Broken: Inside the Toxic Culture of Canadian Gymnastics

Returning to Canada from Europe, I was finally able to watch the full documentary on Crave TV, a Canadian subscription service.

And it was even more damning that I expected from seeing the trailer.

The documentary is well produced. Shared the experience of a number of gymnast victims from a number of different clubs. We should consider this a small sample, not any kind of comprehensive review of all Canadian clubs.

My first takeaway is to admire the courage of the gymnasts, their parents and one coach willing to tell their stories to try to improve things for kids in the future.

Next, was to get more insight into just how difficult it was for families to lodge a complaint about a coach with Club, Provincial Federation and Gymnastics Canada.

Certainly document anything you see right from the beginning. Email or letter. Months or years later you may need to present specific incidents, times and dates.

If a coach or anyone else breaks the law, call the police. Simple.

The dilemma for a family is when misbehaviour at Gymnastics falls short of a crime: bullying, psychological abuse, emotional abuse, etc.

None of the coaches called out in this documentary were willing to be interviewed. Included were:

  • Vladimir and Svetlana Lashin, Omega Gymnastics, B.C. — neither are currently on the GymCan Suspended/Expelled Members list. But neither are coaching in Canada, I believe. And Omega shut down during the pandemic.
  • Dave Brubaker, Bluewater Gymnastics, Ontario. Former WAG National Coach. Expelled from GymCan membership. His wife, coach Liz Brubaker, is currently suspended.
  • Jamie Atkin, Airdrie Edge Gymnastics, Alberta. Jamie was under some sanctions from the Provincial Federation at one point, but is currently coaching and managing the club.
  • Rima Nikishin, Calgary Gymnastics Centre, Alberta. Indefinite suspension.

Have things changed for the better in Canada? Or is the system still protecting abusers?

The McLaren Global Sport Solutions Report should arrive January 2023 — a review of Ethics, Safety & Culture

Critics are suspicious that McLaren might not be critical nor strong enough as it was commissioned by Gymnastics Canada. Having been interviewed myself, I’m optimistic that it will deliver a good list of recommendations.

We were hoping that Sports Canada would additionally launch a multi-sport investigation into Ethics and Safety. It seemed the Prime Minister and Minister of Sport were onboard for that — but it hasn’t happened yet.

I do recommend you watch the 90 minute documentary for yourself. If you can find a way to do so.

Published by

Rick Mc

Career gymnastics coach who loves the outdoors, and the internet.

One thought on “Broken: Inside the Toxic Culture of Canadian Gymnastics”

  1. Rick, I think you are spot on with these comments. Yes, it is nearly impossible to lodge a complaint without athlete repercussions under the current format. Yes, the Mclaren Group should have concrete recommendations. And yes, the Canadian government has done nothing substantive to change the club level issues or commence a multi sport investigation into safety and ethics at all levels within the sport ecosystem.

    Yes, if a coach or anyone breaks the law, call the police and/or child protective services. And finally yes, the dilemma is when coach behaviour falls short of criminal behaviour but still amounts to maltreatment.

    In Canada the government(s) funds the sport system with insufficient regulations and licensing protocol then blame those administering the sport at every level for failures to prevent abuse. The federal government can do more proactively than point fingers and stand with survivors after the fact – those are the easy talking points.

    If there is a way outside of Crave to watch the documentary, please post that.

    Like

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