The Canadian government freezes millions of dollars in federal funding to Hockey Canada until the organization signs an agreement with the Office of the Sport Integrity Commissioner, who will have the power to receive and investigate independently on complaints of abuse and to issue sanctions for inappropriate behavior, Sports Minister Pascale St-Onge said in an interview Wednesday.
All national federations must come to terms with this recently created body, but for now only Hockey Canada is affected by a federal funding freeze. Commissioner Sarah-Ève Pelletier began receiving abuse complaints related to Canada’s national sports teams two days ago, June 20.
St-Onge announced the funding freeze two days after Hockey Canada President Scott Smith and outgoing CEO Tom Renney testified before the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage about allegations of a woman who says she was sexually assaulted by eight Canadian Hockey League players in 2018, some of whom played for Canada’s 2018 World Juniors team.
“It’s about changing a deep-seated culture, it’s not about quick fixes,” St-Onge said.
The woman, who has not been identified in court records, alleged that the players repeatedly sexually assaulted her in a London hotel room after a golf tournament and Hockey Canada gala in June 2018 .
Smith showed that after a $3.55 million lawsuit was received in April against Hockey Canada, the organization liquidated some of its investments and settled the lawsuit within weeks.
Hockey Canada received $14 million from the federal government in 2020 and 2021, according to government records, including $3.4 million in emergency COVID-19 grants.
St-Onge said Hockey Canada recently requested $2.2 million in federal funding to help the organization recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. That money will not be released until government conditions are met, she said, adding that Sport Canada informed Hockey Canada of the decision early Wednesday.
“I’m going to use all the tools at my disposal to make sure people are held accountable for what’s happening in hockey,” St-Onge said.
To receive more funding, St-Onge said Hockey Canada must also publicly disclose referrals it received from Henein Hutchison LLP, a Toronto law firm hired by Hockey Canada to investigate sexual abuse allegations. .
Hockey Canada will also need to detail its plans for implementing changes within the organization, St-Onge added.
The Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage is also scheduled to meet behind closed doors in Ottawa on Wednesday afternoon to discuss holding additional public hearings and is demanding evidence from Hockey Canada about the federation’s oversight of complaints and sexual abuse investigations.
Hockey Canada is the first item on the standing committee’s agenda on Wednesday, a source told TSN.