Gymnastics Canada McLaren Report – my review

By site editor Rick McCharles

  • 974 individuals completed surveys
  • 58 personal interviews were conducted
  • More than 83% of gymnasts who were surveyed indicated their overall gymnastics experience as either “Extremely Positive” or “Somewhat Positive”. For me, over 50 years a member, it’s been extremely positive as gymnast, coach, and judge.
  • 7% of gymnasts who reported their overall gymnastics experience as either “Extremely Negative” or “Somewhat Negative
  • Amongst competitive disciplines, WAG is described as being the most negative and subject to abuse

I did the survey and was one of the coaches interviewed. I immediately called out my interviewers asking if they considered themselves independent, as the Report was being funded by Gymnastics Canada.

Of course they were ready for that question. I came away convinced that Gymnastics Canada had no influence in their findings. For example, Mclaren did a similar report for Canada Soccer, paid for by Canada Soccer, and the report was damning.

IF GymCan had not contracted McLaren, right now we’d have NO report at all on how Gymnastics can be made safer for all athletes.

In fact, McLaren is more a ‘road map‘ laying out the issues as reported by stakeholders, and making recommendations as to ACTION steps. But not setting out targets as did the Daniels Report for USA Gymnastics.

It’s very lengthy (277 pages). Dense reading without any final summing up. I searched for the word “recommendation” in my PDF and there are many hits.

A total of 46 recommendations are made in 13 categories. It’s up to Sports Canada, GymCan and the Provincial organizations to follow-up with ACTION.

Here’s my own summary of key points with notes:

  • single individual (Canadian lawyer) be appointed to lead an independent multi-disciplinary team referred to collectively as the Culture Review Leadership Team (‘CRLT’) of about 10 people
  • Gymnastics Canada Athletes Commission nominate one male and one female member of the Commission to be included on the CRLT
  • dedicated section on the GymCan website communicate the Gymnastics Culture Review.
  • Improve communication

I should note that GymCan has historically had terrible communication procedures. Over the years I’ve complained that Canada is worst of all major Gymnastics nations in communicating their stories.

  • Final report should be posted on the website including a summary of key recommendations. With progress targets.
  • Safe Sport resources, tools, and clearly defined reporting procedures on the Gymnastics Culture Review website. Right now that is confusing.

Firstly — when do I phone the police? And, if not, what’s the procedure for making a complaint?

  • WAG and RG are the disciplines that have had the most number, and most serious, complaints. These disciplines require special focus. But policies should apply to all disciplines, all 222,000 participants, including recreational athletes.
  • All gymnastics clubs in Canada should be contacted for a dialogue on safety and ethics. Some of those Gyms should have personal visits on behalf of the CRLT.
  • Many individuals expressed concerns about the lack of alignment and effectiveness between local, provincial and national governance. Very true. Therefore new policies and procedures should be fixed by federal law or Gymnastics Canada.
  • at every level, transparency and communication is essential
  • we don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Other sport organizations are ahead of Gymnastics in this process. The Cromwell Report on Hockey Canada, for example, published October 2022.
  • Gymnastics Canada’s organizational structure should be reviewed including roles, leadership, reporting relationships and employee performance management structures. Recall that USA Gymnastics replaced almost everyone as part of their reinvention.
  • I’ve heard many American coaches state that the 2017 Daniels Report did results in positive changes to USA Gymnastics.
  • And I was in the audience recently when Becky Downie and Danusia Francis both spoke positively about the changes made from the Whyte Review in Great Britain. Both had not been well treated by the system.
  • Is there a ‘win at all costs’ approach within high-performance? Does Own The Podium result in abuse to high performance athlete?

I hope not. For me as a coach it’s the Michael Jordan effect. When Jordan became a huge star, tens of thousands of basketball hoops were installed worldwide. More kids got more active. Healthier societies.

I’m hoping one Ellie Black, one Kyle Shewfelt, one Rosie MacLennan, does the same for Canadian kids.

  • British Gymnastics (Whyte Review) was deliberate in ensuring that recommendations were realistic and actionable versus “wide overarching recommendations.” McLaren feels 10 months is a reasonable time frame for GymCan to initiate many of these recommended changes. Other nations have taken 6 – 22 months.
  • USA (Daniels Report) called for follow-up audits on implementation. These were completed at specific intervals and published on the USA Gymnastics website.
  • Near the end of the report there are summaries of how other nations handled these same issues.

That’s it for now. I feel I’ve just scratched the surface of the McLaren recommendations. It’s well done. And I’m optimistic that changes will be made to make Gymnastics safer into the future — even if not every recommendation can be implemented.

Leave a comment on this post if you have questions or suggestions.

Note. Gymnasts for Change Canada, a victim advocacy group, is calling for an Independent Review of GymCan Leadership + Sport Culture

Some in that group feel the McLaren Report should not be trusted as it was paid for by GymCan.

Personally, I’d most like to see a federal government multi-sport inquiry into how all athletes in Canada can more safely participate and compete.

Prime Minister Trudeau and Minister of Sport Pascale St-Onge have made statements sounding supportive, but have yet to do anything concrete other than refer the issue to 2 Standing Committees in the Canadian House of Commons; the Standing Committee on the Status of Women and the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage.

Best would be if changes could be put into federal law, compelling all National Sports Governing Bodies to comply.

The international Global Athlete organization supports Gymnasts for Change Canada.

Check out the McLaren Report for yourself.

Published by

Rick Mc

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

7 thoughts on “Gymnastics Canada McLaren Report – my review”

  1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on the report Rick!
    Like for the IPCC reports on climate change, there would definitely be a need for some kind of « Executive Summary » of 20-30 pages so much more people read at least some of it!


  2. Fantastic summary review of the McLaren Report, Rick. I am wading my way through it. As you stated, it’s important to remember that it is more of a roadmap to cultural change than an investigative report. However, the recommendations if carried out can have a positive impact at every level of the sport and point the way to further consultation and action. I agree. If GymCan had not paid for this, we would have no review or report whatsoever. Nothing has been provided by the federal government: not funding nor a comprehensive review. This detailed time consuming work cannot be done for free – someone has to pay – and that someone did, does not equate to a lack of independence.


  3. I very much hope that this report and GymCanada’s response to the issue results in positive outcomes for the sport and stakeholders…..I take strong issue with the positive spin on the US Daniels Report…..of the roughly 79 recommendations, a number were glaringly obvious, the majority were absurd pie in the sky (or irrelevant to the “real” issue of abuse), and the remainder ignored or sidestepped existing problems at the time (“the ranch” as example)…..Rick, send me an email if youre interested in a copy of my Daniels analysis (which was sent to numerous office and Board personel at USAG at the time….zero acknowledgement or response)….not suggesting current people aren’t acting in good faith, but Daniels was a joke


  4. Thanks for the summary Rick. I am so glad to see the vast approval from stakeholders. That 7% needs to be looked after and I so hope we can make strides to protect and support all athletes in all sports in Canada.


  5. My thoughts- and you can take them for what they’re worth- certain parts of this report, with several references to “foreigners” and words like “Soviet” and “Eastern European” brought me back to my own experiences in the sport as a child.

    I came from Eastern Europe in the 80s as a child, and my parents put me in recreational gymnastics because it was the only thing we could afford.

    I remember- very clearly- how the coaches and administrators spoke to my parents, what with our beat up car, second hand clothes (a leotard? Forget it – there was no money for that), and their broken English- with pretty much the same xenophobia anyone from another country was treated in suburban Canada in the 80s and 90s. Let me tell you – the absolute worst bullying I experienced in my entire childhood happened during those recreational gymnastics classes. And all of it was at the hands of my “Canadian” born coaches and teammates. It was bad enough to turn me off sports of any kind until I was well into adulthood.

    But – you can’t even compare those days to the level of support and respect, I receive at my current club. Adult programs are on the rise, and most places I’ve tried have a very fun and inclusive vibe- not just for the veterans but beginners too.

    In this respect the gymnastics community ought to be commended. 30 years on, “gymnastics for all” seems to have finally become a reality.

    Still, it would be nice if we could stop blaming all negative events on “foreign people” from “Eastern Europe”, and perhaps look inward.

    This kind of language tells me that as a community we still have a long way to go when it comes to diversity and inclusion.


    1. Thanks for your story. And sorry for what happened. I’ve been in Gym Clubs since 1967 and don’t recall terrible incidents in Rec class. Lucky, I guess, with those coaches. I’m happy you’ve experienced progress for the better. Keep training!


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