Hockey Canada boss Scott Smith has no plans to step down, although he says he understands his leadership will be challenged. In addition, the organization revealed that it had spent $8.9 million, since 1989, to conclude amicable agreements with victims of sexual assault.
Posted at 12:04 p.m.
Updated at 1:19 p.m.
This sum, confirmed Brian Cairo, chief financial officer of Hockey Canada, was taken from the “national equity fund”, financed in particular by the contributions of players from across the country and used to protect the organization for incidents not insurable. Nine victims were thus compensated.
The settlement of the Graham James case, a serial abuser who claimed many victims, alone cost 6.8 million. To the sums taken from the reserve fund is added an amount of 1.3 million in compensation which was paid by the insurance company of Hockey Canada for 12 cases of a sexual nature, indicated Mr. Brian Cairo, who is one of the current and former Hockey Canada executives testifying before the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage on Wednesday. The same individual was also involved in four events that led to compensation of $1 million.
The committee table heard an echo of calls for the resignation of CEO Scott Smith and members of his board of directors, which have multiplied in recent weeks – especially since it was learned that another gang rape allegedly occurred on the sidelines of a tournament in Halifax in 2003. Former NHL player Sheldon Kennedy, who has become an advocate for the rights of victims of sexual abuse, has formally demanded these departures.
Mr. Smith said he has heard these criticisms, but does not intend to give up his post unless he is forced to.
“You asked for transparency. You asked for accountability. You asked for change from Hockey Canada. I am here to lead this change,” he said in a statement he read to MPs on Wednesday.
“I will not run away”, decided Scott Smith.
I know you have questions about leadership at Hockey Canada. On my leadership. You want answers, and you want concrete action to end the culture of silence that allows toxic behavior and sexism to rot our sport. Me too.
Scott Smith, CEO of Hockey Canada
Hockey Canada’s CEO also apologized for the organization’s “not doing enough to adequately deal with actions that were taken in 2018 by some World Junior Team players,” referring to gang rape of London, Ontario.
MPs urge Smith to leave
MPs from three of the four parties represented on the Heritage Committee have called for Mr. Smith’s resignation. “For the sake of hockey, there needs to be a renewal of leadership at Hockey Canada,” said Conservative MP John Nater. Claiming to believe in the “sincerity” of the big boss of the organization, the bloquiste Sébastien Lemire estimated that Mr. Smith is now “unable to make the necessary changes to the structure of Hockey Canada”.
Along the same lines, Peter Julian of the NDP said he had “lost faith in Hockey Canada” and added that he, too, believed a changing of the guard should take place.
To all these remarks, the leader replied that he benefited from the “support of the staff, the board of directors and the members” of his organization.
“If the review and the governance and the board” lead to the conclusion that he should resign, “I will accept it,” he admitted. “I want to be accountable. »
But the board is no match for its bosses, past and present, conservative Kevin Waugh later objected: “Bob Nicholson, Tom Renney and you are too powerful […] Changes need to be made to the board. It has to go from there. The board must control Hockey Canada”.
While he made no commitment on the subject, Scott Smith nevertheless nodded when Liberal MP Lisa Hepfner asked him if more women were needed on the board, echoing a suggestion made by the minister. Sports, Pascale St-Onge. There are currently two female and seven male directors.
“Extremely unusual” agreement
Chief Financial Officer Brian Cairo has argued that the contingency fund was not used to pay for the out-of-court settlement that was reached last May with the young woman who made the gang rape allegations, and who had filed a lawsuit for 3.55 million. The amount of the deal is still unknown.
Liberal MP Anthony Housefather surgically quizzed the executives about the deal, criticizing the fact that it was made without the players noticing it first, but also the speed with which the file was settled.
“You received a lawsuit, and you settled three or four weeks after receiving it. It is extremely unusual, ”argued the lawyer by training.
“We made the decision to reach an agreement in the best interest of the young woman, and in order to protect her privacy. We didn’t want her to go through what she’s been going through for 10 or 12 days in the media. We made this decision to help him move forward, ”replied Scott Smith.
Mr. Housefather was also surprised that the insurance company of Hockey Canada, which nevertheless underwrites coverage in the event of sexual assault, did not have access to the lawsuit or take part in the discussions on its settlement. Once again, Mr. Smith replied that he had “the interest of the victim” in mind and favored an out-of-court agreement.
The parliamentarians also expressed their surprise and incomprehension that no minutes were produced following the meeting during which the board of directors formally approved the “maximum amount” of compensation that would be paid to the victim.