Running in the Fastlane: Equality for Canadian Female Athletes

Coaching is a unique process of human development, one that works to change a person’s life for the better and help him/her achieve a number of specific objectives.

Generally, this is what one expects from a coach. The hope is that he or she can take us to new levels, excel in our abilities and have a positive impact in our lives.  However, this is not what Canadian middle-distance runner Megan Brown got from Athletics Canada’s coach Scott-Thomas. 

Instead, Coach Scott-Thomas allegedly groomed her since the age of 17 to begin a sexual relationship.  The coach’s did not suffer any consequences for his actions, because Athletics Canada failed to act, ignoring the 2006 red flag when Coach Scott-Thomas’s unethical behaviour at the University of Guelph was reported and he was disciplined. In the fall of 2019, the University terminated his contract citing his professional misconduct and lying about his behaviour. Track and field athletes Van Buskirk, Jennifer Brown, and Charles Philibert-Thiboutot, co-chair of Athletics Canada’s athletes commission, wrote an open-letter to the track and field national sport’s organization stating “Inaction and dismissal perpetuated a culture of disempowerment of sex abused victims”.

Dave Scott-Thomas at the 2016 Olympics (Source: Torstar file Photo)

Unfortunately, these events aren’t something new to the world of Women’s Sports. They stem from the early nineteenth century where sports held conservative values and a belief that sport was unbiased, leading sport organizations to be passive when they needed to enforce equal rights within sports. What tends to happen during these events is that victims’ complaints are individualized and the systemic problem of sex-abuse in sport is ignored. This is why track and field athletes are now promoting equality in women’s rights in sports, taking a deeper look into the abuse of women in sports and asking sports organizations to start a conversation and take action. Van Buskirk had to say about this issue: “as much as possible we are here to have those hard conversations and we want people’s feedback. That can create some positive momentum and sense of ownership as well if people feel like they have a place to communicate and discuss and express their views and thoughts.” Is a great start, but there is plenty of work to be done to change the culture within sports to help and uplift women.

Roberto R.

Megan Brown crossing the finish line at the Toronto WaterFront Marathon (Source: Peter J.Thompson)

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