Langford-based Rugby Canada responds to women's players concerns over harassment report

Langford-based Rugby Canada responded Thursday to the continuing fallout it faces from its third-party investigation into harassment and bullying complaints levied by Canadian women’s Olympic sevens team players against former head coach John Tait of Mill Bay.

The report cleared Tait but 37 players issued a statement subsequently expressing dissatisfaction over its findings.

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“This is a very difficult time for our women’s sevens program, particularly for the athletes and staff, past and present, who were involved in the recent complaint process,” said Rugby Canada CEO Allen Vansen, in a statement.

“Our immediate priority is providing support for the mental health and well-being of everyone directly impacted by the investigation, as well as the physical health of those affected by the recent positive COVID tests.”

Rugby Canada said it can’t release the report due to confidentiality guidelines.

“We feel this process failed to protect us and did not acknowledge the abuse and harassment that we believe we suffered,” said a statement, released on team captain Ghislaine Landry’s twitter account last month.

The organization addressed the players’ reaction to the independent report conducted by Win Win HR Solutions Inc.

“We understand the desire to debate, discuss and in some cases, look to assign blame,” said Tim Powers, Rugby Canada board chair.

“For the well-being of all involved in this process, we encourage reasonable, compassionate and respectful engagement now more than ever.”

Rugby Canada added it will conduct an “inclusive and transparent” review of all its national-team programs in Langford following the Tokyo Olympics.

With the situation clearly untenable, Tait stepped down, despite the report’s findings. Mick Byrne, a consultant to the national team since 2012, will guide the world No. 3-ranked Canadian women’s sevens team at the Tokyo Olympics this summer.

“I was not surprised that the investigation, which I had requested to be initiated, concluded that the complaints were all unfounded and did not breach any of Rugby Canada policies,” Tait said in an emailed response to the Times Colonist, following the report.

“Regardless, I no longer desire to continue as the national team head coach. This entire experience has been extremely difficult and stressful for my family and I.”

Tait coached the women’s team to the bronze medal at the 2016 Rio Olympics, to gold medals in the 2015 Toronto and 2019 Lima Pan Am Games, and to the bronze-medal game of the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games. Under Tait’s mentorship, the national side also won a World Cup silver medal and was a consistent top-three nation in the annual World Series circuit.

cdheensaw@timescolonist.com

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