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Hockey Canada lawyer testifies

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Danielle Robitaille, Partner, Heinen Hutchison, Toronto. Source: Heinen Hutchison

In parliamentary committee, we learned that the federal authorities had been made aware of the case from the start, while the lawyer for Hockey Canada invokes professional secrecy so as not to interfere with the investigation.

Michael Ruestsenior director of Sport Canada, says the federal organization was made aware of the alleged sexual assault involving members of the Canadian junior hockey team in late June 2018, but has not followed up with Hockey Canada at the time.

Questioned on Tuesday afternoon before the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage, Mr Ruest also told MPs that Sport Canada, an arm of Canadian Heritage, had not informed the office of then federal sports minister Kent Hehr. , allegations.

The current Minister of Sports, Pascale St Ongeclaimed she was only made aware of the allegations this year.

Responding to questions from Peter Julian, NDP MP representing the riding of Burnaby, British Columbia, the Minister acknowledged that there had been a miscommunication. Ms. St-Onge promised to provide Sport Canada with better tools and to surround herself with experts to ensure that this does not happen again.

“I intend to use all the tools at my disposal to force the necessary culture change, among others at Hockey Canada,” said St-Onge, while not ruling out the suggestion of putting guardianship suggested by the deputy. The minister, however, indicated that she did not know if she had the power to use it.

It was with emotion in her voice that she invited the athletes who were victims of abuse and the parents who had witnessed it to denounce these undesirable situations.

“It is their voices that I seek to amplify with my work and that I put all my energies into strengthening the system and calling for the leadership of all stakeholders in Canadian sport to take action to end this culture in sport for ensure the health and safety of athletes,” she added.

The Minister reiterated the obligation that all National Sports Federations will have to sign the Universal Code of Conduct as proposed by the Office of the Commissioner for Integrity in Sport (BCIS).

10 players have testified, 9 are waiting

In the morning, the lawyer Danielle Robitailleof the Toronto firm Henein Hutchison, provided details on the collaboration of the players.

She told the parliamentarians that the 10 players were questioned, that 7 others refused to participate in her investigation while the police investigation is in progress and that 2 others first categorically refused to participate. They would later signal that they are postponing their participation.

“The Hockey Canada Committee has provided me with existing correspondence with the lawyers representing eight of these nine players whom I have not yet interviewed. They expressed reservations about my investigation, specifically about comments made by politicians and members of Hockey Canada,” the lawyer said.

“They are worried that the very basis of the case has already been judged. I try to answer and dispel these worries. I hope to obtain their voluntary participation in my investigation.

“I was given tools. In the event that a player refuses to take part, Hockey Canada has informed me that he will be banned for life from any event involving Hockey Canada. Everyone would be notified and the information would be immediately made public,” adds Danielle Robitaille.

The Liberal MP Anthony Housefather asked her if she had a good idea of ​​the identities of the eight men who were in the room where a young woman claims to have been assaulted.

“I don’t want to provide an answer during these proceedings that could potentially taint the evidence of other witnesses that I haven’t heard from yet,” she replied. I also don’t want to provide an answer that tints the evidence that would be provided to the London Police Department which has reopened its investigation, or to the NHL (National Hockey League) or the AJLNH (National League Players Association hockey). »

Me Robitaille stated that the complainant refused to participate in her investigation for a long time, including for 18 months after the police investigation was closed. This led the attorney to temporarily close her investigation and not recommend interviewing the remaining nine players until the complainant provided her statement.

Circumstances have now changed, she added.

On July 9, the complainant indicated that she was ready to get involved. The firm was ordered to reopen the investigation. The complainant provided a detailed version of the events and the lawyer is now in a position to interview the remaining hockey players.

The lawyer also indicated, at the request of the president of the committee, to have met seven members of the management and coaches, but she refused to reveal the nature of their discussions.

Hockey Canada did not force the players to participate in the investigation at the time and did not impose penalties on them if they refused, a key point that emerged from an appearance by Hockey Canada executives at the end June.

She also mentioned that Hockey Canada has requested that professional secrecy be maintained regarding the recommendations contained in its preliminary report.

Hockey Canada Appearance

Hockey Canada officials will come back to committee members on Wednesday about allegations that players from two national teams at World Juniors committed group sexual assaults in 2018 and 2003.

The committee called two days of meetings to sort out what happened. Hockey Canada has come under intense scrutiny since it emerged in May that it settled with the alleged victim of the 2018 gang rape by paying him financial compensation.

Details of the settlement, including the identity of the complainant and the men involved, have not been made public.

On Friday, news broke of another allegation linked to the 2003 team in Halifax.

The Government of Canada suspended funding for the federation and ordered an audit. In addition, a number of corporate sponsors subsequently withdrew their financial support.

Scott SmithPresident and COO of Hockey Canada, and recently retired CEO Tom Renney were questioned by parliamentarians during a committee meeting last month. Both should be back on Wednesday.

Members will also hear from the president of the Canadian Hockey League (CHL), Dan McKenzieand Hockey Canada’s former vice-president of insurance and risk management, Glen McCurdie.

The committee will also hear from the president and chief executive officer of the insurance company BFL Canada and the commissioners of the three major junior circuits in Canada, namely those of the West, Ontario and Quebec.

In the meantime, Hockey Canada has created a plan to combat toxic culture. It includes a centralized system for tracking and reporting abuse complaints, which will be in place by September. The results will be published annually.

Hockey Canada has promised an independent board of directors will be appointed by Sept. 15 to ensure the plan is implemented.

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