Canadian gymnasts are seeking an independent investigation into Gymnastics Canada ©Getty Images

Over 300 gymnasts have called for an independent investigation into a "toxic culture and abusive practices" at Gymnastics Canada.

The call was initially made by more than 70 current and former Canadian gymnasts, which the Global Athlete group claimed has now risen to more than 300 signatories.

Claims were made of multiple complaints about emotional, physical and sexual abuse over the past five years, with Gymnastics Canada’s board and chief executive accused of failing to address the issues.

The initial open letter, addressed to Sport Canada director general Vicki Walker, claimed athletes had been prevented from speaking out for over a decade due to the fear of retribution.

Gymnastics Canada responded to the letter by agreeing an external and independent organisation must be established to address complaints.

The organisation’s Board said it has addressed every complaint or concern that has come forward to the national body, a claim refuted by athletes through Global Athlete in a second open letter.

Gymnastics Canada acknowledged there were gaps in the safe sport system, adding the organisation was not immune to the issues in the sport globally, highlighting numerous independent reviews of malpractice and abusive behaviour.

"While we are saddened to learn that dozens of athletes feel that we failed to address these issues, we are committed to continuing to educate and advocate for system-wide reforms that will help ensure all participants feel respected, included and safe when training and competing in sport," said Gymnastics Canada in its statement.

"We agree that many more supports must be in place to address unsafe practices in sport.

"We agree that an external and independent organisation must be established to oversee complaints.

"We also agree that more work is needed to create more humanistic approaches where participants can thrive.

"We are aligned with the signatories to the letter that we be part of the solution to bring about positive culture change, in Canada, and globally.

"To that end, we will continue to work with our national sport counterparts, our international body and other countries towards systemic and attitudinal change in the sport globally and in Canada."

Gymnastics Canada said in January it made a request for an independent culture review of gymnastics to be commissioned, with the organisation leading the review expected to be revealed shortly.

Pascale St-Onge, Canada’s Minister for Sport, held an emergency roundtable on April 1 with a series of groups, with cultural and governance issues having also been raised at Bobsleigh Canada Skeleton (BCS).

St-Onge acknowledged there was a "crisis" and said she would work to "accelerate the implementation of the independent mechanism."

The Minister for Sport added the meeting would be the first of many aimed at providing a clear and trusted path to addressing cases when they occur.

Canadian gymnasts, through Global Athlete, have criticised the meeting for excluding athletes who had raised the abuse allegations.

"Canadian gymnasts will no longer be silenced; we will no longer accept being locked out," the letter read.

"We have a voice, and we will use it until Sport Canada and the Canadian Government supports our calls for a third-party independent investigation.

"Athletes have lost confidence in the Canadian sport system.

"Our calls for reform and independent third-party investigation have been persistent and loud, but they continue to be cast aside and ignored by those seeking to maintain centralised unaccountable power.

"Sport administrators fear a robust, fully independent, and effective investigation precisely because such a system would hold the perpetrators of institutional abuse accountable.

"We stand steadfastly united in our calls for a truly independent, third-party investigation into the toxic culture and abuse practices within Canadian Gymnastics.

"Furthermore, all Canadian athletes must be afforded the exact remedy we are demanding.

"Athletes can no longer have their rights suppressed."

Allegations of abuse in gymnastics have been widely reported globally in recent years.

Following the release of Netflix documentary Athlete A last year, which examined the Larry Nassar scandal and safeguarding shortcomings in American gymnastics, gymnasts in Australia, The Netherlands, Britain, New Zealand, Switzerland and more countries came forward to share their own traumatic experiences.

German gymnastics coach Gabriele Frehse was fired last year, following claims she had mistreated gymnasts.

The case was raised in the German Parliament earlier this week, with "proper clarification" demanded regarding the allegations.

The call followed Frehse appealing her dismissal, with the Chemnitz Labour Court ruling in the coach’s favour in October.

A final clarification on the case is expected at a later date.