The big boss of Hockey Canada maintains that he is still the right person to change the culture within his organization. He asked for “a little time” to make this change, in front of federal elected officials who told him they wanted his resignation.
“I am a hockey parent. It concerns me. I’m committed to making the game better for more Canadians,” said Scott Smith, Hockey Canada’s president and chief operating officer, after saying he always has the support of his employees and his board of directors. administration.
He repeated several times that his organization is committed to reviewing all of its practices with the help of an independent firm to put an end to abuses. It’s part of an action plan “to end the culture of silence and toxic behavior in hockey in Canada,” which the organization released on Monday.
The big boss of Hockey Canada, Scott Smith, appeared for a second time on Wednesday before the parliamentary heritage committee, after a first visit in June described as “unconvincing” or “pitiful” by elected officials. He was accompanied by eight other men, all senior hockey officials in the country.
Representatives from all parties teamed up on Wednesday to extract additional information about how sexual assault cases are handled within the sport. Several MPs have had the opportunity to say directly in Mr. Smith’s face that they want him to leave 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 on Twittertuesday.
Two separate events involving Hockey Canada players have come to light in the media in recent weeks. First a gang rape involving eight players in June 2018, during a gala in London, Ontario. Then it was revealed that another gang assault allegedly occurred 15 years earlier, this time involving members of the 2003 national junior team.
Other disputes settled out of court
Other cases of abuse 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 nine disputes related to allegations of a sexual nature have required the payment of money to victims since 1989. Hockey Canada has thus drawn no less than $7.6 million from the “national equity fund” .
“We did not use this money to protect our image, but to support the victims […] We used our money to support families, ”said Scott Smith.
Most of the amount disbursed for settlements with victims, ie $6.8 million, was for a single case, namely 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 financially compensate the alleged 2018 victim, in an amount kept secret, even though its independent investigation was unable to shed light on the merits of the case and that none of the eight players involved received sanctions.
“You chose not to wait for the conclusions of the independent investigation, not to know the truth, but to settle [hors cour]. Why ? insisted Liberal MP Anthony Housefather.
“We didn’t know all the details of the night but we believed that damage was done,” said Brian Cairo, Hockey Canada’s chief financial officer.
President Scott Smith stressed that the decision was made “in the best interest of the young woman, and in order to respect her privacy”. He still makes that decision.
The Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage (CHPC) held its second and final day of hearings on Wednesday into Hockey Canada’s involvement in gang rape allegations involving 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, in July, 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 convey this information to the Minister at the time, nor carry out special follow-up to find out what happened to this case.