Advocates stunned as youth athlete protection resolution ends without vote
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This article was published 12/05/2022 (320 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Members of the local football community reeling from allegations a high-profile coach sexually abused student-athletes left the Manitoba legislature appalled with the Tory government, after a resolution calling for stronger measures to protect youth failed to pass.
On Thursday morning, St. Vital MLA Jamie Moses brought forward a private member’s resolution, urging the government to develop “better policies to protect youth in sports” from abuse, including preventing teachers or coaches from having youth over to their home.
“Even though there might be some processes in place, it’s on us to look at those, review those and see if they are enough,” the NDP MLA said, as teachers, football coaches, student-athletes and parents watched on from the gallery.
“Or to see if there are better ways that we can protect… our youth, our young people, our students, our athletes in sports.”
The resolution was developed with input from teachers and coaches, including Winnipeg Rifles Football Club head coach Geordie Wilson, in the wake of allegations against a teacher at Vincent Massey Collegiate, Moses said.
Kelsey McKay, 51, has been charged with eight counts of sexual assault, seven counts of sexual exploitation, six counts of luring and one count of sexual interference for alleged offences involving teens between 2004 and 2011.
McKay taught physical education and coached football at Churchill High School and later Vincent Massey, and has been involved with coaching for three decades.
After an hour of debate on the resolution, the Progressive Conservatives talked out the clock and refused leave to vote on the matter Thursday.
A private member’s resolution is a non-binding vote on an issue raised in the legislature but it can signal the government’s position on a subject if the resolution is adopted. In March, a resolution by Tory MLA Ron Schuler to waive fees for Ukrainians applying to the provincial nominee program passed and the government removed fees the same day.
Wilson was awash with anger Thursday after the resolution failed to pass, saying the Tories dismissed the issue.
“To me, that’s appalling, and it actually rips my guts out,” Wilson said. “The sad part is for the victims that are going to watch this, why would they want to come forward? You’re basically telling victims to stay in the shadows, and these predators to keep lurking in the shadows.”
Wilson previously met with Education Minister Wayne Ewasko and Sport Minister Andrew Smith to advocate for legislative changes that would prevent students and athletes from being allowed into the homes of teachers and coaches.
Wilson also wants to see more trauma counselling and funding to promote Sport Manitoba’s support line for players who have been abused, harassed, bullied or hazed.
He vowed to continue lobbying the provincial government to ensure more is done so students, parents, teachers, coaches and others know how to identify predatory behaviour, how to report it and where to get help.
“This should be a bipartisan issue. This isn’t a left and right issue. This is a right and wrong issue, and they failed to see that, obviously,” Wilson said.
One woman, whose son was previously coached by McKay, said watching the resolution to strengthen protective policies for youth sports stall in the chamber was a shock.
“I’m very disappointed,” said the woman, who requested anonymity to protect her son’s privacy. “It was a terrible feeling. I’m glad I still came here, but you feel like: why did you bother?”
She said concerns with McKay’s alleged behaviour were brushed under the carpet when she raised them with the school division. At the time, she also felt intimidated speaking out against the coach to the principal.
The provincial government could take additional steps to support parents with children in sports, the woman said.
Schools could be required to provide information on how and where to report suspicious behaviour involving coaches or teachers, she said. The province could also require an independent, third-party representative to respond to complaints and ensure appropriate steps are taken to address concerns.
“I want to see accountability,” she said.
After question period Thursday, Ewasko said the NDP were playing politics with a sensitive issue by bringing forward a private member’s resolution that contained requests for programs and policies already in place or underway in Manitoba.
“When incidents happen… we actually take a look at the various policies and we have those conversations with those partners to make sure that we’re reviewing policies,” Ewasko said.
“There’s already been lots of great work happening. I think that’s showing good faith that we’re taking… the thoughts of those survivors and victims very seriously.”
Danielle Da Silva
Danielle Da Silva is a general assignment reporter.