behalf of Human Rights Watch, Scholars Against Abuse in Canadian Sport and Global Athlete among others.

(Reporting by Lori Ewing, editing by Pritha Sarkar)

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