Gymnastics Canada statement regarding the outcome of the Valerie Oudin/Sara Stafford discipline hearing
OTTAWA, ON (April 24, 2020) – Gymnastics Canada (GymCan) acknowledges and accepts the decision reached by an independent discipline panel on April 23rd regarding formal written complaints received by GymCan in January 2019 against two elite coaches - Ms. Valerie Oudin and Ms. Sara Stafford of Champions Gymnastics Club in Edmonton, AB. The discipline panel, chaired by Ms. Luisa Ritacca, established that Ms. Oudin and Ms. Stafford did breach the GymCan Code of Ethics and Conduct, specifically the sections that deal with conduct and harassment. The Panel further upheld the provisional suspensions put in place by GymCan and extended these suspensions until January 31, 2021 for Ms. Stafford, and until June 30, 2021 for Ms. Oudin. These suspensions cover all gymnastics-related activities and will be implemented nationally through the GymCan and provincial/territorial member association reciprocity agreement.
To reach this outcome, GymCan engaged in a comprehensive process based on organizational policies that commenced with internal review and a professional assessment of the written complaints by the organization’s third-party Harassment Officer and legal counsel. Upon receiving their recommendation to initiate an investigation into the formal complaints, GymCan secured an independent legal expert with extensive practice in the field of workplace investigations, human rights, and administrative law to conduct a neutral investigation.
The investigator interviewed witnesses for both parties, including Ms. Oudin and Ms. Stafford, and delivered a report detailing the facts of the case against the organization’s Code of Ethics and Conduct policies. Upon reception and review of the investigator’s report, GymCan’s third-party Harassment Officer formally registered the complaints and directed the case to be heard by an independent discipline panel in accordance with GymCan’s policies.
At this time, GymCan secured a legal expert with experience facilitating disciplinary proceedings in sport to serve as Case Manager. The Case Manager then constructed an independent discipline panel composed of two lawyers and a gymnastics expert to hear evidence presented by both parties, reach a decision regarding the alleged policy breaches, and direct sanctions to be imposed by GymCan. The final decision reached by the discipline panel followed a three-day disciplinary hearing that took place from March 23-25, 2020 with closing arguments completed on April 2, 2020.
GymCan recognizes that ensuring a fair, neutral, and thorough process takes time and we thank all parties for their patience, cooperation, and engagement in this process. To respect the privacy of all parties involved, we will not make any further statements at this time and ask that the privacy and confidentiality of all individuals involved be respected.
GymCan embraces our responsibility to take a leadership role in fostering positive, healthy, and fulfilling gymnastics environments. Together with our provincial members, we continue to implement Safe Sport policy, education, and advocacy initiatives with the safety and well-being of all participants at the forefront. For more information, please visit: www.gymcan.org/programs/safe-sport/overview.
ABOUT GYMNASTICS CANADA
First established in 1969, Gymnastics Canada has been supporting the mastery of movement in Canada for five decades as the national governing body for the sport of gymnastics in Canada. We work closely with the twelve provincial federations and 700 local clubs to provide a broad range of programs and services to meet the needs of all participants. From athlete development, to coach and judge education, Gymnastics Canada sets the operating standards and practices for the sport in Canada. Our mandate is to promote and provide positive and diverse gymnastics experiences through the delivery of quality and safe gymnastics programming. Visit www.gymcan.org for more information, or follow us @gymcan1. From here, we soar.
For more information, contact: