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After daughter allegedly threatened with rape, father questions B.C. ski club's response

A North Shore father says he had to pull his daughter out of her ski club on Grouse Mountain after alleged verbal and physical threats made against the 13-year-old were not handled seriously.
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A father of a 13-year-old girl ski club participant, who was allegedly threatened and bullied by a boy, says he's concerned officials have not taken his family's concerns seriously enough.

A B.C. father is speaking out against what he calls an inadequate response to his 13-year-old daughter allegedly being threatened with rape by a boy in her under-14 ski club in North Vancouver.

Following the Dec. 4, 2023 incident at a Grouse Mountain Tyee Ski Club competition at Sun Peaks Resort near Kamloops, the 51-year-old North Shore resident says the boy who threatened his daughter was suspended for two weeks of club time.

“In my opinion, and what I had asked the club from the get-go is, this kid should be out of the club,” said the father, whose identity is being withheld by Glacier Media to protect the daughter’s identity.

“That’s what I think, or at least something significant that gives pause to the kid and the family, like there are consequences to actions,” the father said.

“It makes me angry. I have three daughters; I just want them to go and do their sport and be kids and not deal with this [crap],” said the father, who described taking deliberate steps to state his daughter’s case.

First, he reported the matter to the club’s executive and deferred to the club code of conduct; then he spoke to the club’s umbrella organization BC Alpine and also filed a complaint to Kamloops Rural RCMP. After the club issued the suspension the father filed an appeal via BC Alpine.

Since then the father and his family have been subject to a novel and developing process in how amateur sports organizations are managing internal complaints and disputes involving sexual assault, harassment and gender discrimination amid a broader national discussion on such matters.

However, the appeal process via an independent third-party contracted by BC Alpine has been lengthy and in that time the boy returned to the slopes alongside his daughter.

Ultimately, last month, the father and his spouse made the decision to move their daughter to a similar ski club in Whistler, despite some logistical frustrations and his daughter becoming separated from friends. 

“I just feel like we've been let down,” said the father. “I have no faith in the club and who gets the short end of the stick? My daughter. I just don't think it's right. I don't think it's fair,” he said.

“I can't kick this kid out of the club,” he said, but “it's also my duty and responsibility as a parent, to make sure that she sees that we're doing everything that we can, and we will protect her in every way that we can, so that she can feel protected.”

Glacier Media tried to reach the boy’s family for comment, via BC Alpine, but was unsuccessful. 

Daughter allegedly threatened then verbally and physically bullied

The father said his daughter was at Sun Peaks on a chaperoned competitive ski trip when the boy told her he was going to rape her.

Not sure what to do, the father said his daughter carried on her activities the following day until all the young skiers were in the hotel hot tub area. That’s when the same boy allegedly made transphobic and racist remarks to the father’s daughter and her friends. 

Then, the boy allegedly grabbed and twisted the 13-year-old’s arm in the hot tub when an argument between the young teens ensued over the hurtful comments, the father said. At this point, the club chaperones were informed of the events, the father told Glacier Media.

According to a club letter to the daughter dated Dec. 15, the club struck a three-person disciplinary committee led by club president Kathryn Orde who acknowledged the daughter was subjected to “racist, sexist and transphobic comments.” 

The letter confirmed “physical contact was made towards you; (and) an athlete had used language threatening sexual violence towards you during training.”

According to Orde, the incident breached the club’s code of conduct and was “totally unacceptable.”

“We are sorry you had to hear those words, and we will do our utmost that this doesn’t happen again within our club environment,” wrote Orde, who deferred all questions from Glacier Media about the incident to BC Alpine.

The letter also went on to describe the “hot tub incident” and requested the daughter (and others involved) to “reflect and write a one-page letter letting us know: What could you have done differently regarding your participation in the incident, and what could you have done to decrease the escalation of this incident?”

The father said the letter, which noted the suspension and no other measures, took him by surprise.

“She didn’t do that,” he said of the request, but “they had the gall” to ask her.

“How do you respond to that? That's putting it back on the victim, like ‘I shouldn't have, you know, dressed in a certain way’ or ‘I shouldn't have looked at someone.’ What do you mean, ‘What should I have done?’” said the father.

The boy did write an apology letter to the father’s daughter; however, the father said it was inadequate, especially given he was back on the slopes right after New Year’s Day.

The club’s code of conduct forbids “major infractions” such as “causing physical harm or danger to others; discrimination and bullying or harassment in person or online” and states any major infraction will result in a report from the disciplinary committee.

The father said he has asked multiple times for that report but the club has refused to hand over a copy. He also said Orde told him the entire board signed off on the suspension.

“If you did a thorough report and are confident and stand by it, there should be no issue with you providing a copy of the report,” said the father.

Family unclear of additional measures

At this point, the father followed the letter’s instructions to appeal the decision.

BC Alpine says undisclosed third parties assess incidents of misconduct.

Glacier Media reached out to BC Alpine to better understand the disciplinary and appeal process.

BC Alpine CEO Anders Hestdalen declined an interview but stated by email on Jan. 9 that the matter was reported to its independent third party that “will confidentially assess, investigate, adjudicate and recommend any appropriate sanctions, including any additional provisional measures, completely independent from BC Alpine or the club.”

The website he referred to was called Integrity Counts, a whistleblower portal that does not indicate who specifically handles such matters for BC Alpine.

“BC Alpine is committed to creating a healthy, safe, and inclusive environment for all members and continues to make it a priority. Abuse in any form cannot and will not be tolerated or excused,” stated Hestdalen, who disclosed ITP Sport did launch an investigation based on the father’s appeal. 

The father said just before he pulled his daughter from the club last month his daughter informed him that the boy was only to attend ski trips with his parents; however, he was not informed by any BC Alpine or club official.

Regardless, the father said he had no assurances the threats against his daughter would not escalate.

The father said on Feb. 9 that it was his understanding the Kamloops Rural RCMP detachment was still looking into the matter and while it has taken close to two months he is reserving judgment on how police are handling his complaint.

Glacier Media made three attempts to contact Kamloops Rural RCMP Supervisor Patrick Meehan about the matter, with permission from the family to speak to their file; however, it received no response.

The father says they have yet to be informed of any measures the police took, including being notified if the boy’s family had been paid a visit on educational grounds.

The father says given the lack of communication on steps taken to ensure his daughter’s future safety he is left to surmise why the discipline was, in his view, so lenient.

The father, once a competitive ski jumper in Ontario back in his younger days, described joining a “tight knit” club and being “a bit like outsiders since we only came in last year.”

He said two of the three members of the discipline committee associate with the boy’s family, of which the boy's father is an assistant on the hills.

“They’re ingrained, we’re not,” he said, calling the committee a “kangaroo court.”

While the father has since moved on from the club he said he remains committed to seeing through the process with ITP Sport and is keen to see a final report on what the third party, BC Alpine and the club have done.

Reflecting on what happened to him, the father said, for starters, it would have been more fair for the club to issue an indefinite suspension to the boy given it was a major infraction and have the boy’s family undergo an appeal process. 

B.C. parents will soon be more familiar with the acronym ‘ITP’

Navigating an independent third-party (ITP) adjudicator following a dispute within a sports club is something British Columbians will likely become more familiar with over the coming years, according to Canadian Women and Sport CEO Allison Sandmeyer-Graves.

“This has emerged over the last few years as a best practice and in many cases a mandated practice,” for most national and many provincial sports bodies, Sandmeyer-Graves told Glacier Media.

The most obvious impetus for this is recent and ongoing scandals of sexual assault, harassment and bullying in organized sports federations, said Sandmeyer-Graves.

The most high-profile and still developing case involves criminal allegations of sexual assault by five players of the 2018 Canadian junior hockey team.

Sexual harassment and physical safety concerns factor into why girls are not participating in sports as much as boys, said Sandmeyer-Graves.

The federal government-funded group’s 2022 report, A Call for Better, Safer Sport for Girls, claims one in three girls polled stated their coaches and organizations are not addressing important safety issues within girls’ sport including bullying and so-called “social safety” such as abuse and peer violence.

The report noted a deficit in how coaches and club officials, who are often volunteers, are ill-equipped to handle social safety. 

Not able to speak to specifics of what happened to the father’s daughter, Sandmeyer-Graves did question the club’s letter: “I think that there is a need for the handling of these cases to be trauma-informed. I think there's a lot of need in the sport system to understand what that means and how to apply it. I would say that this letter reflects the need for more training and more integration of that trauma-informed principle into the process.”

However, Sandmeyer-Graves said “it’s actually a really positive thing to hear BC Alpine has [an independent third party] in place” as such a step “is not consistently in place in every organization.”

While BC Alpine has a system in place it has no standards to which it can work from. 

As Sandmeyer-Graves says, the next step is to create those standards, including matters such as timeliness, transparency, privacy considerations, professional experience and costs.

“The experience of abuse and harassment can be traumatizing. And then the process of filing a complaint and going through the process of an investigation and receiving a result can be re-traumatizing. There is a mental health cost to all of this. And right now, I would say that the individuals and the families are bearing that cost,” said Sandmeyer-Graves.

“I know that there's conversation about how people going through this process should be supported beyond just not traumatizing them further, but supported, you know, knowing that they've been traumatized. I don't think that there's a clear answer or a clear solution to that within the sport system right now,” added Sandmeyer-Graves.

B.C. ministry crafting a standardized ITP system

And that’s where viaSport steps in, here in B.C.

viaSport BC was initially formed in 2011 after the 2010 Winter Olympics to promote participation in sports but its largest mandate has come amid these recent efforts to reform amateur sport culture.

To do so, the B.C. Ministry of Tourism, Arts, Culture and Sport recently invested $7.8 million in the non-profit group to establish an independent organization that it claims will manage and resolve disputes such as the father’s “in a professional and trauma-informed manner that avoids conflicts of interest.”

viaSport CEO Charlene Krepiakevich told Glacier Media the group has recently advanced recommendations to the ministry to create this third-party service, following consultations last fall.

“We’re in build mode,” said Krepiakevich.

But much of the details, she said, have yet to be ironed out.

For example, the system will need to develop service standards such as timeliness, including a triage system for complaints. In cases such as the father’s, for example, it’s conceivable decisions, at least in the interim, will be made quickly. Certainly, any matter before the police will be put to the top of the complaints pile, said Krepiakevich.

The system must be transparent but also ensure people’s privacy is protected, said Krepiakevich. It's not yet determined what those transparency measures will look like.

It’s also yet to be determined who will run the system and what qualifications they have to handle disputes but Krepiakevich suggested those standards will be similar to existing third-party organizations already operating independently, who are likely to respond to proposal requests. 

Krepiakevich said she believes the proposed system will be more cost effective for sports clubs and their governing bodies.

“It will certainly reduce confusion and the resources put in at the club level, absolutely,” she said. 

But it’s also unclear how the system will be funded; it could be funded by government or by users (added to club registration fees) or a combination thereof. Krepiakevich noted that costs will also be determined by demand.

Both Sandmeyer-Graves and Krepiakevich suggest Ben Franklin’s old adage “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” in noting prevention to these unfortunate incidents is the best solution.

“We need to support volunteers to provide them with tools and support through education and training,” said Krepiakevich.

“When things go wrong, we absolutely need a process that supports a resolution and supports the victim to come out the other side. But let’s prevent it in the first place,” said Sandmeyer-Graves.

gwood@glaciermedia.ca