Former football coach faces more sex charges Winnipeg police promise ‘frank discussions’ on abuse in sports as part of new awareness campaign
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A longtime Winnipeg high school football coach accused of grooming and sexually assaulting former players is facing additional charges, as police launch an awareness campaign to battle abuse in sports.
Kelsey Albert Dana McKay, 52, was charged Wednesday with sexual assault and luring a child after another former student-athlete came forward, bringing the total number of complainants — all male — to nine.
He now faces 24 sexual assault and exploitation-related charges for alleged incidents from the late 1990s to the 2000s, city police said.
McKay, who coached for three decades at Churchill High School and Vincent Massey Collegiate, was released on conditions authorized by the Crown.
His next court appearance is Sept. 20.
Police have not ruled out the possibility of more victims.
“I certainly hope that’s not the case, but it wouldn’t be surprising given the information and the magnitude of what we’ve previously discussed,” spokeswoman Const. Dani McKinnon said at a news conference Monday.
Insp. George Labossiere, who oversees the community support division, commended the complainants for their courage in coming forward.
“Good for them, because it will help in preventing these people from reoffending, and certainly help in the education process,” he said, while announcing a new initiative to prevent sexual exploitation and abuse in youth sports.
Set to begin soon, the campaign involves presentations to sports teams and clubs to raise awareness.
There will be “frank discussions” with athletes, coaches and parents to ensure everyone understands what is appropriate and inappropriate behaviour, said Labossiere.
McKay, meanwhile, remains on unpaid administrative leave from his job as a physical education teacher at Vincent Massey.
In May, the province started court proceedings to seize McKay’s house under the Criminal Property Forfeiture Act.
His release conditions prohibit him from coaching, having contact with minors and visiting places where youth may be present.
Winnipeg Rifles junior football club head coach Geordie Wilson, who has called on the province to do more to protect young athletes, was saddened but not surprised to learn another complainant has come forward.
“Everybody feels sick to their stomach,” said Wilson, who has spoken to the parents of some of the complainants. “My heart breaks for these victims. We have to do whatever we can to help get them help, and we have to do as much as we can to prevent this.”
McKay was initially arrested April 12, after five of his former students, who are now adults, contacted police.
At the time, police said most of those offences occurred at McKay’s home.
Additional charges were laid April 27, after three more former players reported allegations.
Of the eight, seven were former students at Churchill and one played football at Vincent Massey, police said at the time.
The school attended by the ninth complainant was not identified.
McKay began as an assistant football coach with the Churchill Bulldogs in 1990 and was named the team’s head coach in 2003.
He went to Vincent Massey in 2009 to found the school’s football program.
Labossiere said the awareness campaign involving presentations was in the works before the allegations came to light.
“We felt it was time for us to do something, and it just so happened this came out at the same time,” he said.
It’s not known how many presentations will be done in this new season of youth sports, including football and hockey, and school year.
Police said it’s difficult to gauge the prevalence of sexual abuse in youth sports in Manitoba.
“Everybody feels sick to their stomach. My heart breaks for these victims.”
“The reality is we’d be naive to think it isn’t happening,” said Labossiere. “I really can’t comment to what extent, but the sad reality is that in all likelihood, yes (there are incidents).”
The presentations are intended to educate people to spot “red flags” and report concerns, rather than causing alarm.
People with concerns should follow their instincts, said Labossiere.
“Asking the question doesn’t mean to say you’re accusing anybody, but you’re certainly bringing light to a situation,” he said. “The police service is happy to take those calls.”
“Most of the coaches out there are fantastic humans that work with our children of all ages,” added McKinnon. “We’re not trying to sound the alarm bells, but we know that this is the forefront of media.”
Coaches know the rules, she pointed out.
“They’ve all taken the certifications, and they know what is acceptable and what is not acceptable,” said McKinnon.
“They’ve all taken the certifications, and they know what is acceptable and what is not acceptable.”
The initial charges against McKay prompted calls for more action to protect students and youth in sport. Some new initiatives have been announced.
In May, the provincial NDP brought forward a private member’s resolution urging the Tory government to strengthen policies to protect young athletes.
It failed to pass after the Progressive Conservatives talked out the clock during an hour of debate and refused leave to vote.
The NDP plans to push the issue further in the coming fall session, a spokeswoman said.
‘Red flag’ behaviour
Winnipeg police are encouraging people involved in youth sports to be aware of “red flag” behaviours, which can be signs of or lead to sexual exploitation and abuse. The behaviours include:
• A coach having one-on-one electronic communication with an athlete (team group chats are acceptable).
• Being alone in a vehicle with an athlete (carpooling or driving with two or more athletes is acceptable).
• A coach should never invite an athlete to their home (team gatherings in public are acceptable).
• Sharing a room alone or overnight with an athlete (room checks with a chaperone are acceptable on overnight trips).
• A coach frequently touching an athlete without permission or while insisting personal massages are beneficial (it is acceptable to ask permission to touch an athlete only to demonstrate proper sports technique).
Sport Manitoba in May introduced its Pathway to Safer Sport framework, which includes a toll-free support line (1-833-656-7233).
In a letter to schools, Education Minister Wayne Ewasko said policies should emphasize a “rule of two” for out-of-school meetings and ban staff from hosting students in their homes without written approval from a principal.
In June, the province said all coaches who work with pupils must complete the Respect in Sport program developed by Respect Group, which was co-founded by sexual abuse survivor and former NHLer Sheldon Kennedy.
Football Manitoba partnered with REES (Respect, Educate, Empower Survivors) to provide an online reporting platform for incidents such as abuse or harassment.
There are plans to provide education and revamp the background screening of coaches to create a safer environment, said executive director Bill Johnson.
Anyone who wants to speak to investigators is asked to call the sex crimes unit at 204-986-6245.
Supports are available through WPS Victim Services at 204-986-6350 or the Klinic Sexual Assault Crisis Line at 204-786-8631.
Sports groups who want to book a presentation can do so via the Winnipeg Police Service’s website.
Sport Manitoba offers Safe Sport information on its website.
— with files from Kevin Rollason and Dean Pritchard
As a general assignment reporter, Chris covers a little bit of everything for the Free Press.
Updated on Monday, September 12, 2022 1:28 PM CDT: Cutline fixed
Updated on Monday, September 12, 2022 2:12 PM CDT: Headline fixed
Updated on Monday, September 12, 2022 8:29 PM CDT: typo fixed