Recent child sexual assault cases spark calls for safe sport initiatives

CALGARY — Kids join organized sports looking for a safe, healthy, fun environment but two recent cases of men charged with sexual assault against minors in Calgary, are renewing discussions about safety in sport.

“Two per cent to 8 per cent of children involved in sport will experience some form of sexual abuse,” said Mary Jane James, the CEO of Sexual Assault Centre of Edmonton.

In January, Calgary basketball coach Sean Maheu was charged after a boy who played for him said he had been sexually assaulted. Weeks later Calgary Police charged Bogdan Botezatu with sexually assaulting three girls. Even though the allegations have not been linked to his role as a youth soccer coach, the case caught the attention of an advocate against athlete abuse.

Sean Maheu Calgary basketball coach charged

“It’s another case of somebody that’s involved in sport,” said Ciara McCormack.

The former Vancouver Whitecaps player came forward with allegations against an ex-coach in 2008 and shared a blog post about her experience in 2019 that triggered a public backlash against the Whitecaps and fans walking out during the games in protest.

She says since most cases of abuse are never reported, police criminal checks don’t go far enough.

She wants Canada to have a registry of coaches convicted, charged, and even facing abuse allegations.

“Patterns of behaviour even to see that this isn’t a one-off incident that this has happened at multiple clubs and the fact that doesn’t exist in Canada right now is absolutely egregious,” said Ciara McCormack.

She says while some raise privacy concerns, in her view, anyone working with kids needs to be held to a higher and more transparent standard.

McCormack is working to set up a hotline for victims that is independent of any sporting body.

Other advocates say parents also play an important role.

“Really question the sporting organization itself about the oversight they have and they’re willing to share with the parents,” said James.

Calgary police charged Botezatu after three teen girls said they were grabbed and sexually touched by a stranger.

Bogdan Botezatu, soccer, sexual assault, Calgary

Two Calgary Minor Soccer clubs that he used to coach with released statements saying there is no reason to believe any players were impacted.

Canada Soccer has not responded to CTV’s inquiry about the status of Botezatu’s child’s coaching licence or how the organization handles situations where licenced coaches face criminal charges.

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