group of more than 500 Canadian gymnasts wants an independent enquiry into Gymnastics Canada launched ©Getty Images

A group of more than 500 Canadian gymnasts has written to Canadian Sports Minister Pascale St-Onge reiterating its call for an urgent independent enquiry to be launched into the "toxic culture and rampant child abuse" entrenched in the sport.

Gymnastics Canada last week signed up to the Sport Dispute Resolution Centre of Canada's Abuse-Free Sport programme, but critics say change has not yet gone far enough.

"Since March 2022, over 500 Canadian gymnasts, who are survivors of abuse in their sport, have been calling on the Canadian Government to initiate an independent, judicial investigation to address the toxic culture and rampant child abuse entrenched in Canadian gymnastics," a letter from the Gymnasts For Change Canada group reads.

"To date, these calls have been ignored.

"In the intervening seven months, Gymnasts For Change Canada has received stories from hundreds of current and former athletes, detailing their experience of maltreatment in this sport.

"Surely by now, their voices are too loud to be ignored and yet, their courage has been met with no action from your office.

"Honourable Minister, we are disappointed that our email of 22 June 2022, sent to you, your Chief of Staff and a Sport Canada representative has gone unanswered.

"The email detailed examples of truly egregious abuse that we received from our community of survivors.

"The lack of response sends the message that these voices do not matter, and their experiences are not worthy of action."

Gymnastics is one of multiple Canadian sports to have been rocked by safeguarding failures in recent months  ©Getty Images
Gymnastics is one of multiple Canadian sports to have been rocked by safeguarding failures in recent months ©Getty Images

In August, the Bobsleigh Canada Skeleton (BCS) Athletes for Change group renewed its call for action to St-Onge in similar manner.

"The collective, made up of more than 90 current and former bobsleigh and skeleton athletes, has submitted additional information which further highlights the systemic issues in the BCS since Sarah Storey was appointed Board of Directors eight years ago," it said.

"Since our original letter was released (March 2022) we have seen no acknowledgement, attention, or resolution by BCS leadership and administration to address the concerns athletes have raised."

Several instances of abuse in Canadian sport have come to light in recent months.

Boxing Canada athletes called for the resignation of the body's high-performance director for cultivating a toxic culture.

Daniel Trépanier did indeed quit.

Serious complaints about a culture of abuse within Hockey Canada led earlier this month to the entire Board of Directors stepping down, as well as President and chief executive Scott Smith, because of the backlash over its handling of cases of sexual misconduct.

The national governing body has also had its access to public funds frozen and has seen dozens of sponsors end commercial deals.

Also this month, Rowing Canada Aviron joined Abuse-Free Sport after a damning report on its "toxic culture" was published.

The examples of abuse within Canadian gymnastics that were attached to the original email sent on June 22 this year include alleged instances of coaches inappropriately touching or even raping children, of children being hounded and shamed over their body weight, and athletes failing to receive adequate attention for injuries and being forced to compete despite injuries.

"Any of these examples should warrant the most urgent action from the Canadian Government," the letter continues.

"We are deeply disappointed that these examples did not spur action.

"As we have informed your office, these examples are not historical, and abuse continues in gyms all across this country today.

"Just last week, we noted Gymnastics Canada’s announcement that they will sign onto the Office of the Sport Integrity Commissionaire (OSIC).

"This does not change gymnasts’ need for a judicial inquiry…

"Today we call for your action…

"Every day without that action from the Canadian government is another day children suffer the most despicable forms of emotional, physical, and sexual abuse…

"This is an important moment in Canadian history and one that will define your legacy as Sport Minister.

"For the wellbeing of every gymnast in the country, we urge and implore you to initiate an independent third-party judicial investigation.

"It’s time to act to protect every gymnast in Canada."