Read the open letter that a group of Canadian Eventers have released regarding their concerns about Equestrian Canada’s management:
Dear members of the Equestrian Canada (EC) Board of Directors and of the Canadian equestrian community at large:
We the undersigned, representing a significant majority of Canadian High Performance eventing riders, owners and supporters, are writing to clarify that Peter Gray does not speak for us. His recent statement in which he asserted that the Eventing Committee does not support the Jumping Committee’s critique of CEO Eva Havaris and President Jorge Bernhard is in opposition to our views. Unlike Peter, we support Pamela Law’s call to action for the following reasons:
1) Lack of Accountability
In the Fall of 2015, nineteen listed Canadian eventing riders (including the undersigned) went on record writing letters to EC detailing our concerns about the president and coach having major conflicts of interest, the Pan Am selection scandal etc. These letters were submitted for the record in fall 2015 and yet EC did nothing to prevent the same people from engaging in the same behaviours in the lead up to the Rio Olympics. Eventually both rider representatives on the Eventing Committee resigned due to their frustrations with not being heard. Finally, the Sport Dispute Resolution Centre had to become involved and the finding was strongly against EC. The arbitrator even took the unusual step of making EC pay the legal fees for both sides in a further commentary on the strength of the case against EC.
2) Lack of Transparency
We agree with Pamela Law and the Jumping Committee that the uncertainty regarding the financial situation at EC is not only alarming but also damaging to the sport disciplines. On November 6, 2016 a few Canadian eventing athletes and owners attended a focus group held by members of EC that was aimed at closing the divide between EC and the eventing athletes while addressing areas of friction. It was universally agreed that the lack of information about finances made the implementation of the ideas that resulted from the focus group impossible. At that time, the EC representatives in attendance stated that the budgets would be completed “within a couple of weeks”. Sadly, this has not happened and, in the interim, the person we had hoped would become our new Chef D’Equipe was recruited elsewhere. In addition, communications resulting from the focus group indicate that the representative from the Canadian Olympic Committee who attended stated that “we were probably the only sport that did not post our [Olympic selection] criteria” and that the “SDRCC would have a field day” with EC’s lack of transparency on these matters. Naturally, many EC members have recently raised the question of who will be footing the bill for the party Peter Gray is planning to give in Ocala this week? Will EC be paying the air fare for the attendees who are flying in from elsewhere? It is still unknown how much EC monies were spent on the HP Summit of 2015 or the salary of Ozzie Sawicki during the time EC paid him as Chef de Mission for eventing.
3) Conflicts of Interest at the top
Peter Gray has benefited from ongoing financial arrangements with Jorge Bernhard as recently as Fall 2016. There are other examples of conflicts of interest at the top of EC that are cause for concern. For example, the Chair of the EC Eventing Committee has recently accepted the position of national coach of the Colombian team. Rob Stevenson, the EC Eventing High Performance Chair, is an owner for an American team rider. During his tenure as EC President, Jorge Bernhard’s spouse has been an owner for Clayton Fredericks, an Australian team rider. At a time when EC is supposed to be invested in building support and recruiting owners for Canada, the impropriety of these arrangements certainly raises eyebrows. Most recently and pointedly, Horse Sport magazine reported on January 27th that EC recently awarded a lucrative contract to a company belonging to the son of Jorge Bernhard without a formal bidding process.
4) Unprofessional Behaviour
In Fall 2016, several of us again put pen to paper to ask that the CEO and President (Havaris and Bernhard) publicly apologize for knowingly and deliberately slandering an important member of the Canadian eventing community. Despite the owner of a Canadian Olympic Team horse coming forward as a witness to this behavior, EC via Peter Gray could do no better than expressing their “regrets that these accusations are still ongoing” and in the wake of these events, the person who was denigrated by EC was recruited to work for the New Zealand team. The loss has been felt throughout the eventing community as it was hoped by all but a few at the top of EC that this individual would become the next Chef D’Equipe of the Canadian Eventing Team. We therefore agree with Jump Canada and Pamela Law that EC is “systematically maligning the contributions and engagement of our extensive, experienced and dedicated volunteer base” with disastrous results.
As concerned athletes, owners and supporters of Canadian Eventing, we have attempted to express our concerns through all traditional channels available to no avail. These are only a few examples of why we disagree with Peter Gray and EC’s Eventing Committee. If permitted to attend the EC Board meeting on January 31, 2017 we would join with Pamela Law and the Jumping Committee/Jump Canada in calling for the resignations of CEO, Eva Havaris and President, Jorge Bernhard.
Gamal and Hawley Awad
Cristina and Curtis Barbour
Dr. Debbie Davies
Anne Marie Duarte
Lisa Marie Ferguson
Dr. Gabrielle Ledger
Anita and Don Leschied
Jayne and Mark Marquis
John & Judy Rumble
Barb and Ron Trickett
The group that coordinated this effort didn’t get a change to get in touch with everyone. If you would like add your name to the list please say so in the comments below!