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Moss faces questions from MPs on handling of two disgraced coaches

Gymnastics Canada chief executive officer Ian Moss was on the hot seat at the status of women hearings on safety of women in sport on Monday in Ottawa.
Ian Moss, CEO of Gymnastics Canada, speaks with reporters outside the courthouse in Sarnia, Ont. on Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2019. Moss and Sarah-Eve Pelletier, Canada's first sport integrity commissioner, will have the floor today in Ottawa. Moss and Pelletier are among those testifying before members of Parliament as the Standing Committee on the Status of Women continues its hearings on the safety of women and girls in sport.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Mark Spowart

Gymnastics Canada chief executive officer Ian Moss was on the hot seat at the status of women hearings on safety of women in sport on Monday in Ottawa.

During testimony that reportedly ended in Moss hurling verbal abuse at outspoken gymnastics advocate Kim Shore, Moss was repeatedly questioned by members of parliament about his federation's handling of coaches Alex Bard and Scott McFarlane amid accusations he knew of complaints from athletes, but allowed them to continue coaching.

Moss said McFarlane's was a criminal case that GymCan had no involvement with. He argued his hands were tied with Bard.

"There were several allegations (against Bard)," Moss said. "That's the point. We have to do due diligence in terms of facts to simple as that."

Bard was named in 2018 to Canada's coaching staff for the 2020 Olympics despite allegations of maltreatment. Moss said Monday the formal code of conduct complaint ended in his termination in 2019, although GymCan's press release said Bard was resigning for "personal reasons."

MP and status of women chair Karen Vecchio closed the first panel's testimony by demanding Moss submit all GymCan email correspondence and board meeting minutes on Bard and McFarlane, "so we're getting both sides of the story."

The second panel Monday began moments later, with MP Andreanne Larouche stating Moss had "verbally assaulted" Shore on his way out of the room. Shore is a former GymCan border member and a founder of Gymnasts For Change Canada.

Shore responded to a request for comment with the statement: "As a survivor, challenging an archaic and entrenched system, there is inherent risk with coming forward publicly and with speaking truth to power. I stand with abuse survivors who have felt silenced. Only a judicial inquiry can reveal the institutional complicity."

Moss did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The status of women meetings come after an outcry from hundreds of athletes in several sports, including gymnastics and bobsled and skeleton, about toxic environments in their national federations.

Testimony began in late November, with the prominent theme being the need for a national judicial inquiry into sport.

Gymnastics has been front and centre of the safe-sport crisis, both because of the sheer number of assault and abuse cases against coaches, and the fact most cases involve minors.

Moss wouldn't elaborate on the details of Bard's code of conduct complaint, citing confidentiality, to which Vecchio replied, "You can bring everything to us, that's not a problem."

Nondisclosure agreements, Vecchio said, have no impact on the status of women committee.

Lawyer Sophie Gagnon, who appeared on the day's second panel, was asked about the Bard case and the legal restrictions around allegations made in sport.

"I believe people wrongly use principles of criminal law to discuss sexual violence in the workplace or in day-to-day life," said Gagnon, who is the executive director of Juripop, a non-profit legal clinic. "Presumption of innocence and so on are not relevant outside the criminal courtroom. So that's one.

"Second, if we want to implement change, the first step for an organization is to clearly define what type of behaviours they wish to see . . . And organizations have full control over these definitions. They can use as inspiration what the law says, but they can be much bolder, more courageous than what the law says. So defining the standards."

Moss said Gymnastics Canada is in support of a national judicial inquiry.

"We never have not been in support of it," he argued. "We've been in the situation where we've had to take action very quickly, because there was no other opportunity for others to be engaged. And that's what we've done."

McFarlane, meanwhile, was acquitted on all sexual assault-related charges in November of 2022 connected to his time coaching at a Mississauga, Ont., gym. He was charged in 2018 for alleged involvement with a 15-year-old gymnast.

He originally faced charges of sexual assault, child luring of a person under 16, sexual interference of a person under 16, making sexually explicit material available to a person under 16, and indecent exposure to a person under 16.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 30, 2023.

Lori Ewing, The Canadian Press