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Kirsty Duncan is a member of Parliament and served as the federal minister of sport.

Four years ago, I had one focus as the then-minister of sport: how to make participation in sports safe for all Canadians. Sexual assault, abuse, discrimination and harassment in sports had to end, and the days of hear no evil, see no evil needed to stop immediately. I put in place as many protections as possible during my time as minister, but there is still much work to be done.

Safe sport should always be the primary goal – it should be placed ahead of winning games, tournaments or medals, especially when it comes to protecting young people.

Keeping people safe should never have been something we had to fight for. But as we have seen with Hockey Canada and other national and provincial sports organizations, there has been resistance to instituting changes that would better protect our young people – not just those who play sports, but also fans or anyone who gets caught up in the culture of certain sports.

We know from the stories told by victims, athletes and the media that the decades-old, dirty secret of abuse in sports continues. Today we have crises in hockey, gymnastics, soccer, bobsled, synchronized swimming and more. Five hundred gymnasts have come forward asking for an investigation of the sport’s toxic culture and alleged cases of abuse. As a former gymnast, I’ve had my own awful experiences.

There is also a lack of public trust that the disruptive but necessary changes will be implemented by the governing bodies of these sports. We simply cannot afford to let this moment pass; if we do, we will continue to fail young Canadians.

It is time for an independent inquiry into the Canadian sport system. The leaders of the inquiry should be charged with providing real, tangible, transformative recommendations to the government.

Our existing sport system was never designed to protect athletes and children. In fact, it was built in response to large numbers of men being rejected for military service during the Second World War. After a third of recruits could not pass the requisite fitness tests, Canada introduced the National Physical Fitness Act in 1943, which set aside funding to generate a fit Canadian population. This mandate eventually evolved into 1961′s Fitness and Amateur Sport Act, which encouraged mass participation in sports and fitness activities.

After Canada failed to win a gold medal in the 1976 Montreal Olympics, there was a palpable shift in focus – it became a priority for Canada to win top honours in international sports competitions.

By the 1980s, some coaches and sports federations had placed the health, well-being and safety of athletes well behind other priorities in their pursuit of victory. In 1989, a Canadian Olympic sprinter told a federal inquiry that a team physician gave him pills from a bottle marked “For Veterinary Use Only” to enhance his performance.

In the 1990s, the brave and courageous Sheldon Kennedy, a former professional hockey player, came forward with revelations of years of sexual abuse at the hands of his junior hockey coach. Mr. Kennedy’s story should have been a wake-up call, not only for the Canadian hockey community but for the entire sports system.

Almost 30 years later, however, we still have to bear witness to a defence of the indefensible by Hockey Canada, as more details of a culture of silence and hush money emerge. And the problem isn’t limited to sexual assault or hockey – stories of verbal and psychological abuse of young athletes abound across many sports. Young people are still at risk of being emotionally and physically scarred by their experiences in sport, often for the rest of their lives. Action needs to be taken to overhaul the system.

Holding an inquiry to fix a broken part of our national sport system isn’t unprecedented. In 1988, the Dubin inquiry was launched less than two weeks after sprinter Ben Johnson tested positive for steroids at the Olympic Games in Seoul and was stripped of his gold medal in the 100-metre event.

Ontario Appeal Court Chief Justice Charles Dubin was appointed to conduct the inquiry, and he left no stone unturned. After months of testimony, the highly respected judge released a 600-page critique of amateur sports associations, as well as the drug-testing policies and procedures of the federal government.

The inquiry mattered because it was a catalyst for real change. It not only got to the bottom of steroid use in the Canadian sport system, it also shed light on the issue around the world and made important recommendations that the federal government could then implement.

In 1991, Canada created the independent, non-profit Canadian Anti-Doping Organization, responsible for drug-testing policy, practice and implementation in Canada. Its successor, the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport, is recognized as an international leader.

We have arrived at another moment of reckoning for sport in this country. Athletes and victims continue to be let down by leaders of sports organizations such as Hockey Canada when it comes to sexual assault, abuse, discrimination and harassment.

For the sake of people already affected by the despicable actions of others in positions of power, and for the next generation of athletes, we need to act now.