True Sport Spotlight: Safe Sport in Nova Scotia

Elana Liberman’s goal is to ensure that sport in Nova Scotia isn’t just safe, but that sport in the province also makes a great difference in the lives of all who participate. Liberman has been working for Sport Nova Scotia as the Safe Sport lead since January 2020, one of the first positions of its kind in Canada. Sport Nova Scotia leads the country by linking the implementation of new safe sport practices and policies with the promotion of a positive sport experience for all.

In September 2020, Liberman wrote an article titled “The Absence of harm is not enough,” in which she discusses how the word “safe” has come to mean different things to different people. She writes, “Most discussions regarding ‘safe sport’ focus on defining ‘safe’ as the absence of harm — especially around abuse, harassment and discrimination.” However, she suggests that if this is the working definition, it should be considered the bare minimum and that we must strive to do better. As Liberman stepped further into her role, she realized that to some, safe sport could mean participating in sport that is diverse, inclusive, welcoming, fun and fosters a sense of belonging. By this definition, safety is far more than the absence of harm. All sport should be safe, but it certainly shouldn’t stop there.

Committing to True Sport is one way for an organization to develop and deliver sport experiences that are both safe and positive. Anchored by the seven True Sport Principles: Go For It, Play Fair, Respect Others, Have Fun, Stay Healthy, Include Everyone and Give Back, True Sport empowers stakeholders to elevate their commitment to safe sport. A True Sport approach can also help sport organizations communicate why safe sport should be a priority as well as the potential consequences for organizations that do not commit to safe sport.

Sport Nova Scotia believes in a sport environment that is free from abuse, harassment and discrimination. They understand that a commitment to safe sport needs to be embedded in every organization through its policies and culture. Sport Nova Scotia has taken several steps to advocate for safe sport, including:

  • Asking provincial sport organizations to complete a safe sport survey, then using the feedback to create recommendations and priorities for policy development and education,
  • Working toward a safe sport policy suite to be applied across Nova Scotia,
  • Exploring safe sport education standards and creating an education matrix for participants in sport and recreation environments (including coaches, administrators and officials),
  • Developing athlete and family awareness campaigns and platforms about safe sport issues,
  • Seeking expert advice to help create an independent complaints process for those who are experiencing maltreatment in sport,
  • Recognizing the significance of adopting a holistic approach and understanding to safe sport,
  • Participating in ongoing True Sport engagement efforts and activities focused on values-based sport and recreation, and
  • Recognizing October as Safe Sport Month in Nova Scotia.

To learn more about how Sport Nova Scotia is using True Sport to support their safe sport initiatives, read Elana Liberman’s article, “The Absence of harm is not enough.”

What does safe sport mean to you? Elevate your commitment to safe, positive, and values-based sport through True Sport.