Statement from COC President Tricia Smith – Media Conference Call

Please see below the statement made by Canadian Olympic Committee (COC) President Tricia Smith during the media conference call of January 13th, 2016.

Check Against Delivery

Good afternoon and thank you for joining us today.

Last week, I was provided with the report of the third party review from Rubin Thomlinson. The Report is extensive, thorough, professional, and frankly tough. It includes the results of more than 100 interviews with COC staff, former staff, and other individuals taken over a three-month period. I reviewed the Report with the Board on Friday. I recommended, and the Board unanimously agreed, to accept and implement all of the recommendations.

It is clear from the report summary that the Board and the senior leadership team could have done more. And for that, I apologize. We all own this and we are truly sorry. We failed our employees.

As promised last September when we initiated the review, we are making the Report summary, including key learnings and recommendations, public. Each participant was assured anonymity, which we are honouring. We have also shared the Report summary with our COC staff, NSFs, partners, athletes, and coaches, and have posted it on our website at I spoke to many of our stakeholders earlier today to inform them first, as our partners, of the work we have undertaken.

What did we learn about why this happened? There were three overarching issues. A leadership issue, a lack of clarity in our governance framework, and insufficient HR systems and processes.

As the report states, there was lack of clarity around the role and authority of the Board versus the role and authority of the former President. This enabled the former President to exercise significant control, resulting in a culture where people did not have confidence in their ability to act in a way that could affect change.

Importantly, there was no effective mechanism for individuals to raise issues of concern, except through a formal complaint.

I ran for election in November on a platform for change. I’m confident I can lead this organization to be better and with these changes, unlock the full potential of our organization and our people. With this review, we now have a plan to chart a new course for the future.

Before I get into the learnings and recommendations from the review, I want to take a moment to thank our COC employees and highlight the tremendous work they do for our athletes and coaches every single day. They are the backbone of Team Canada. Throughout these past few months, they have continued to conduct themselves with the utmost dedication and professionalism. I know how difficult this has been for all of them, and for that I’m sorry. I spoke to them all this morning and they have our full support and resources to assist them.

While there are some very tough lessons to be learned, we now have a blueprint to be better, which include improved and appropriate processes to address any further concerns from anyone, both now, and in the future.

I want to again thank the complainant for coming forward. I have spoken to the individual throughout this process. This individual fully supports the recommendations of the report, and that we accept all recommendations, and the actions that I am taking. I am pleased to say they will be returning to work. It took extraordinary courage to speak up, and these actions have proven to be a catalyst for change.

Harassment of any kind is not acceptable. It is not welcome in our workplace or in our community. As the COC President, I will oversee the changes that are necessary to live up to our commitment to provide a safe and healthy organization. Everyone at the COC will have the opportunity to learn from this experience. We will ensure that every COC employee, executive, and Board member understands exactly what constitutes harassment, what is each person’s duty of care, and what has to happen if boundaries are crossed. We must hold ourselves to a higher standard and we will. We now have a plan to do this.

As you know, on September 26, 2015, an investigation was initiated under our harassment policy, and four days later was ceased with the consent of the complainant, after the former President resigned.

However, we knew we needed to do more, and immediately undertook this Review. The Terms of Reference were made public on October 6, 2015. The purpose of this Review was to take the pulse of our organization and collect subjective experiences of participants. The Review involved the collection of information and documentation, material analysis, and the extraction of learnings to make the necessary changes to address all identified issues. The goal is institutional change – to improve the way the organization functions, and to create a roadmap for a better path forward.

Let me now take you through the eight Review recommendations, all of which will be implemented. You have the full report summary, but I will highlight some of the changes we will be making.

  1. Enhancements to significantly strengthen our current policies:
    • A “duty to report” provision and clear reporting mechanisms for this purpose.
    • A mechanism for reporting complaints that does not require a report to the CEO or President, making it easier for employees to bring an issue forward.
    • A new reporting mechanism that provides for an alternate person to whom a report can be made, other than the person the report is about.
  2. Training, which will include:
    • A mandatory training program to ensure all staff and Board members have a clear understanding of the policy, and what constitutes personal harassment and bullying.
    • An extension of the training to COC participants in order to familiarize them with the policy and to help them understand how to report concerns should they arise.
  3. Appoint an individual with overall responsibility for the policy implementation and administration.
  4. Strengthen record keeping systems including:
    • A record keeping system that ensures when employees or COC participants bring forward issues to HR, COC management or to the Board, that it is recorded.
    • A system with specific steps to ensure issues raised are addressed and resolved.
    • A record keeping system that strictly adheres to maintaining signed documents and confirms that applicable policies have been reviewed, are understood, and that training has been completed.
  5. Ensure a means by which individuals can lodge anonymous complaints.
  6. Establish an independent resource to whom individuals can bring forward concerns, such as our Ethics Commissioner.
  7. Place more emphasis on “Respect” and “Wellbeing” as core values of the COC for employees.
  8. And finally, with respect to our own accountability we will:
    • Ensure employee awareness of our whistleblowers’ policy and an effective mechanism to make anonymous complaints
    • Continue to use surveys, reviews, and other forms of appropriate monitoring tools to canvass the views of employees.
    • Monitor culture and confirm effective administration and enforcement of the policies.

As a further step with respect to accountability, and in addition to the workplace Review, we retained governance experts Watson Inc. to work with Rubin Thomlinson to implement a full governance review.  The review led to the recommendations included in the report, all of which have been accepted by the Board. The recommendations are:

  1. A need for a more explicit provision in the COC’s governance framework for Board oversight of human resources and the workplace environment.
  2. A comprehensive approach to standards of conduct, and more specifically applicable to directors and officers.
  3. A more explicit mechanism within the COC policy framework for individuals to raise issues of concern regarding a director’s conduct to the Board other than through a formal complaint under the Policy.
  4. Increased clarity in COC’s governance framework between the role and authority of the Board versus the role and authority of the President ensuring the President cannot exercise significant control.

And we have taken this a step further. The governance portion of this review was limited to the issues at hand. It became apparent through this process, that a more fulsome governance review is required. Accordingly, the Board has accepted my recommendation to immediately hire a full time Corporate Secretary who will provide the appropriate governance expertise and oversee a full governance review. The Corporate Secretary will be accountable to the CEO and the Board and will advise and support the implementation of these recommendations.

Finally, it was also apparent from the Review that we must elevate our human resource expertise.  The Board has accepted my recommendation to hire a senior-level and designated HR executive and the search is already underway.

With new leadership, the changes that will result from the Review, and hiring the appropriate governance and human resources expertise, we are confident in our pathway forward. In the last four months, we have already seen a positive change. I have personally observed this improvement, it was reported in the review, and I have heard it directly from our staff.

As such, I recommended to our Board that we move forward with Chris Overholt as our CEO and the Board has unanimously agreed. We have also created a working group including Richard Pound, Gordon Peterson, and Therese Brisson, and led by me, to support the CEO as we implement the recommendations.

I can tell you this will not be business as usual. We will be holding everyone’s feet to the fire, myself and Chris included. We will do that by ensuring everyone is 100% committed to this new culture and accountable to the new policies and there will be ways to tell us if we are not meeting that standard. We want to be a world class organization and a place where our employees feel able to reach their full potential, but not at any cost. I believe with new leadership and the changes we are committed to implementing today, we will unlock that potential and see our organization thrive.

I chose to run and was elected to this office with an overwhelming majority vote of confidence from the sport community. I have been given a clear mandate for change – to get back to the COC’s core values.

We understand trust takes time to rebuild. We know we must earn it. And we will.

I will now take your questions.

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