Fed freezes Hockey Canada funding over assault allegations

The federal government has put Hockey Canada on notice.

Sports Minister Pascal Saint-Onge announced on Wednesday that the organization’s access to public funds has been frozen with immediate effect due to its response to the alleged sexual assault and subsequent out-of-court settlement.

The move comes after Hockey Canada President Scott Smith and outgoing CEO Tom Rennie were questioned by MPs earlier this week during a Canadian Heritage Standing Committee hearing.

“We were all waiting for answers to all the questions, many questions that we had about how they handled the whole situation when they testified,” St. Onge told reporters in Ottawa. “Unfortunately, we did not receive many responses.

“But we learned a few things.”

St. Onge said Hockey Canada’s funding would only be restored after the disclosure of recommendations contained in an incomplete report from an outside law firm hired to investigate the alleged incident four years ago.

Hockey Canada should also become a member of the Office of the Ethics Commissioner, a new government agency with the authority to independently investigate complaints of abuse and impose sanctions.

“Because the story itself is downright horrendous and the management of this situation as a whole is completely inappropriate, I have decided to withhold any public funding going forward until they meet two very simple but important conditions,” said Saint. -Onzh.

Later on Wednesday, the House of Commons unanimously approved a proposal by Bloc Québec MP Sebastian Lemire to hold an independent inquiry that would look into how Hockey Canada handled the allegations.

“(The aim is to) find out if this was an isolated incident or if there are flaws in the way Hockey Canada handles complaints of sexual assault, sexual harassment and other types of misconduct,” Lemire said in French.

According to the organization, federal money makes up six percent of Hockey Canada’s coffers, followed by business development and partnerships (43 percent), financial agencies (14 percent), insurance premiums (13 percent) and interest income (10 percent). cent).

St. Onge was asked if the government would require Hockey Canada to repay some of its federal funding for the past four years.

“All options are still being discussed,” she replied.

Hockey Canada quietly settled the lawsuit last month after a woman alleges she was assaulted by members of the country’s 2018 junior gold medal hockey team at a golf gala and event in London, Ontario, in June of that year.

The woman, now 24, was seeking $3.55 million in damages from Hockey Canada, the Canadian Hockey League and unnamed players. Details of the settlement were not made public, but Smith said on Monday that neither government nor insurance money was used.

None of the allegations were proven in court.

St. Onge said she only learned of the allegations and the settlement two days before TSN published the story late last month following a phone call from Rennie. Hockey Canada said it briefed Sport Canada on the situation in June 2018.

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

Hockey Canada hired Toronto-based law firm Henein Hutchison LLP to investigate, but Smith and Rennie told MPs that while players who attended the event in London were “strongly encouraged” to participate, it was not mandatory.

This stunned MPs at a committee meeting on Monday.

Rennie initially testified that four to six of the 19 players in question spoke to investigators before Smith later indicated there were 12 or 13.

“The independent mechanism that they commissioned to conduct an investigation … was unable to complete its investigation and not all players participated in it, indicating that their mechanism is not working effectively,” said Saint-Onge.

Hockey Canada has said on multiple occasions that the woman chose not to talk to the police or her investigators. Smith and Rennie confirmed on Monday that the woman also chose not to name the players.

The executives added that Hockey Canada still does not know the identity of the eight players in question.

Smith said the London Police had informed Hockey Canada that the criminal investigation was closed as of February 2019. The independent investigation ended in September 2020, but Rennie said the report was incomplete and should not be made public.

“We don’t have much to offer in terms of information on this,” he said on Monday.

“Hockey Canada has said it will not share with the committee advice they have received from an independent firm … or how they plan to respond,” St. Onge said in a statement Wednesday. “We have also heard that an independent investigation has not been completed and eight John Doe players have not been identified.

“This is unacceptable.”

The NHL, which also only recently learned of the allegations, is conducting its own investigation as 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 grants, according to government documents obtained by CBC and TSN.

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

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

According to Saint-Onge, not good enough.

“I cannot accept this standard as business as usual in our national sports organizations,” she said in a statement.

“And Canadians shouldn’t either.”

— Joshua Clipperton, The Canadian Press.

Federal political shock sexual assault

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