Defendants added to Gymnastics Canada abuse lawsuit

The class action already included Gymnastics B.C., and alleges athletes suffered abuse while under the care of various sports organizations

B.C. Supreme Court Justice has allowed the representative plaintiff in the case to amend the claim to include additional gymnastics associations | Rob Kruyt

A judge has agreed to expand the class action lawsuit against Gymnastics Canada, Gymnastics B.C. and five other provincial member associations.

On Aug. 21, B.C. Supreme Court Justice Carla Forth allowed representative plaintiff Amelia Cline to amend the claim to include the associations in the four Atlantic provinces, plus the Yukon Territory and Northwest Territories.

In the original May 2022 filing, Cline named Gymnastics Canada and its subsidiaries in Alberta, B.C., Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec and Saskatchewan. She alleged gymnasts, including herself, had suffered physical, sexual, and/or psychological abuse while under the care and control of the provincial organization in their jurisdiction and Gymnastics Canada.

Gymnastics Canada, according to Cline, created a culture and environment where abuse could occur and the organization also failed to take appropriate steps to protect the athletes, many of whom were children when the abuse took place.

“The perpetrators of the abuse were often coaches, but in some instances also included staff, administrators, physiotherapists and other employees, agents or servants of Gymnastics  Canada, [provincial member organizations], and/or member clubs under the jurisdiction and oversight of Gymnastics Canada and its PMOs,” said Cline’s filing.

The lawsuit proposes the class represent all gymnasts in Canada who claim they were abused while participating in a Gymnastics Canada, provincial member organization or member club program or event since 1978. In Cline’s case, she alleged suffering abuse, including training-induced physical and mental injuries, beginning in 2000 at the Omega Gymnastics Sports Centre in Coquitlam.

Cline and her parents complained to Gymnastics B.C. in March 2003 after coach Vladimir Lashin demanded Cline perform while she was rehabilitating a torn hamstring. Their complaint also alleged that Lashin screamed at Cline, brought her into his office, forced her to weigh herself and blamed her injury on being overweight. The lawsuit said Cline, then 14, weighed 80 pounds and that Lashin’s treatment caused her to immediately leave Omega and end her gymnastics career.

Vladimir and Svetlana Lashin were not reprimanded, but instead received awards and promotions within the sport. Vladimir Lashin eventually became Canada’s head coach at the Athens 2004 Olympics.

Cline, who is now a lawyer, is represented by Camp Fiorante Matthews Mogerman in Vancouver and Howie Sacks and Henry in Toronto.

None of the allegations has been proven in court. The online court file does not include a statement of defence. Hearings are scheduled for next February for defendants to argue that the matter should be heard in another jurisdiction outside B.C. 

In January, Gymnastics Canada released a report it commissioned by McLaren Global Sport Solutions. While most gymnasts reported positive experiences, “toxic examples of abuse and maltreatment persist at all levels; coaches, judges and staff have also reported maltreatment,” the McLaren report said.

“Abuse and maltreatment of gymnasts appears most pronounced in womens artistic gymnastics and womens rhythmic gymnastics.”

Interim chair Bernard Petiot said at the time that Gymnastics Canada “heard loud and clear the cultural and behavioural wrongdoings that have hurt individuals and our sport. We acknowledge and respect the ripple effect of these wrongdoings and we are moving ahead — today.”

Cline is one of many athletes past and present who have campaigned unsuccessfully for the federal government to call a judicial public inquiry into abuse and corruption in the Canadian sport system.

Under Sport Minister Pascale St-Onge, the government introduced new checks and balances for federally funded sport organizations, including the new Office of the Sport Integrity Commissioner.

But St-Onge was transferred to Canadian Heritage in the late July cabinet shuffle. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau returned the sport portfolio to Delta MP Carla Qualtrough, who held the post from 2015 to 2017.