Senior Hockey Canada officials defended themselves Monday by assuring that it was “very common” to settle a civil dispute out of court, such as that of the alleged victim of a gang rape allegedly committed by eight of its players. Federal Sports Minister Pascale St-Onge promises to tighten federal control.
“We are not able to know what happened that night,” dropped Tom Renney, outgoing CEO of Hockey Canada, before the elected officials of the federal heritage committee, Monday evening.
The organization assures that it did not want to “hide under the carpet” the allegations of sexual assault, which target unnamed players, even if it settled out of court, four years after the events, the lawsuit of three and a half million dollars brought by the alleged victim.
However, officials said they were made aware of the case on the morning of June 19, 2018, the day after the Hockey Canada Foundation gala in London, Ontario, the evening when the alleged facts took place. They claim to have notified the local police and officials of Sport Canada in the hours that followed.
Hockey Canada, presented by the federal Minister of Sports as “one of the most powerful sports organizations in the country”, then hired an outside firm to conduct the investigation and said it had provided assistance to the victim. The latter did not want to participate in the investigation, which made managers say that it was impossible to impose disciplinary measures on the young athletes involved.
These managers were unable to say how many of the 19 players present on the evening of the events collaborated in the external investigation. They first estimated this number to be “4 to 6”, only to later change this estimate to “12 or 13”. Elected officials from all parties were very skeptical of the comments made by Hockey Canada officials and the organization’s expressed desire to correct the “vagueness” existing in its code of conduct governing off-ice activities, such as a gala .
Minister St-Onge then appeared before the committee by delivering a committed speech against the “culture of silence” which seemed to further convince the elected members of the committee, including those of the opposition. In particular, she promised to “review completely [les] funding agreements” with sports organizations to require that they have effective whistleblowing mechanisms, for example.
Hockey Canada maintains that it did not use public funds for the settlement reached with the alleged victim. To be sure, the minister said that she will continue with the audit she had already announced. The firm hired by the federal government must notably visit the offices of Hockey Canada next week, and must report at the end of August.
The minister defended public funding for the organization — $14 million, according to CBC calculations — despite the case. “Hockey Canada is also a women’s team. It’s more than just that story,” she said. Federal funding is the only lever through which it can intervene in the affairs of hockey, she argued.
Since 2018, no less than 47 complaints have been filed with her ministry, for a wide variety of cases, said the minister, ranging from psychological harassment to sexual crimes.
The appearance of senior Hockey Canada officials comes the day the newly created position of Canada’s Sport Integrity Commissioner, the former national swim team athlete, takes office artistic Sarah-Eve Pelletier.
“What we want to avoid is that people have no one to turn to,” explained Mr.me Pelletier interviewed at To have to.
Initially, the Commissioner can only receive complaints, investigate or make recommendations to sports federations that voluntarily agree to delegate this power to her. On Monday, only Volleyball Canada and the Canadian Weightlifting Federation were signatories. Several other sports organizations are about to complete their registration, however, assures the commissioner.
Could the Integrity Commissioner examine situations of aggression committed by athletes against non-athletes, such as the alleged crime at Hockey Canada? “If there is a link with sports activities, then yes, we will at the very least look at what happened”, assures Mme Pelletier, without wishing to comment on the specific case and recalling that the respondent must belong to a signatory organization.
Minister Pascale St-Onge promised Monday evening to ensure that all sports organizations in the country are required to join the independent body, a “safe place for athletes to file their complaints”. She did not specify what the timeline would be.