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Sexual Assault Allegations | Hockey Canada denies trying to cover up the affair

(Ottawa) Hockey Canada swears that the organization never wanted to “hide” the allegations of gang rape against eight former players of the Canadian Hockey League (CHL). Athletes whose identities are not known and who are targeted by the lawsuit, they have not spent a penny to settle the case out of court, while no ex-player has been forced to participate to the independent investigation into these events dating back to the spring of 2018.

Updated yesterday at 8:48 p.m.

Melanie Marquis

Melanie Marquis
The Press

Hockey Canada officials were expected firmly in the parliamentary arena on Monday afternoon. Summoned by the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage, they provided “rather disappointing” explanations in the eyes of the Minister of Sports, Pascale St-Onge, who accused the organization of “perpetuating the culture of silence”.

“We didn’t try to sweep the matter under the rug,” said outgoing Hockey Canada CEO Tom Renney. Alongside him were his successor, Scott Smith, Hockey Canada Foundation president Dave Andrews, and a lawyer, Andrew Winton, who was not permitted to speak.

They had been invited to shed light on this lawsuit for 3.55 million filed on April 20 by a young woman against eight former players of the Canadian Hockey League, against the league and against Hockey Canada. The organization had been informed very quickly of the alleged facts, which date back to the night of June 18 to 19, 2018, as reported The Press.

The information was confirmed by Tom Renney: he knew on June 19, 2018. The police authorities of the city where the gang rape allegedly took place, in London, Ontario, were alerted “between 6 p.m. and 7 p.m. h “, the same evening, specified Scott Smith.

The alleged victim, now 24, accuses the junior-aged players, some of whom had just won gold at the world junior championship, of assaulting her in a hotel room in the early hours of the morning.

Not a penny from unknown players

The settlement check, the amount of which is also unknown, was signed by Hockey Canada “on behalf of all of the defendants” – meaning the hockey players involved paid nothing, according to which Scott Smith said in response to questions from Liberal Anthony Housefather, who called the revelation “troubling”.

“We assumed this responsibility because we wanted to respect the wishes of the young woman, who did not want to be identified and who did not want the names of the players made public, and because the alleged events took place during ‘an event that took place under the aegis of our organization,’ he explained later at the end of the committee meeting.

Sports network TSN was the first to report the case, citing an 18-page lawsuit filed in Ontario Superior Court. The document, which The Press subsequently obtained, identifies neither the young woman nor the alleged attackers.

In fact, according to the version provided by Scott Smith at the committee table, the mystery remains: whether it is at the London Police Service, at Hockey Canada or at the firm Henein Hutchison LLP, where the independent internal investigation was carried out, we do not know anything about it.

In committee, we were alarmed.

Because these men could now be players in a team of the National Hockey League (NHL) or the American League. They could be coaches. The anonymity conferred on them by the confidential agreement is unacceptable, raised elected officials.

No obligation to testify

Another revelation has MPs jumping: Hockey Canada did not require any of its players to participate in the independent internal investigation. Tom Renney and Scott Smith skated in response to this question posed by NDP MP Peter Julian.

The first said they were “four or six”. The second contradicted him by declaring that this number was higher, and specified a little later that “12 or 13” players had been met by the firm’s investigators.

They should all have been, in the unanimous opinion of the elected officials who sat on the committee on Monday.

Conservative John Nater railed against the “lack of accountability” at Hockey Canada.

“No one has lost the privilege of wearing the maple leaf on their uniform. No one was sanctioned. We know that the NHL is conducting its own investigation. If it were to be determined that individuals should be held responsible, it would be a black eye for Hockey Canada, ”he dropped.

“We discover that it is an organizational practice that is anchored: the players are protected from any civil lawsuit in the case of sexual assault, denounces Mélanie Lemay, co-founder of Quebec against sexual violence. I find that disturbing. It’s like giving them permission to commit sexual assaults with impunity. »

Asked to assess the number of sexual misconduct allegations of which the organization has been informed in recent years, Scott Smith estimated at “one or two cases per year” those which have occurred “in the last five to six years. “.

“It sends a sad message to people who might want to denounce, believes Alexandra Dupuy, co-founder of the collective I changed too. What it says is that if the person who assaulted you is part of an important team, there is a great possibility that we will not hear you, or that we will try to hide the story. . »

On April 20, 2022, the day the plaintiff’s lawsuit was filed, Tom Renney announced his resignation.

Pure coincidence, he told the committee.

St-Onge does not rule out withholding public funds

If Hockey Canada has drawn on public funds to settle the case out of court – which the organization has denied – Ottawa could completely review its contribution agreements linking it to sports groups, insisted the Minister of Sports, Pascale St. -Onge.

“My lever, to shed as much light as possible on this story, is the financial audit that is currently underway. […] We will continue with the audit, and there is nothing that is excluded, ”she said in a scrum after the meeting.

In the committee room, the minister said she had been informed of the case on May 24, reiterated that she had been “shocked” to learn this “sordid story”, especially since it is according to It is unacceptable that these alleged abusers can now have “lucrative careers [dans la LNH] “.

With Simon-Olivier Lorange, Guillaume Lefrançois and Lila Dussault, The Press

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