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Canada’s hockey team questioned over sexual assault allegations and settlement

Hockey Canada executives came under fire Monday as lawmakers questioned the organization over its handling of an alleged sexual assault four years ago that led to the settlement of a lawsuit last month.

Hockey Canada CEO Tom Rainey and President Scott Smith were among the witnesses called to testify before the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage in Ottawa.

Hockey Canada settled a lawsuit in May after a woman claimed she was sexually assaulted by eight members of the country’s 2018 World Junior Hockey Team at a party in June of that year.

The complainant, identified as “EM” in court records, alleged that she was repeatedly assaulted while drunk in a hotel room in London, Ontario, after a hockey event in Canada. The woman, now 24, was seeking $3.55 million in damages from Hockey Club Canada, the Canadian Hockey League and Players Anonymous.

Smith, who is due to take over from outgoing CEO Renee on July 1, told the committee that members of the country’s gold-medal-winning World Junior team were “strongly encouraged” to speak with third-party investigators appointed by Hockey Canada. .

However, it was not compulsory.

“Mr. Smith, if you wanted real accountability from Hockey Canada, you should have required all players to participate in interviews (with the outside law firm),” Conservative Rep. Kevin Wu said. ‘unacceptable. »

Smith, who is also the director of operations for the National Sports Authority, responded by saying that Hockey Canada “borrows” players from other leagues for international competition.

“We have made some changes to our code of conduct,” he said. “We are currently in discussions about whether or not we can strengthen the ability to require players we borrow to participate in investigations into what is happening under our sponsorship. »

BLOCK Quebec MP Sébastien Lemer suggested in French that Canadian hockey be played without its slogan for a year “so that people think about this cultural issue at Hockey Canada and the responsibility you have. I think (Hockey Canada) John of No. 9 in this case. »

Rainey said Canadian hockey players first learned of the alleged incident the next morning – June 19, 2018 – when the woman’s father-in-law called the human resources department and London police was informed that evening.

Smith said that although it took four years for the story to emerge, and only after TSN first reported the details last month, there was no coverage.

“Police were notified, we hired a third-party investigator, Sport Canada reported, and provided support to the young woman,” he said. “It’s not an indication to sweep anything under the rug. »

Details of the settlement with the woman were not disclosed, but Smith said the players allegedly involved did not contribute financially and no government funds were used.

None of the allegations against the players have been substantiated in court.

Smith was asked if the settlement was covered by a nondisclosure agreement.

He replied: “The minutes of settlement are covered by the settlement privilege. »

Hockey Canada added that it has not yet identified the players who allegedly sexually assaulted a woman because its investigations are incomplete.

Smith said 12 to 13 players took part in the survey launched by the sports governing body. Rainey said earlier Monday he believed the number was between four and six.

Smith was asked if any of the coaches or coaches were involved in the alleged incident.

“I don’t think so,” he said. “But I can’t confirm that. »

Hockey Canada said the woman chose not to speak to police or their independent investigator. Smith and Renee reiterated on Monday that the woman also opted out of selecting players.

Smith said London police have advised Hockey Canada that their criminal investigation has been closed since February 2019. Meanwhile, Hockey Canada has kept its investigation open until September 2020.

“Many people consider the allegations in the prosecution statement to be true,” Smith said. “Our challenge is through tremendous effort over the course of 26 months, and we have not been able to confirm what happened that night. »

Meanwhile, the NHL is carrying out its own investigation as several players from this world junior team are now in the league, while Canada’s Minister of Sport has ordered a criminal audit of Hockey Canada.

Pascal Saint Ong told the committee Monday after Hockey Canada executives testified that she first learned of the alleged assault and settlement when Renee called her two days before TSN’s report.

“I was very angry with what I read,” Saint Ong told the committee in French. “And like all Canadians, I wondered about player liability and why Hockey Club Canada reached an out-of-court settlement?

Government funding accounts for six per cent of Hockey Canada’s funding, according to the organization’s 2020-21 annual report, although the actual dollar amount is not specified.

Canadian field hockey received a total of $7.8 million in high performance funding from Own the Podium for its men’s and women’s national teams in the four years between the 2018 and 2022 Olympic Winter Games .

“No one has been held responsible,” Conservative Rep. John Nutter said of the alleged attack. “No one has ever lost the privilege of wearing the maple leaf on their sweater, I heard about Zero Tolerance today. I hope it’s true.

“But if there really was a zero tolerance situation, every player who was in London this weekend should have been instructed to take this review or lose the opportunity and privilege of being associated with Canada Hockey. »

This report was first published by The Canadian Press on June 20, 2022.

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