Hockey Canada reopens investigation into sexual assault allegations

The Canadian federation, which has been under fire for weeks, released an open letter to Canadians on Thursday.

In particular, it is relaunching the investigation into allegations of sexual assault involving members of the 2018 national junior team. The investigation will again be conducted by an independent third party.

Hockey Canada clarified that the participation of all affected players is mandatory, adding that anyone who refuses will be barred from all activities and programs effective immediately.

The organization had previously stated that it strongly encouraged players to participate in the investigation into the incident after a reception in 2018, but did not make it mandatory.

Hockey Canada President and CEO Scott Smith, who took office July 1 and has held various positions with the organization since 1995, told the Heritage Standing Committee last month that 12 or 13 of the squad’s 19 players were interviewed ahead of the initial, incomplete investigation that concluded in September 2020.

We know that our response has been relatively insufficient to the actions of some members of the 2018 National Junior Team, or even to end the culture of toxic behavior within our sport.writes Hockey Canada in its three-page letter.

We are sincerely sorry.

The federation quietly settled a lawsuit in May following allegations by a woman who claims she was assaulted by eight players, including members of the 2018 gold medal-winning junior national team, during a an event in London, Ontario.

None of the allegations have been proven in court.

Scott Smith

Photo: The Canadian Press/Jeff McIntosh

Scott Smith, then president of Hockey Canada, and outgoing chief executive Tom Renney were questioned by MPs in Ottawa in June about the situation following news of the alleged assault and the deal.

Unhappy with the leaders’ responses, the federal government subsequently suspended public funding for the national federation, and a number of sponsors followed suit pending next steps.

We recognize that many of the actions we are taking today should be taken sooner, and more quickly, to continue Hockey Canada’s letter. We recognize this, and we will do everything to better fulfill our responsibilities to Canadians.

Hockey Canada has clarified that 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 carry out a full third-party governance review of the organization and pledges to become a full signatory to the Office of the Commissioner for Integrity in Sport (BCIS), a new government agency empowered to investigate. independently on complaints of abuse and to impose sanctions.

Hockey Canada announces that it will also create a independent and confidential complaints mechanism to provide victims and survivors with the tools and support needed to report such acts.

Federal Sports Minister Pascale St-Onge revealed in June that federal funds will not be restored until officials produce the incomplete third-party report and become BCIS signatories.

A woman with a microphone speaks with both hands raised.

Sports Minister Pascale St-Onge

Photo: Radio-Canada / Ivanoh Demers

Hockey Canada, however, did not commit to releasing the incomplete or complete report to the government in its letter Thursday. We hear from the public, the players, their families, the fans, our sponsors and the people supported by what happened in 2018writes the organization.

Hockey Canada clarified that once her investigation is completed by the same Toronto law firm hired in 2018, she will be named to an independent arbitration tribunal made up of current and former judges, which will determine the likely consequences, which could include life ban from Hockey Canada activities, on and off the ice.

The alleged assault victim 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 (police closed their investigation in February 2019) and her law firm.

The federation added that the woman had decided not to name the players.

We salute the courage of the young woman and respect her decision to participate in the investigation in the way she wishes.continues Hockey Canada.

Details of the settlement have not been made public, but Scott Smith asserted in June before the Canadian Heritage provided standing committee that Hockey Canada had the funds and paid the full amount, adding that no government money was given. ‘ had been used.

Minister St-Onge has ordered an audit to ensure that this is indeed 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 hockey players are now playing in its league.

Pascale St-Onge said she only learned of the incident and the settlement during a call with Tom Renney a few days before the story was revealed by the TSN network. Hockey Canada said it informed Sport Canada of the situation in June 2018.

Hockey Canada added that it will issue a detailed action plan presenting a multitude of measures taken, as well as with our partners and stakeholders, to improve the culture of our sport.

We realize that this change does not happen overnight, says Hockey Canada. But we have every intention of learning and working with our partners to improve.

Scotiabank, Telus, Tim Hortons and Imperial Oil, under its Esso brand, are the companies that have suspended or withdrawn their funding to Hockey Canada or specific events.

Hockey Canada received $14 million from Ottawa in 2020 and 2021, including $3.4 million in COVID-19 grants, government records show.

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

He added that there have been up to two sexual misconduct complaints in each of the past five or six years.

The message from the public is very clear: you expect our national sport and the people who represent it to work hard to earn your trust every day. We have heard you and are determined to make the changes necessary to allow us to be an organization that meets your expectations and to restore your confidence in us.finish letter from Hockey Canada.

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