Skip to content

Hockey Canada president won’t step down

Hockey Canada claims to have spent $7.6 million out of pocket to compensate nine alleged victims of sexual assault since 1989. And in front of federal elected officials who told him they wanted him to resign, his big boss asked for “a little time” to change the culture of the sports federation.

“I’m a ‘hockey dad’. It worries me. I’m committed to making the game better for more Canadians,” said Scott Smith, CEO of Hockey Canada. He maintains that he still has the support of his employees and his board of directors, and wishes to remain in his post until that confidence is withdrawn from him.

Mr. Smith has repeated on several occasions that his organization is committed to reviewing all of its practices with the help of an independent firm in order to put an end to the attacks. This promise is part of an action plan “to end the culture of silence and toxic behavior in the world of hockey in Canada” that the sports federation released on Monday.

The big boss of Hockey Canada appeared for a second time on Wednesday before the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage, in the Ottawa parliament, after a first visit in June described as “unconvincing” and “pitiful” by elected officials. He was accompanied by eight other men, all senior hockey officials in the country.

Resignation requested

Representatives from all parties teamed up on Wednesday to extract additional information about how sexual assault cases are handled in the national sports community.

Several MPs have had the opportunity to tell Mr. Smith directly that they want him out of his position as head of Hockey Canada. “I believe it’s time for new leadership,” said New Democrat Peter Julian. “I don’t think you have the ability to change the deep culture of the organization,” Bloc member Sébastien Lemire told him. “Personally, I think it takes a lot of cleaning at Hockey Canada,” similarly sent curator Richard Martel.

Former National Hockey League player turned victims’ rights activist Sheldon Kennedy has also called for “the resignation of Scott Smith, the resignation of his management team and the board of directors”, in a message posted on Twitter tuesday.

Two separate events involving Hockey Canada players have come to light in the media in recent weeks. First, an alleged gang rape involving eight players in June 2018 following a gala in London, Ontario. Then, another gang assault, allegedly 15 years earlier, involving members of the 2003 National Junior Team.

Other disputes settled amicably

Other cases of assault than those recently publicized have required Hockey Canada to settle out of court using a fund dedicated to such claims, officials said Wednesday.

No less than 21 victims have received financial compensation after complaints of a sexual nature to Hockey Canada since 1989. The organization thus drew $7.6 million from the “national equity fund” for a settlement at the out of court in nine files, an amount that does not include the amount paid to the alleged victim of the 2018 gala. Twelve other files were covered by their insurance policy, for a total of $1.3 million.

“We did not use this money to protect our image, but to support the victims. […] We used our money to support families, ”insisted Scott Smith.

Most of the amount disbursed for settlements with victims, ie $6.8 million, was for a single file: that of Graham James. The former junior hockey coach was sentenced to seven years in prison for assaulting players in Saskatchewan in the 1980s and 1990s; he has now served his sentence.

In addition, two complaints related to allegations of a sexual nature have been received by the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League since 2017, said its commissioner, Gilles Courteau. “None of these complaints were forwarded to Hockey Canada, and these players were suspended,” he said.

A settlement for the victim

MPs have tried to better understand why Hockey Canada decided to pay an undisclosed amount to the alleged victim of the 2018 events when its independent investigation could not shed light on the matter and none of the eight players involved has not been penalized.

“You chose not to wait for the conclusions of the independent investigation, not to know the truth, but to make the settlement [à l’amiable]. Why ? insisted Liberal MP Anthony Housefather.

“We didn’t know all the details of the night, but we believed that damage had been done,” said Brian Cairo, Hockey Canada’s chief financial officer. CEO Smith stressed for his part that the decision was taken “in the paramount interest of the young woman, and in order to respect her privacy”. He says he always assumes this decision.

The Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage held its second and final day of hearings on Wednesday into Hockey Canada’s involvement in gang rape allegations involving eight of its players.

On Tuesday, lawyer Danielle Robitaille, who was hired by Hockey Canada to lead an independent investigation into the alleged 2018 assault, said she was only able to meet with 10 of the 19 players at the London gala. This investigation was recently reopened after the alleged victim agreed to provide his version of the facts.

The hearings were also able to confirm that federal Sport Canada officials were made aware as early as 2018 of the existence of allegations of a sexual assault, but did not pass this information on to the Minister at the time or carry out any particular follow-up to find out what happened to this case.

To see in video

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.