TORONTO – Canada’s chef de mission for the Rio Olympics has stepped down with less than four months before the Games.
Jean-Luc Brassard hinted he might quit earlier this year.
The Olympic freestyle skiing champion was unhappy with the Canadian Olympic Committee’s handling of alleged sexual harassment by former president Marcel Aubut.
The COC said Brassard has stepped down for “business and personal reasons.”
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“Since becoming chef de mission, my professional obligations and other responsibilities have made it very challenging for me to manage time-wise,” Brassard said in a statement.
“After much reflection, I have come to the difficult decision, and in the best interest of Team Canada, to step down as chef de mission. I arrived at the conclusion that I could not help the athletes to the extent that I would like.”
Brassard, 43, went on to say he had full confidence in the Canadian team and called COC president Tricia Smith “a women of integrity who has done tremendous work since she arrived at the COC.”
Smith called Brassard a “great Olympian.”
“He has also been a great supporter to me as we take a new direction at the COC and I thank him personally for that,” she said.
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Former cyclist Curt Harnett will be the new chef.
He was the Canadian team’s chef de mission at last summer’s Pan American Games in Toronto.
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Smith succeeded Aubut after he stepped down in October.
Several women accused Aubut of sexual comments and unwanted touching.
The 68-year-old lawyer has not faced any criminal charges.
He apologized to “those who may have been offended by my behaviour” in his resignation statement.
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The COC subsequently hired a human resources firm to conduct a review of the organization’s policies and practices in the wake of the scandal.
The COC adopted all eight recommendations in the review and fired two executives and a manager.
Less than a month after the review’s results were made public, Brassard expressed concern about how the situation had been handled in an interview with Radio-Canada.
“During the last four years, red lights were lit on a number of occasions, and intentionally or not, they were ignored,” Brassard said in the interview.
“I want to know why. We’re not talking about budgetary mistakes or financial issues, we’re talking about human feelings.”
Brassard said at the time he had written a letter to the COC’s board of directors outlining his concerns.
“If I have the impression I can’t do anything for the employees who are still hurt by this, I would consider that a failure, and I might have to distance myself,” he said.
In response to Brassard’s criticism, Smith said “we have taken the steps so far we need to take in terms of making sure our staff is safe, the workplace is healthy.
“It’s a process. If more steps need to be taken, they will be taken.”
Retired short-track speedskater Isabelle Charest and gold-medal winning wrestler Carol Huynh will be Harnett’s assistants.
Brassard was the assistant chef de mission for the Canadian team at the 2014 Sochi Olympic and was named the Rio chef later that year.