Canada Artistic Swimming has been wrestling with a series of challenging safe sport situations over the past few months. These situations have shone a light on the connection between safe sport and diversity and inclusion. CAS was undertaking work to create a safe, welcoming and inclusive culture throughout the sport prior to these situations coming to light. The importance of ensuring the safety and wellbeing of their athletes and of listening and learning how to change the sport to create a culture where each athlete feels like they belong is a top priority as CAS moves forward.

In order to build out the learning journey that CAS needs to meet their commitment to a safe, welcoming and inclusive culture, they have launched the CAS Diversity and Inclusion Training Program. Working with inclusion experts INclusion INcorporated, and other subject matter experts, an industry leading training curriculum is being developed that covers a broad range of diversity and inclusion topics. The work began with a series of in-depth sessions for the CAS National team staff, coaches, and volunteers.

The next phase will be to create a condensed version of the curriculum for coaches and others at all levels in the sport as part of the overarching CAS comprehensive cultural revitalization project.

As coaches play such a significant and important role in shaping the perspectives of young athletes, this training will be a mandatory annual requirement. Other interested stakeholders will also be able to participate in learning this valuable information about equity, diversity and inclusion in sport.

INclusion INcorporated is a JEDI (justice, equity, diversity and inclusion) consulting firm which supports leaders and their organizations on their inclusion journeys to create cultures of belonging.  Bringing a network of expertise and lived experiences to their approach, including over twenty years of expertise in the diversity and inclusion field, a nationally D&I credentialed project leader, expertise in public policy, evaluation, human resources and lived experiences of their team across Indigeneity, disability, sexual and gender inequity, racism and bilingualism.

“The deep dive that CAS has taken with their leadership to explore what they don’t know, and support the learning and development is an approach that every organization needs to take. The growth that we witnessed in their team over the first traunch of diversity training was impressive,” said Andrea Carey, ININ founder. – “it demonstrated a culture shift in how individuals were thinking about and showing up across a range of their inclusion thinking and planning. CAS recognized the connection between diversity, inclusion and safe sport and brought that to the forefront in their approach to addressing their way forward.”

The training curriculum covers a variety of topics that include:

  • Human Rights Protected Grounds
  • LGBTQ2IS Inclusion
  • Gender Equity/Sexism
  • Anti-Racism
  • Newcomers Inclusion
  • Indigenous Inclusion
  • Disability Inclusion
  • Psychological Abuse / Emotional Abuse
  • Mental Health Awareness Training

“This is a critical component in our national commitment to address how much we need to do to become diverse and inclusive as an organization,” said Jackie Buckingham, CEO, Canada Artistic Swimming. “We have been working hard over the last several years to establish a framework to build a more safe and welcoming culture throughout our sport. This training program is a vital next step to educate our community on what safe and inclusive sport looks like, and how it must be reflected in every aspect of artistic swimming throughout the country.”

Ms. Buckingham outlined some other steps that have already been undertaken. “In 2016, Respect in Sport Training was made mandatory for all national team participants including all the athletes to create common understanding of respectful conduct. At the same time, a new eight-year strategic plan, approved by our board and Members, identified values of respect and ethical behaviour and set a path for organizational alignment. CAS re-brand in 2018 reinforced our commitment to diversity, and in 2019, we revised all of our safe sport-related policies which were introduced across the organization. All NCCP certification courses have been updated to include specific training in safe sport and culture related issues.  CAS recognized that it was important to have alignment at all levels to create consistency in program delivery expectations. To put the organization in a place to be able to respond appropriately to mistakes related to EDI, and other safe sport issues, CAS also introduced an external third-party Safe Sport Officer as a confidential reporting mechanism for the whole organization and created the national staff position of Safe Sport Manager, with the mandate to provide leadership internally.”

“In August of 2020, we established a Diversity and Inclusion Task Force to better understand and address gaps to achieving our goal of access for all, including developing the CAS Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Policy. We have worked to engage with our stakeholders across the country and shared our vision to become more diverse and inclusive as an organization, then we launched the CAS Diversity and Inclusion Training Program, and now we are embarking on building our Diversity and Inclusion Action Plan to pave our way forward,” concluded Ms. Buckingham. “While we are encouraged by what we have accomplished since 2016, we know there is more work to be done.  CAS is committed to creating a safe, welcoming and inclusive environment for everyone in our amazing sport.”