Female gymnast balancing

Gymnastics is a beautiful and highly-athletic sport, but it also hides a dark side that has only recently been revealed to the wider public. Like most competitive sports, gymnasts are rewarded for their dedication, grit, teamwork, and most importantly, their ability to stoically persevere through adversity. Many of the most successful gymnasts start their careers as children and teenagers who, in addition to their physical attributes, may be considered ‘young and moldable.’ Unfortunately, this focus on vulnerable child-athletes means that the training environment offers opportunities for abuse of all kinds.

Abuse comes in many forms

While the recent media focus has been on sexual abuse in organizations such as Team USA Gymnastics and on the Brubaker trial, those in the Canadian gymnastics community and worldwide know that in addition to reported cases of sexual abuse, physical, verbal and psychological/emotional abuse is pervasive in the sport. Particularly at elite levels of competition, it can be difficult to recognize when ‘tough coaching’ crosses the line into abuse – many survivors do not realize that their treatment was abusive until many years later. Examples of emotional abuse in gymnastics can include weighing/fat shaming, over training, name-calling, and encouraging children to keep secrets from their parents. Examples of physical abuse can include situations where an athlete is forced to perform a skill that is beyond their level, or vigorous and forced conditioning and over-extending exercises that lead to physical injury.

The long-term effects of abuse can linger long after the abusive behavior stops. Many survivors report long-term and chronic physical pain and mental/psychological symptoms that interfere with their physical activities, mental well-being, and even career paths.

Survivors deserve justice

Regardless of the form the abuse took, it is never acceptable for an adult to take advantage of their position of power over a child, and it is never okay for the organizations that supervise coaches and other training staff to allow abuse to continue. Survivors deserve justice for the abuses they experienced as a result of past practices. They deserve to be heard and supported.

Legal Remedies May Be Available

Abusers and the organizations that shelter them should be held accountable. Canadian gymnasts deserve justice – they should have access to appropriate funding to help obtain the therapy and other supports they may need to overcome physical and mental suffering and to help them move on with their lives.

Regardless of how much time has passed since the abuse took place, or your level of competition, you may be eligible to participate in a lawsuit against your local or provincial Gymnastics Association as well as Gymnastics Canada.

The lawyers at Howie, Sacks & Henry, are leaders in advancing Mass Tort lawsuits in Canada. In a Mass Tort, a group of plaintiffs simultaneously launch individual lawsuits against similar defendants. A Mass Tort lawsuit is an effective way to seek justice for people who have been harmed in different ways by the same cause. This type of lawsuit benefits from the “strength in numbers” of a large group of victims, but still empowers survivors to retain ownership over their cases, which often leads to better individual outcomes.

We Want to Help – Get in Touch to Learn More

Howie, Sacks & Henry LLP and Camp Fiorante Matthews Mogerman LLP are working together to represent gymnasts. If you think that you or a loved one were abused while training or competing in organized gymnastics, we are ready to hear from you. We encourage you to reach out, even if you are unsure whether your experience would be considered abuse.

Regardless of your gender or age, whether the abuse happened recently or in your earlier childhood, you may be eligible for compensation for the harm you have suffered. Howie, Sacks & Henry lawyers are available to speak to potential plaintiffs from all provinces and territories.

We offer free no-obligation consultations, where a lawyer from our team will speak with you to learn more about your specific experience and explain your legal options. Call us today at 1-877-771-7006 for a free consultation.

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Meet Our Team

Our experienced lawyers, clerks and staff are highly empathetic and attuned to the needs of their clients. We have significant experience supporting clients of all ages and their families through the litigation process, as well as litigating cases of abuse in medical/clinical settings. We take every care to support survivors while advocating for them through the legal system and helping them to fight for justice.

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Meghan M. Hull Jacquin, Partner

Meghan is a partner at Howie, Sacks & Henry, where she has practiced for more than 15 years. She has argued cases before the Superior Court of Justice, the Divisional Court and the Court of Appeal of Ontario as well as several tribunals. Meghan has significant experience representing vulnerable populations, including seniors suffering as a result of nursing home negligence, victims of medical malpractice, and many clients who have suffered catastrophic injuries. Meghan is passionate about issues affecting women; she is part of the legal team representing women across Canada whose lives have been significantly impacted by Essure, a permanent birth control device. She is also intimately involved with Shelter Movers, a national charity that supports women and children fleeing abusive homes. Meghan is known to be both an empathetic listener and a relentless negotiator.

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Valérie Lord, Associate

Valérie survived an airplane crash as a young teenager and that experience inspired her to choose a career as a class action and mass tort personal injury lawyer. She takes a trauma-informed approach to working with her clients, and has an empathetic understanding of the long-term effects of traumatic events. Valérie has significant experience working on cases that involve plaintiffs in vulnerable power dynamics. She has advocated for groups of women clients in matters related to privacy breaches and defective medical devices.

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Ryan Readshaw, Law Clerk

Ryan is known for her ability to implement and maintain high-level organizational systems and efficient data management solutions within the Mass Tort practice. In addition to her skill at keeping complex cases running smoothly, Ryan is passionate, empathetic and unwavering in her support for her clients. She is dedicated to fostering solid relationships with clients and ensuring that they feel our commitment to their case, every step of the way.

Jen Winstanley

Jen Winstanley, Partner at Camp Fiorante Matthews Mogerman LLP

A partner at CFM Lawyers LLP, Jen practices primarily in the area of complex class action litigation and mass torts. Recognizing that the legal system can be an unwieldly and expensive vehicle for those without resources to try to obtain justice, Jen aims to help bridge the gap and represent those who have been wronged but do not have the resources to pursue justice and accountability.

Competitive sports have been a formative force in Jen’s life, and she has seen firsthand the destructive culture, practices and policies that can negatively impact young female athletes as they pursue their athletic goals. Jen is committed to being part of the movement for change in women’s sports, including the use of litigation to achieve that change. Approachable, detail-oriented, and attentive, Jen cares about each of her clients individually and works with them collaboratively to achieve the best possible result.

Laura Jones

Laura Jones, Associate at Camp Fiorante Matthews Mogerman LLP

Laura's practice at CFM Lawyers LLP mainly focuses on complex tort cases, which include product liability, aviation accidents, abuse and domestic abuse cases. This work has contributed to her comprehensive knowledge of how to help people who have experienced trauma navigate their search for justice. With a long history playing in competitive women's sports, Laura has had personal exposure to the injustices of the industry and is invested in advocating for change on behalf of women in sport.

Laura believes it is important to make herself available to her clients so they feel confident and as stress-free as possible while navigating legal proceedings. She is determined to get to the bottom of complex legal issues and wholly embraces the responsibility of finding solutions on behalf of her clients while remaining empathetic, transparent, and communicative in all stages of the process.

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Howie, Sacks & Henry LLP – Personal Injury Law – Top 10 Personal Injury Boutique 2021

Among the best in Canada

Since 2011 Canadian Lawyer Magazine rated us one of the top personal injury law firms in Canada. Why? With close to 20 years helping accident victims and their families, our firm understands the laws that affect your rights to compensation because we’ve helped shape those laws in favour of accident victims.

Among the best in Canada

Since 2011 Canadian Lawyer Magazine rated us one of the top personal injury law firms in Canada. Why? With close to 20 years helping accident victims and their families, our firm understands the laws that affect your rights to compensation because we’ve helped shape those laws in favour of accident victims.

Howie, Sacks & Henry LLP – Personal Injury Law – Top 10 Personal Injury Boutique 2021