Federal government freezes funding for Hockey Canada: St-Onge

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Hockey Canada’s federal funds are frozen after the national organization handled an allegation of sexual assault and an out-of-court settlement.

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Sports Secretary Pascale St-Onge said in a statement on Wednesday that Hockey Canada’s funding would not be restored until it disclosed recommendations for improvement from an independent law firm hired to investigate the alleged incident four years ago.

Hockey Canada must also become a signatory to the Office of the Integrity Commissioner, a new government agency with the power to independently investigate abuse complaints and sanction inappropriate behavior.

“Hockey Canada will not receive any further payments or new funds from Sport Canada until they meet these conditions,” St-Onge said in the statement.

The move comes after Hockey Canada President Scott Smith and outgoing CEO Tom Renney were told by lawmakers earlier this week during a hearing by the Canadian Heritage Standing Committee on the organization’s response to the alleged sexual assault involving eight players were grilled.

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“Hockey Canada’s testimony did not provide us with sufficient information,” St-Onge said in her statement. “We haven’t learned much, and what we have learned is deeply disturbing.”

Hockey Canada quietly settled the lawsuit last month after a woman claimed she was assaulted by members of the country’s gold-medal-winning junior ice hockey team at a Hockey Canada event in London, Ontario in June this year.

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The 24-year-old woman is seeking $3.55 million in damages from Hockey Canada, the Canadian Hockey League and the unnamed players. Details of the settlement were not released, but Smith said Monday no government or insurance money was used.

St-Onge said she only found out about the allegations and the settlement two days before TSN went public with the story late last month, after receiving a call from Renney.

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A Hockey Canada spokeswoman did not respond to an email request for comment Wednesday.

Hockey Canada hired Toronto law firm Henein Hutchison LLP to conduct their investigation, but Smith and Renney told MPs players present at the London event were not required to attend.

Renney initially said between four and six of the 19 players in question spoke to investigators before Smith later indicated the number was 12 or 13.

Hockey Canada has repeatedly said the woman chose not to speak to police or her investigators. Smith and Renney reiterated Monday that the woman also chose not to identify the players.

Smith said London Police informed Hockey Canada that his criminal investigation was closed in February 2019. The independent investigation ended in September 2020, but Renney said the report was incomplete and should not be released.

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“We don’t have much more to offer in terms of information in that direction,” he testified Monday.

“Hockey Canada said they would not share with the committee the advice they received from the independent firm … or how they plan to act on it,” St-Onge said Wednesday. “We also heard that the independent investigation has not been completed, nor has the eight John Doe players been identified.

“This is unacceptable.”

The NHL, which also only recently learned of the allegations, is conducting its own investigation because some of the players in question are now in the league.

Hockey Canada received $14 million from Ottawa in 2020 and 2021, including $3.4 million in COVID-19 subsidies, government filings from the CBC and TSN show.

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Smith testified that Hockey Canada had reported three sexual assault complaints in recent years, including the London incident, but would not discuss the other two before the committee.

“I can’t comment on the level of investigation of the other two,” Smith said, adding that there have been one to two sexual misconduct complaints in each of the past five or six years.

Not good enough according to St-Onge.

“I cannot accept this standard as business-as-usual in our national sports organizations,” she said. “And neither should Canadians.”

Federal funds account for six percent of Hockey Canada’s funding, according to the organization’s figures, business development and partnerships (43 percent), funding agencies (14 percent), insurance premiums (13 percent), and interest income (10 percent). Cent).

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