Hockey Canada says it is making changes.
Whether these measures will be enough to satisfy the general public, fans, the federal government and corporate sponsors remains to be seen.
The under-fire national sports federation made a series of announcements in an open letter to Canadians published Thursday, including the reopening of a third-party investigation into an alleged sexual assault involving members of the 2018 World Junior Team from the country.
Hockey Canada said participation in the investigation of the players in question is mandatory, adding that anyone who refuses will be banned from all federation activities and programs with immediate effect.
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The organization previously said it “strongly encourages” players to participate in the investigation into the alleged incident at a Hockey Canada reception in 2018, but did not make it mandatory.
Hockey Canada CEO Scott Smith, who took office on July 1 and has held various positions with the federation since 1995, testified on Parliament Hill last month that “12 or 13” of the 19 hockey players the team had been interviewed before the original and incomplete. investigation completed in September 2020.
“We know that we have not done enough to address the actions of certain members of the 2018 National Junior Team or to end the culture of toxic behavior in our game,” Hockey Canada wrote in its letter Thursday. “For this, we unreservedly apologize.
“We know we need to do more to address behaviors, on and off the ice, that conflict with what Canadians want hockey to be and undermine the many good things the game brings to our country. . »
Hockey Canada quietly settled a lawsuit in May after a woman claimed she was assaulted by eight players, including members of the country’s 2018 gold medal-winning junior team, at the event in London, Ont. .
None of the allegations have been proven in court.
Smith, then president of Hockey Canada, and outgoing CEO Tom Renney were questioned by MPs in Ottawa about the situation last month after news broke of the alleged assault and the deal.
Unhappy with what it heard from the leaders, the federal government subsequently suspended public funding for the national body. A number of companies have also suspended sponsorships pending next steps.
Federal government to investigate Hockey Canada sexual assault allegations
“We recognize that many of the actions we are taking now should have been taken sooner and more quickly,” the letter from Hockey Canada read. “It is ours and we will do better to fulfill our responsibilities to Canadians. »
Hockey Canada said it will now require players, coaches, team staff and volunteers associated with its high performance program to participate in mandatory sexual violence and consent training.
He will also conduct a full third-party governance review of the organization and pledges to become a full signatory to the Office of the Integrity Commissioner, a new government agency empowered to independently investigate complaints. for abuse and to impose penalties.
Hockey Canada said it will also create an “independent and confidential complaints mechanism” to provide victims and survivors with tools and support to come forward.
Sports Minister Pascale St-Onge said last month that federal funds would not be restored until officials produced the incomplete third-party report and became signatories to the Office of the Integrity Commissioner.
Hockey Canada did not commit to releasing the incomplete or complete report to the government in its letter Thursday.
“We heard from Canadians, players, their families, fans, sponsors and those affected by what happened in 2018,” the organization wrote.
“We know you’re angry and disappointed with Hockey Canada – with good reason.
Hockey Canada said that once its investigation is completed by the same Toronto law firm hired in 2018, it will be referred to “an independent arbitration panel of current and former judges who will determine appropriate consequences, which may include a lifetime ban from Hockey Canada activity, on and off the ice.
The woman who made the assault allegation was seeking $3.55 million in damages from Hockey Canada, the Canadian Hockey League and Players Anonymous.
Hockey Canada said the woman refused to speak to both London police _ the force closed their investigation in February 2019 _ and her law firm.
Hockey Canada added that the woman decided not to identify the players.
“We recognize the courage of the young woman involved and respect her decision to participate in the investigation in any way she chooses,” Hockey Canada wrote.
Details of the settlement have not been made public, but Smith testified before the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage in June that Hockey Canada provided the funds and paid the full amount, adding that no government money had been used.
St-Onge ordered a check to make sure this is the case.
The committee is scheduled to meet on July 26 and 27 to hear from other witnesses. He also requested a redacted copy of the nondisclosure agreement related to the settlement as well as a long list of communications from Hockey Canada.
The NHL is also investigating as some of the team’s players are now in the league.
St-Onge said she only learned of the incident and the settlement during a call with Renney days before the initial TSN story. Hockey Canada said it informed Sport Canada of the situation in June 2018.
The federation added on Thursday that it will publish a detailed “action plan” which “outlines a wide range of actions we are taking within our organization, and with our partners and stakeholders, to advance and improve the culture”. around the game.
“Changes to policies and procedures can happen with the stroke of a pen,” wrote Hockey Canada. “These changes, however, are meaningless without an equal commitment to addressing the toxic behavior that exists in many corners.
“We know this change won’t happen overnight, but we are committed to learning and working with our partners to do better.”
Companies that have suspended or withdrawn funding for Hockey Canada or specific events include Scotiabank, Telus, Tim Hortons and Imperial Oil, under its Esso brand.
Hockey Canada received $14 million from Ottawa in 2020 and 2021, including $3.4 million in COVID-19 grants, government records show.
Smith testified last month Hockey Canada reported three sexual assault complaints in recent years, including the alleged incident in London, but declined to discuss the other two before the committee last month. He added that there have been up to two complaints of sexual misconduct each in the last five or six years.
“Canadians have been loud and clear: you expect our national sport and those who represent it to work hard to earn your trust every day,” Hockey Canada wrote Thursday.
“We have heard you and are committed to making the changes necessary to enable us to be the organization you expect of us and to restore your trust in us.”
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