U Sports commits to Safe Sport

Queen’s to implement inclusivity practices after pattern of silence about homophobia in athletics

Image by: Herbert Wang
Queen's A&R working towards a more inclusive community.

This article discusses homophobia and may be triggering for some readers. LGBT YouthLine provides text support at 647-694-475 or chat support at youthline.ca.

In May, the Canadian Minister of Sports Pascale St-Onge, and U Sports made public commitments to Safe Sport, a program dedicated to eliminating physical, sexual and psychological abuse.

While Queen’s Athletics and Recreation (A&R) made the same commitment, this wasn’t always the case for LGBTQ+ student-athletes.

In 2018, Donovan Hillary penned a letter about the homophobia he faced on the Queen’s football team in 2015.

His experience eventually led him to transfer universities.

Hillary explained homophobic jokes weren’t where his teammates drew the line.

“I found that the football environment at a liberal arts school was much more homophobic than I was anticipating,” he wrote.

Feeling Queen’s lacked resources necessary to support him, Hillary’s experiences caused his love for the game to deteriorate. At the end of his first year, Hillary transferred to the University of Manitoba and continued playing football for the Winnipeg Rifles.

When Hillary first spoke out, no public comment was made by A&R.

Five years later, A&R is making a public statement regarding Hillary’s accusations. This comes after an inquiry from The Journal.

“We were very saddened to learn of the negative and harmful experiences of a former student athlete when they were shared publicly in 2018, and sincerely regret this was their experience while at Queen’s,” A&R wrote. “We recognize the strength and courage it took for this athlete to speak out, and we took his story very seriously.”

A&R outlined it had taken measures at the time, such as updating training for players and staff, which included LGBTQ+ inclusivity as a key focus for the Varsity Leadership Council (VLC), and implementing peer-led initiatives.

“We remain determined to ensure that all team cultures are respectful and inclusive, and that every athlete feels a sense of belonging, feels supported, and can fully express themselves as individuals, on and off the field of play,” A&R said.

The Journal was unable to reach Hillary for a statement in time for publication.

Moving forward, Queen’s A&R also shared their support for Safe Sport.

“All of our efforts align with the Minister of Sport’s commitment to Safe Sport, and we continue to engage with U SPORTS, the OUA, and our peer institutions to implement best practices as Safe Sport evolves,” it wrote.

“Safe Sport is a critical component of all levels of sport and we aim to be leaders in this space, and support all participants in being safe, on and off the field of play.

In the 2022-23 season, A&R partnered with Yellow House Student Centre for Equity and Inclusion to host programs such as QTBIPoC Hikes and Solidarity Swims for trans, nonbinary, or other gender-diverse persons.

A&R also mentioned its commitment to I-EDIAA, and credited student-led clubs as paving the way for creating more training opportunities and special initiatives.

Training was extended to staff as well.

“A&R has developed and maintained a rigorous and comprehensive I-EDIAA training protocol, that included 20+ hours dedicated to online and in-person training completed by every staff member, coach and administrator in 2022-23,” A&R said.

Training topics in 2022-23 included: sexual and gender diversity and language; safe spaces; allyship; and understanding, building, and developing Indigenization, equity, diversity, inclusion, anti-racism and accessibility.

Additional A&R partnerships include initiatives with the Human Rights and Equity Office, Four Directions, and the Office of Indigenous Initiatives.

A&R remains confident theyre committing to creating a safe community in Queen’s recreational and athletic spaces and promoting the values of Safe Sport. To improve the understanding of Safe Sport for all staff, coaches, and student-athletes, the month of September is now the annual Safe Sport month within athletics and recreation at Queen’s. A&R said this is part of an ongoing process to develop training that align with Safe Sport’s goals.

“This is an ongoing process; there is much work to do,” said A&R. “But we are dedicated to continuing to work with, and learn from, our students, staff and coaches, and the broader campus, local and national sport communities to continually do and be better.”


June 26, 2023

A previous version of this article incorrectly stated the University hadn’t publicly addressed Hillary’s letter. Incorrect information appeared in the June 26 issue of The Queen’s Journal. 

June 26, 2023

A previous version of this article featured an incorrect number for the LGBT YouthLine. Incorrect information appeared in the June 26 issue of The Queen’s Journal. 

The Journal regrets the error


LGBTQ+ athletes, Safe Sport, U Sports

All final editorial decisions are made by the Editor(s)-in-Chief and/or the Managing Editor. Authors should not be contacted, targeted, or harassed under any circumstances. If you have any grievances with this article, please direct your comments to journal_editors@ams.queensu.ca.

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