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Finding facts: Best practices in Safe Sport Investigations

Earlier this year Kaillie Humphries, a Calgary-born Olympic gold medalist, won her appeal to have her allegations of an abusive coaching environment at Bobsleigh Canada Skeleton (BCS) investigated again due to procedural errors made during the initial investigation. This case is a reminder to investigators of the need to follow best practices and ensure procedural fairness when conducting an investigation.

The original complaint was filed in July of 2018. Ms. Humphries alleged that during the 2017-2018 season she was subjected to conduct by the head coach of BCS team that contravened the BCS Discrimination and Harassment Policy (the “Policy:”). She also alleged that the President of BCS and the High Performance Director breached the Policy for failing to address the alleged misconduct when they became aware of it. An independent investigator was appointed and cleared the BCS coach, President and HP Director of wrongdoing. Ms. Humphries appealed to the SDRCC and asked that the investigation findings be set aside and a new investigation take place.

On review, the arbitrator found that the investigator’s approach was to conclude from the outset that there had been no Policy breach. The investigator failed to interview witnesses who may have corroborated Ms. Humphries’ evidence. This is contrary to the requirement of an investigator under the policy, which is to investigate and make findings of fact. In addition, the arbitrator found that the investigator declined to make any findings of credibility or conduct a proper analysis.

A new investigation was ordered. This is an important decision for anyone conducting an investigation in the context of sports to consider before conducting an investigation. It reminds us that it is crucial to enter an investigation with an open mind and focus on the key elements of fact finding, such as fairness, weighing evidence, interviewing witnesses, assessing credibility and providing a sufficient analysis.

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