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Complaints

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The B.C. Universal Code of Conduct gives definitions and examples of maltreatment, but does not provide guidance on what to do next if you experience or witness maltreatment. It also only applies to provincially-funded sports organizations in B.C. Complaints procedures are specific to each organization, and should be available on their website.

There is a wide range of behaviour types and severities of those behaviours within the B.C. Universal Code of Conduct - it can be confusing to know what, if any, steps to take. A few things to consider are:

  • Is everyone safe now, or does someone need to intervene?
  • How severe was the maltreatment? What support might the victim need? What about any witnesses, do they need support?
  • Is this an opportunity to have a conversation with someone about the behaviour to help them improve in the future, or does it need to be a formal complaint?
  • In cases of maltreatment of children, there is a legal duty to report the incident to Child Protective Services - does the situation you are aware of require reporting?
  • If you would like to file a formal complaint, what organization should you file the complaint with? What resources are there to support you?

 

Individuals

Bystander Intervention

Bystander intervention gives us tools to intervene without compromising our own safety.  When we intervene, we don’t just reduce trauma for the person being harassed. We also start to chip away at the culture that allows harassment to exist.  Alone we can’t shift the culture — but together — our actions matter.

We all have a responsibility to do something when we see harassment happening, but too often we freeze. We don’t know what to do. 

Educate yourself at righttobe.org.

Training: https://righttobe.org/trainings/bystander-intervention-in-public-spaces-training/

Guide: https://righttobe.org/guides/bystander-intervention-training/

Peer to peer maltreatment happens in sport and recreation at all ages, and it can be especially harmful to youth athletes. Right to Be offers bystander training for youth (recommended for grades 8 to 12) with a specially adapted version of the 5Ds of bystander intervention methodology. 

Training: https://righttobe.org/trainings/bystander-intervention-for-youth-how-to-stand-up-for-others-2/

Right to Be also developed a series of 1 to 3-minute videos for kids aged 3-10 on the 5Ds of being a super-ally.

Video: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL3wdAcMaXQVqFKg4lKvN3NqTBqz4tsscM

Complaint Options and Steps

All sport participants should have the reasonable expectation when they participate in sport in B.C. that it will be in an environment that is accessible, inclusive, respects their personal goals is free from all forms of maltreatment. Where this is not the case, you have a right to make a complaint. Sport organizations at the local, provincial, and national levels should have policies and procedures - such as a Complaints or Dispute Procedure - that can guide you towards the next steps in the process.

There are many options for addressing maltreatment, and filing a formal complaint is just one of them. You could consider these options (from Play by the Rules):

  • trying to sort the matter out yourself;
  • informal discussions with the other party;
  • mediation - a discussion facilitated by an expert, aimed at finding a way forward that meets the needs of all of the people involved;
  • lodging a formal written complaint at the level the incident occurred;
  • appealing to the next level if you believe the outcome was; biased, you have been denied natural justice or the process didn’t follow your sport’s procedures;
  • referring or lodging a complaint with an external authority (e.g. police or child protection services). 

You should lodge your complaint at the level at which the incident occured - if it happened at a club, you should contact the club. Check the policies of the organization to see who to contact with your complaint. Often, it's the President or the Executive Director. 

If you are concerned about complaining to an organization because of potential conflict of interest, you can reach out to the next level up - for example, a club complaint could be reported to the Provincial Sports Organization.

For a list of organizations that are provincially funded and have adopted the BC Universal Code of Conduct, click here.

If you think you would benefit from psychological support as you go through the process, you can use the resources listed on our "How do I find support" page.

How can I make an effective complaint?

It is common for people to feel uncomfortable making a complaint, and to be concerned that it won't be taken seriously. It can help to be prepared and to submit the most effective information possible. The BC Ombudsperson's Office has a free webinar available on how to complaint effectively to get results: Complaining 101: How to complain effectively to get results

What if someone makes a complaint about me?

Being complained about is difficult. 

Play by the Rules has some guidance on how to handle it: https://www.playbytherules.net.au/complaints-handling/being-complained-about

In addition,  you can find psychological support through the resources listed on our "How do I find support" page.

 

Organizations

How should sports organizations handle a complaint?

Each organization will have its own policies and procedures. It is important that these processes are accessible, fair, person-focused, and responsive. The BC Ombudsperson's Office has both a Complaint Handling Guide - including a template procedure - and a free webinar available to provide guidance.

Complaint Handling Guide: https://bcombudsperson.ca/guide/complaint-handling-guide/

Free webinar: The Essentials of Fair Complaint Handling Webinar

If your organization does not have a Code of Conduct, you can adopt the B.C. Universal Code of Conduct. If you don't have a Complaint Handling procedure, you can create one from the template procedure in the Complaint Handling Guide above.

According to Play by the Rules (https://www.playbytherules.net.au/complaints-handling/dealing-with-a-complaint), organizations should follow these principles when handling a complaint:

  • Treat complaints seriously
  • Act promptly
  • Treat people fairly and listen to both sides of the story
  • Stay neutral
  • Keep parties to the complaint informed
  • Try to Maintain confidentiality if possible
  • Protect against victimisation
  • Keep accurate records
  • Make decisions based only on information gathered not personal views
  • Disciplinary action should be relative to the breach

How can we make sure our complaint process is fair?

According to the Office of the BC Ombudsperson, fairness includes:

  • allowing people to be heard in processes that affect them
  • ensuring decisions are made without bias
  • acting consistently with the rules that apply
  • making decisions that are considerate of the individual’s needs and circumstances and based on relevant information
  • providing clear and meaningful reasons for decisions so the person affected can understand what process your organization followed and how it came to the decision it did .  

By following a fair process, members of the public can better understand the reasons for decisions being made by those in positions of authority . It helps to build trust if decision makers can clearly demonstrate and explain how and why decisions are made. When organizations deliver their services in a fair and transparent manner, people are more likely to accept a decision or outcome, even when they don’t agree with the decision itself. Fairness is in everyone’s best interests. Ensuring your policies, procedures and practices are fair is good for your organization, your employees and the  people you serve.

 

Resources for organizations

Safeguarding Liaison

viaSport's Safeguarding Liaison may be able to support the leaders of provincially-funded sports organizations by holding facilitated meetings to try to resolve conflict. This service can be requested by Executive Directors/CEOs of federated sports organizations by contacting the viaSport Safe Sport Manager (safesport@viasport.ca).

Sport Law Connect Program

This program is for sport organizations to request access to dispute resolution services to support implementation of their policies. If you are looking to file a complaint related to a dispute or violation of a Code of Conduct please contact your Provincial Sport Organization or the Canadian Sport Helpline.

The Sport Law Connect Program (SLCP) was created by the Sport Dispute Resolution Centre of Canada (SDRCC) to increase access to dispute resolution resources and services for the sport community. 

Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) includes processes and techniques that bring disputing parties to a resolution outside of the court system. By submitting a dispute, sport organizations access a free resource that connects them with law students or ADR professionals, known as the SLCP Participants. Trained in the resolution of sport disputes, the SLCP Participants are free from conflict of interest and able to lead a fair and timely process.

The SLCP is being offered in our province in partnership with viaSport BC, the University of British Columbia, the University of Victoria and the Alternative Dispute Resolution Institute of BC (ADRBC).

Program Guidelines

​FAQs

 

What services are available? 

1) Facilitating a discussion that allows the parties to communicate more effectively and work towards an accepted agreement

2) Act as an adjudicator or panel member(s) for a sport dispute hearing 

 

Is my sport organization eligible?

You must fulfill all the requirements below to submit a dispute. 

1) Your organization is a Provincial Sport Organization (PSO) in British Columbia

At this time, only PSOs can access the services. However, PSOs may access the services on behalf of their local sport organizations.

2) The dispute at hand is eligible

If your PSO has a dispute resolution or an appeal policy in place, any matter that is deemed admissible under such policy could be referred to the SLCP. Submitted disputes generally fall under one of the following categories: 

  • Discipline: An individual is accused of breaching the organization’s Code of Conduct and the organization wishes to determine whether a violation did occur and, if so, what would be the applicable sanction
  • Team Selection: An individual who is not selected to a provincial team wishes to dispute the decision
  • Governance: A disagreement regarding the way in which the by-laws or other governance policies have been adopted or applied to reach a certain decision, such as challenges to the Board election process, changes enacted by the Board that affect the members, etc.

Other types of disputes may also be considered at viaSport’s sole discretion. Ineligible disputes include those in which a specialized adjudication or dispute resolution process already exists under governing policies or laws such as, but not limited to, doping, criminal behavior, child protection, employment standards or workers’ compensation, consumer protection or human rights.

3) Your PSO has Directors and Officers Liability Insurance

The individuals in the SLCP will be acting as volunteers on behalf of your PSO. It is required that your Directors and Officers Liability Insurance covers them when acting as such.

4) Your PSO agrees to the rules, terms and conditions of the program

If the services requested are for a dispute in which the parties wish to attempt to resolve amicably by way of settlement but a neutral third party is needed to assist the process, the Facilitation Rules are applicable.

If the services requested are for a dispute in which the parties wish to present their case to an independent decision-making panel who will conduct a hearing process and render a decision on the dispute, the Hearing Rules are applicable. These Hearing Rules will supersede the PSO’s dispute resolution or appeal policy. 

SUBMIT A DISPUTE

 

 

Canadian Sport Helpline


The Canadian Sport Helpline offers support to victims and witnesses of harassment, abuse and discrimination in sport. This anonymous, confidential and independent service allows them to share and validate their concerns, obtain advice on the process to follow and be directed toward the appropriate resources to ensure a follow-up.