Hockey Canada says it needs to “do more” to build a safer culture in the sport.
What that looks like remains to be seen.
The national organization released a brief statement Thursday after the federal government 24 hours earlier froze public funding in response to handling an alleged sexual assault and an out-of-court settlement.
Sports Secretary Pascale St-Onge said Wednesday Hockey Canada would not get its tax money back until officials produced an incomplete report from an independent law firm hired to investigate the incident four years ago that allegedly involved eight players at a gala event in London were involved , Ont.
St-Onge added that Hockey Canada must also become a signatory to the Office of the Integrity Commissioner, a new government agency with the power to independently investigate and impose sanctions on abuse complaints.
“Hockey Canada is very committed and actively working to foster a culture in our sport in which everyone involved feels safe and all Canadians can be proud of,” spokeswoman Esther Madziya said in a statement, which also outlined the funding terms of the Ministers have been recognized.
“We recognize that as leaders we need to do more – and we are committed to doing just that. In the coming days and months, Canadians can expect to learn more about our work in this area.”
Hockey Canada President Scott Smith and outgoing CEO Tom Renney were grilled by lawmakers on Parliament Hill earlier this week during a meeting of the Canadian Heritage Standing Committee examining the organization’s handling of the 2018 incident .
“We were expecting all the answers to all the questions, the many questions that we have about how they handled the whole situation when they testified,” St-Onge told reporters in Ottawa on Wednesday. “Unfortunately, we didn’t get many replies.”
Hockey Canada quietly settled the lawsuit last month after a woman claimed she was assaulted by members of the country’s world junior team, which won the gold medal in 2018, at a gala and golf event.
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 that Hockey Canada had raised the funds, adding that no government money was used. St-Onge has ordered an audit to ensure this is indeed the case.
None of the allegations against the unnamed players have been proven in court.
St-Onge said she only found out about the situation days before the story broke in a phone call with Renney. Hockey Canada said it notified Sport Canada of the situation in June 2018.
Following the government’s funding announcement on Wednesday, the House of Commons unanimously approved a motion by the Bloc Quebecois to conduct an independent inquiry into how Hockey Canada dealt with the allegations.
Federal funds make up six percent of Hockey Canada’s coffers, according to the organization’s figures, trailing business development and partnerships (43 percent), funding agencies (14 percent), insurance premiums (13 percent), and interest income (10 percent). Cent).
Hockey Canada hired Toronto law firm Henein Hutchison LLP to conduct their investigation, but Smith and Renney told MPs that while players present at the London event were “strongly encouraged” to attend, it was not a requirement.
Renney initially testified that between four and six of the 19 players in question had spoken to investigators, before Smith later stated it was as many as 12 or 13.
“Their mechanism (to investigate) isn’t working well,” St-Onge said.
Hockey Canada has repeatedly said the woman declined to speak to police or her investigators. Smith and Renney reiterated Monday that the woman also chose not to identify the players.
Executives added Hockey Canada still does not know the identities of the eight players in question.
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 testified that the report was incomplete and should not be released despite the recommendations it made.
The NHL, which says it also only recently learned of the allegations, is conducting its own investigation as some of the players in question are now in the league.
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.