Canadian artistic swimmers file lawsuit against governing body over abuse, harassment allegations

A group of five former competitive athletes with the national artistic swimming team has filed a proposed class-action lawsuit against governing body Canada Artistic Swimming for allegedly failing to provide a safe environment for swimmers.

The plaintiffs — who are elite artistic swimmers from Quebec, Ontario and Alberta — allege they were subjected to psychological abuse, neglect and harassment, including sexual and racial harassment by coaches and staff. None of the allegations have been proven in court.

Gabriella Brisson, who was a member of the national team from 2012 to 2018, described a “toxic culture” that she says remains the norm during a press conference Tuesday.

“This is a tale of physical, psychological abuse, neglects and discrimination,” she said.

READ MORE: Canada’s artistic swim team halts training after complaints from athletes

The synchronized swimmers, who were all members of the program between 2007 and 2020, are seeking $250,000 in punitive damages in the proposed class action that was submitted to Quebec’s Superior Court on Monday.

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“CAS’s failure to meet its obligations to the athletes placed (and continues to place) them in an untenable position: either endure the psychological abuse, neglect and harassment or give up their dreams of representing Canada at the international level,” the document reads.

The lawsuit comes after Canada Artistic Swimming released results of an independent investigation last fall into complaints about harassment and a culture of fear at the team’s training centre in Montreal.

The probe found no instances of physical abuse, sexual abuse or hazing — but nearly half of those interviewed said they had witnessed or experienced psychological abuse by coaches, staff or other athletes.

Global News has reached out to Canada Artistic Swimming but did not receive a response by publishing time.

Click to play video 'Alberta Artistic Swimming National Stream provincial championships' Alberta Artistic Swimming National Stream provincial championships

Alberta Artistic Swimming National Stream provincial championships – Feb 26, 2020

With files from Global News’ Brayden Jagger Haines and The Canadian Press


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