Sex assault allegations prompt new bill with goal to better protect Manitoba youth athletes

Allegations of sexual assault against Winnipeg high football coach and teacher Kelsey Albert Dana McKay, 51, have sparked calls for better protections for students and youth in sports.

On Thursday morning, coaches and student athletes are expected at the Manitoba Legislature as a new resolution aimed at developing new policies is debated.

Jamie Moses, an NDP MLA, has a private member’s resolution which calls for, among other measures, a policy prohibiting coaches and teachers from having youth or students over at their homes.

“And this is the starting point,” Moses said. “We want to make sure there are processes in place to make sure that all students involved in sport are as safe as possible.”

Moses is bringing the resolution forward after working on it with fellow NDP MLA Adrien Sala and retired teacher and Winnipeg Rifles coach Geordie Wilson.

It’s one of a few ways Wilson hopes will help prevent kids from getting victimized.

“The number one thing is I really believe it should be a condition of employment if you’re going to be a teacher – and if you’re going to be a community coach – but for a teacher, a condition of employment that you cannot have kids in your home,” Wilson said.

Winnipeg police have previously said the majority of the offences McKay is charged with are alleged to have occurred in his residence.

Wilson would also like to see Sport Manitoba’s Safe Sport Line more widely promoted and offered in a text message format. The line allows anyone experiencing or witnessing abuse or harassment to make a confidential report.

“So it’s about the promotion, that advertising and then showing us: what does grooming look like? We hear the term. What does grooming look like,” Wilson said.

He also wants more trauma counselling made available to survivors.

Greg Gilhooly, a sexual assault survivor originally from Winnipeg, is in favour of tougher rules preventing one-on-one contact between students and their teachers or coaches.

“The best defence we, as a society have, is our gut instinct,” Gilhooly said in an interview from Toronto. “And adults shouldn’t be hosting parties or events in their homes for children that they’re teaching or coaching.”

Gilhooly is one of notorious hockey coach and substitute teacher Graham James’s victims.

While he supports more measures, Gilhooly said there also needs to be mechanisms in place to let victims know they will be heard.

“Absolutely these are things that should be in place,” he said. “But you also have to take steps to get the child over that first hurdle of reaching out for help.”

The Pembina Trails School Division, which is one of the divisions McKay coached and taught in, has previously said it already has a policy prohibiting staff from allowing students in their homes.

Wayne Ewasko, Manitoba’s Education Minister, said in a statement ensuring the safety of Manitoba students is a priority.

Ewasko said the government, school divisions and schools already have multiple safeguards in place and that the government supports the Respect in School program which is designed to empower people to recognize and prevent abuse, harassment and grooming. 

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