By Paul Osborne

Canadian Olympians will visit schools to talk about LGBTQ issues following a new initative launched today ©Getty ImagesThe Canadian Olympic Committee (COC) has released today plans to create a more inclusive lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) community within the Canadian Olympic team and the COC's corporate offices.

In cooperation with You Can Play (YCP) and Egale Canada Human Rights Trust, two of North America's most respected anti-homophobia groups, the COC has launched the #OneTeam Athlete Ambassador Programme, which will bring Olympians to schools right across Canada to talk about mental fitness and equality in sport.

The Programme will be made up of a diverse group of Canadian athletes from across the country, and the team includes both LGBTQ athletes and straight allies.

The #One Team Ambassadors will be trained by Egale and YCP staff and will serve as spokespersons for LGBTQ issues and LGBTQ-related Canadian Team Olympic initiatives.

There are currently 25 Canadian athletes enrolled in the programme and the COC expects to reach 50 athletes by the end of 2016.

Canadian speed skater Anastasia Bucsis is one of the many Olympians backing the #OneTeam Athlete Ambassador Programme ©Getty ImagesCanadian speed skater Anastasia Bucsis is one of the many Olympians backing the #OneTeam Athlete Ambassador Programme ©Getty Images

"What started as maybe a video, or a little help with LGBT issues, became something that's never really been seen before or done before in sport in general, let alone in Olympic sports," said Patrick Burke, co-founder of You Can Play, according to The Toronto Star.

"There is no other programme like this.

"There is nothing like this when it comes to athletes taking on LGBT issues.

"You talk about the idea that we are going to train dozens of Olympic athletes to become experts on LGBT issues - even if they're LGBT themselves, they still need training on how to express it - and then sending them into schools.

"There is nothing like that being done in the sports world.

"We've never had an organisation put this type of commitment forward."

Athletes taking part in the #OneTeam initiative are led by former swimmer Mark Tewksbury, the Barcelona 1992 Olympic 100 metres backstroke gold medallist, who was Canada's Chef de Mission at London 2012. 

Others involved include speed skater Anastasia Bucsis, who came out last year in response to Russian anti-LGBT laws, and her girlfriend, hockey goalie Charline Labonte; Rosie Cossar, the gymnast who talked yesterday for the first time to the media about being gay; luger John Fennell;  and kayaker Connor Taras.

Contact the writer of this story at [email protected]

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