Canadians are known worldwide as lovers of Hockey, and now the governing body, Hockey Canada has been embroiled in controversy.
The Organization has come under severe criticism from politicians, sponsors, citizens and other hockey groups. So what led to this? Why is Hockey Canada dealing with such a mess?
In the over six months of investigation, reports of sexual assault, secret payouts and settled lawsuits have come to light. However, the response from the organization’s leadership has been baffling and gone even further in stripping public confidence.
Here’s how it all unraveled,
Back in April, a woman filed a $3.5 million court action against Hockey Canada, the Canadian Hockey League and unnamed players alleging she was sexually assaulted in a hotel room by eight male players, including members of Canada’s 2018 gold medal-winning World Junior team — after a Hockey Canada Foundation gala in London.
According to her lawsuit, Hockey Canada knew of the incident but failed to properly investigate it or punish the players. The case didn’t get tested in court, instead an out of court settlement was reached in May.
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After the allegations and settlement reached was revealed by Rick Westhead at TSN, the federal government ordered a forensic audit of Hockey Canada to see if federal money was used in the settlement.
Chief Executive Officer of Hockey Canada, Tom Renney, and president, Scott Smith, were called before Parliament’s Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage in June to answer questions. They explained to the committee that the 19 hockey players present at the gala including eight accused of rape were not required to speak with third-party investigators, and due to the settlement, the woman accepted a non-disclosure agreement preventing her from discussing the case.
The organization faced criticism for the non-disclosure agreement. According to the critics, it instilled a culture of silence and showed a lack of accountability.
More concerns arose, causing the Government and some corporate sponsors, starting with Scotiabank, to hold back funding to Hockey Canada.
On July 14, an open letter was released by Hockey Canada.
In the letter, the organization admitted a culture of toxic behavior within their ranks. It read in part, “We have not done enough to address the actions of some members of the 2018 national junior team or to end the culture of toxic behaviour within our game. For that we unreservedly apologize.”
However, just a couple of days after, it was revealed that Hockey Canada maintained a fund that uses minor hockey membership fees to pay for uninsured liabilities, including sexual abuse claims. It was called the “National Equity Fund.”
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The parliamentary committee was then told that around $8.9 million has been paid to 21 sex assault complainants since 1989; and there had been two other sexual assault complaints in recent years, but executives refused to discuss them.
It didn’t stop there.
Halifax police was asked to investigate an alleged gang rape by some members of Canada’s 2003 men’s World Junior hockey championship team. Halifax co-hosted that tournament.
Also, earlier this month, Hockey Canada was found to have a second multimillion-dollar fund — called the Participants Legacy Trust Fund — that moved player fees into an account earmarked for “matters including but not limited to sexual abuse”.
On Tuesday, the interim chairman of the board, Andrea Skinner claimed that Hockey was being made a “scapegoat” for the toxic culture that exists across society, including in politics. As a response, PM Trudeau said “It boggles the mind that Hockey Canada is continuing to dig in its heels. Parents across the country are losing faith, or have lost faith in Hockey Canada.”
On Friday, Nike suspended its partnership with Hockey Canada, joining Esso, Telus and Tim Hortons in pulling away from the organizaton.