Safe Sport

Becoming a Program Signatory to the SDRCC/OSIC

Safe Sport

Becoming a Program Signatory to the SDRCC/OSIC

Date: July 11, 2024


Safe sport has become an important and highly publicized issue, and sport organizations across Canada must determine how to administer their safe sport complaint and discipline management processes. While federally funded sport organizations are required to adopt the Universal Code of Conduct to Prevent and Address Maltreatment in Sport (UCCMS) and become signatories, sport organizations who are not federally funded may voluntarily become signatories or administer the UCCMS through their internal discipline and complaint policies or procedures.

This third installment of the Safe Sport series addresses a number of key factors a sport organization may wish to consider when determining whether to enter into a signatory agreement with the Sport Dispute Resolution Centre of Canada (SDRCC) and adopt the UCCMS.


Under the current regime, sport organizations who become a “Program Signatory” are agreeing to use the services of the SDRCC, including the Office of Sport Integrity Commissioner’s (OSIC’s) complaint management process and other dispute resolution services in relation to all UCCMS and safe sport matters. Consequently, any UCCMS-related incident or complaint is reported to and administered by the OSIC. To support this process, the signatory is also provided additional services, which are described further below.

A signatory agreement between the SDRCC and the signatory sport organization is for a fixed term of 12 months.

The OSIC currently has the authority to administer the UCCMS and to receive complaints/reports regarding alleged violations of the UCCMS by participants of program signatories. The OSIC administers the UCCMS in two ways: managing complaints and managing sport environment assessments.

The SDRCC currently has jurisdiction to hear challenges to (1) provisional measures imposed by the OSIC’s Director of Sanctions and Outcomes (DSO), (2) findings of violations by the DSO, and (3) sanctions imposed by the DSO. As noted below, this is expected to change as of April 1, 2025.

Obligations of the SDRCC

In considering whether to become a voluntary Program Signatory, sport organizations should turn their mind to what the SDRCC provides to signatories. A sport organization that becomes a Program Signatory has access to a variety of services provided by the SDRCC under the signatory agreement. These services include:

  • access to the Canadian Sport Helpline
  • wellness services for eligible individuals
  • an accessible online complaint filing platform
  • complaint and investigation management and services through the OSIC
  • services of the DSO, including the imposition of sanctions, the imposition of provisional measures, and to the extent needed, the appearance and making of representations before the Safeguarding Tribunal and Appeal Tribunal
  • dispute resolution services when applicable (i.e., arbitration, mediation, informal resolution processes, and case management)
  • the maintenance of the Abuse-Free Sport Registry, to be administered by the OSIC and in accordance with applicable laws, which includes, among other elements, the names of participants who have been sanctioned or have been issued a provisional measure, the prohibited behaviour, the nature of disciplinary action taken, and the date of issuance and the period in effect
  • guidance from the Resource Centre on prevention of maltreatment and on education

The OSIC: Complaint Management and Investigation

A significant consideration for any organization evaluating whether to become a Program Signatory is whether they wish to have UCCMS-related complaints addressed through a third-party process (namely, the OSIC’s complaint management and investigation process) rather than internally.

Under the signatory agreement, the SDRCC administers UCCMS and safe sport-related complaints through the OSIC. This means the OSIC has the authority to administer a complaint only when a complaint or report is against a respondent who falls under the authority of a signatory organization.

In such a circumstance, the OSIC Director of Investigations (and/or their delegate) is responsible to perform an initial review and assessment of the complaint. This involves a gatekeeping review process to assess whether a complaint can proceed—including an assessment of whether there is a potential violation of the UCCMS with regards to a respondent under the OSIC’s jurisdiction.

Once assessed, the complaint may proceed to mediation or investigation, or be deemed not admissible (at which point, the case is closed).

Should a complaint proceed to the investigation stage, the OSIC is further responsible for implementing provisional measures and assigning an independent investigator to ultimately issue an investigation report and make findings of fact with regard to an alleged violation of the UCCMS.

While the OSIC reviews the investigation report to validate that the investigation was completed in accordance with the OSIC’s policies/procedures, and to address procedural concerns, it neither reviews nor makes assessments with regards to the report’s merits, observations and/or conclusions.

Obligations of the Sport Organization

A sport organization considering whether to become a Program Signatory to the SDRCC should also be mindful of the associated responsibilities that will apply to the organization. These include:

  • adopting the UCCMS and ensuring that all other internal policies and procedures are consistent with the UCCMS
  • obtaining consent of persons affiliated with the organization so that all UCCMS participants become subject to the UCCMS and its processes
  • referring applicable matters to the OSIC, to be addressed pursuant to the policies and procedures of the OSIC
  • sharing information regarding existing sanctions imposed to the OSIC
  • providing periodic UCCMS-compliant training opportunities and tracking the completion of these training activities
  • co-operating with the OSIC and its designated representatives
  • ensuring that sanctions or measures imposed by the DSO, Safeguarding or Appeal Tribunals are implemented, respected, and adhered to
  • reporting to the OSIC on any requirement or recommendation imposed or formulated by the DSO or the OSIC

Key Considerations

In conclusion, a sport organization should carefully consider the obligations of the SDRCC, the parameters and scope of the OSIC’s management and investigation of complaints, as well as the associated responsibilities for an organization when determining whether or not to become a Program Signatory. As set out above, the decision for an organization to voluntarily become a Program Signatory requires consideration of various factors including whether the organization:

  • has an existing complaint and discipline management process, or whether the organization is prepared to create and administer a complaint and discipline management process
  • wishes for administration of UCCMS-related complaints to be dealt with by a third party
  • is prepared to ensure that sanctions or measures imposed by a third party—such as the DSO, Safeguarding or Appeal Tribunals—are implemented, respected and adhered to
  • seeks to have all participants abide by the terms of the UCCMS and processes necessary for its administration and enforcement
  • wants access to the additional services offered by the SDRCC to assist with other internal aspects of its organization

In December 2023, the Government of Canada announced that the OSIC and Abuse-Free Sport Program would be transitioned out of the SDRCC. On May 2, 2024, it was announced that the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport will be expanding its role to encompass administering the UCCMS as of April 1, 2025. As such, organizations should also be mindful that there may be future changes to the current regime at that time.

For organizations looking for assistance in determining the best course of action, or if you have any questions with regards to application of the UCCMS more generally, please contact Brittany Bates at 416.864.7508, Frank Cesario at 416.864.7355 or Kayley C. Leon at 416.864.7028.

The article in this client update provides general information and should not be relied on as legal advice or opinion. This publication is copyrighted by Hicks Morley Hamilton Stewart Storie LLP and may not be photocopied or reproduced in any form, in whole or in part, without the express permission of Hicks Morley Hamilton Stewart Storie LLP. ©