Roles and Responsibilities – Return to Sport

August 26, 2020

Read this public information update for facts on the legislative and guidance framework, and the roles and responsibilities governing Return to Sport decision-making.

The Township has received a significant amount of correspondence from sports user groups and on social media with respect to the Township’s approach to ‘Return to Sport’ requests that are submitted to the Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) for approval.

There have been many claims that the Township simply ‘does not understand’ or is overreaching its authority with respect to its interpretation of ‘Return to Sport’ guidelines and subsequent approvals. With constantly evolving legislation from government and seemingly countless overlapping ‘guidelines’ from many different organizations, it is easy to understand why this might be confusing.

Here is a graphical representation of how the legislative and guidance framework is structured:


The overarching legislative and legal requirements around COVID-19 response and ‘Restart’ activities are initially established by the Federal and Provincial governments as well as by entities like the Public Health Officer and WorksafeBC.

Based on those legislative and legal requirements, National Sport Organizations (NSO’s) have developed sport-specific ‘Return to Sport’ (RTS) guidelines that can be used by their respective associations/membership as a means to guide their return to sport is a safe manner.

In British Columbia, the Provincial Government requested that viaSport lead the creation of a set of guidelines on how to resume sport while safely operating during the pandemic.  Provincial Sport Organizations (PSO’s) and Disability Sport Organizations (DSO’s) must also have sport-specific RTS guidelines that are developed in accordance with the viaSport RTS guidelines and approved by their board.

Board approval of RTS guidelines is particularly important from a legal liability and risk mitigation perspective. Generally speaking, most insurance providers do not provide pandemic-related coverage.  During COVID, via a ministerial order, the Province of BC protects amateur sport organizations, their employees and volunteers from liability. This coverage may be extended up to one year after the pandemic state of emergency is declared over, if required.

Local Sport Associations (LSO’s) can adapt and/or adopt the approved PSO guidelines for their sport and, optimally, have their guidelines approved by their board before resuming any activities.

Any sport organization pursuing a RTS, must connect with the facility operator (i.e. The Township) to understand what protocols and plans are in place for the facility. It is also very important to highlight that the facility operator – not the NSO, PSO, or LSO, establishes the specific safety requirements and plans for each facility as the facility operator also bears risk from a liability perspective. The viaSport RTS clearly articulates these responsibilities:

It is important to note that the RTS Guidelines is not a legal document and is to be used as a guide only. It is not a substitute for actual legislation or orders of the PHO. In the event of an ambiguity or conflict between the RTS Guidelines and the Public Health Act, regulations or orders thereunder, the Act, regulations and orders prevail. Each Provincial Sport Organization should comply with the requirements of the provincial and local government and health officials in terms of public gatherings and sporting events when determining when it is safe to return to activities.

As the Township’s EOC has reviewed and approved the use of some of its facilities, it has become practice to overlay additional requirements for LSO’s to continually communicate expectations to their participants and ensure that the roles and responsibilities pertaining to things such as hygiene protocols, attendance tracking, and spectator participation are clearly understood to help ensure ongoing compliance with legislative and PHO requirements such as the Mass Gathering Public Health Order.

While some members of the community have chosen to publically denounce the Township, and disagree or condemn decisions, others complain about gatherings of people not practicing physical distancing or that we are opening our facilities too fast.

The Township’s position has always been to put the health and safety of the community first when making any pandemic-related decisions and we will continue to do so as we move forward.