Sports minister freezes Hockey Canada’s government funding in wake of sex assault settlement

Federal funding for Hockey Canada has been frozen following the national organization’s handling of an alleged sexual assault and out-of-court settlement.

Sports Minister Pascal Saint-Hong said in a statement Wednesday that Hockey Canada will recover its funding once it discloses improvement recommendations made by a third-party law firm hired to investigate the alleged incident four years ago.

Hockey Canada must also become a signatory to the Office of the Integrity Commissioner, a new government agency with the power to independently investigate complaints of abuse and punish inappropriate behavior.

“Hockey Canada will not receive further payments or new funding from Sport Canada until it complies with these terms,” ​​St-Onge said in a statement.

The move comes after Hockey Club Canada president Scott Smith and outgoing CEO Tom Rainey were questioned by members of Parliament earlier this week during a hearing of the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage about the organization’s response to the alleged sexual abuse of eight players.

“The Canadian hockey certificate did not provide us with sufficient information,” Saint Ong said in her statement. “We haven’t learned much, and what we have learned is very worrying.”

Watch | Hockey Canada denies public funds used to settle sexual assault allegations:

Canada Hockey Agency denies using public funds to settle sexual assault allegations

Hockey Canada executives told a parliamentary committee that it did not use public funding to advance a settlement in the wake of sexual assault allegations against players.

Canadian hockey players quietly settled a lawsuit last month after a woman claimed she was assaulted by members of the gold medal-winning 2018 World Junior Hockey Team in June of that year at a Canadian hockey event in London, Ont.

The woman, now 24, was seeking $3.55 million in damages from Hockey Club Canada, the Canadian Hockey League and unnamed players. Details of the settlement were not made public, but Smith said Monday that no money from the government or insurance has been used.

St-Onge said it only became aware of the allegations and the settlement two days before TSN published the story late last month after receiving a phone call from Renney.

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

Criminal investigation closed in 2019

Hockey Canada has hired Toronto law firm Henein Hutchison LLP to conduct its investigation, but Smith and Renee told MPs that players present at the event in London were not authorized to participate.

Rainey initially said that four to six of the 19 players involved spoke with investigators before Smith later indicated that the number was 12 or 13.

Hockey Canada has repeatedly said that the woman decided not to speak with the police or its investigators. Smith and Renee reiterated Monday that the woman also chose not to select players.

Smith said London police told Hockey Canada to close their criminal investigation as of February 2019. The independent investigation ended in September 2020, but Rainey said the report was incomplete and should not be released.

“There is not much we have to offer in terms of information along these lines,” he said in his testimony on Monday.

‘unacceptable’

“Canada’s hockey organization has said it will not share with the committee the advice it has received from the independent company … or how it plans to respond,” St-Onge said on Wednesday. “We also heard that the independent investigation was not completed and the eight John Doe players have not been identified.”

“this is unacceptable.”

The NHL, which also recently became aware of the allegations, is conducting its own investigation because some of the players involved are now in the league.

Canadian hockey received $14 million from Ottawa in 2020 and 2021, including $3.4 million in COVID-19 benefits, according to government records obtained by CBC and TSN.

Smith testified that Hockey Canada had reported three sexual assault complaints in recent years, including the London incident, but had not discussed the other two cases before the commission.

“I can’t comment on the level of investigation into the other two,” Smith said, adding that there have been one or two complaints of sexual misconduct in each of the past five or six years.

Not good enough, according to Saint Ong.

“I cannot accept this standard as normal in our national sports organisations,” she said. Nor should Canadians.

Federal funds make up six percent of Hockey Canada’s funding, according to the organization, tracking business development and partnerships (43 percent), funding agencies (14 percent), insurance premiums (13 percent) and interest income (10 percent).

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