Since 1989, a total of $7.6 million has been taken from Hockey Canada’s “National Equity Fund” to compensate nine victims of sexual assault without going to court.
Posted at 12:04 p.m.
Updated at 5:27 p.m.
That figure was confirmed by Brian Cairo, chief financial officer of Hockey Canada, who was among current and past members of the organization’s leadership who testified before the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage on Wednesday. Added to this kitty are 1.3 million dollars paid to 12 additional victims, this time by the insurance company of the entity that oversees the entire practice of hockey in the country.
These amounts, it should be noted, do not include the out-of-court settlement that Hockey Canada recently reached with a young woman who claims to have been raped in June 2018 by eight players after the gala founding of Hockey Canada in London, Ontario. The victim filed a civil suit for 3.55 million. The details of the final agreement have never been released – although Scott Smith, president and CEO of the organization, revealed on Wednesday that it had received the green light from the board of directors for the payment of a “maximum “. Hockey Canada still claims to liquidate investments to settle this dispute.
This means that, for 33 years, 20 victims have shared up to $12.45 million.
The Minister of Sports, Pascale St-Onge, was flabbergasted to learn that such sums had been paid to settle cases of a sexual nature.
“I would like to know if we invest so many resources in prevention, education, supervision, protection of athletes and the public,” she said in an interview after watching the committee meeting.
“I have the impression that more money has been used to make settlements and pay compensation for wrongdoing than to prevent. I find it extremely problematic, ”she continued.
The use of the “national equity fund” to settle sexual assault cases created an outcry after the Globe and Mail revealed this modus operandi last week. This contingency fund, created to compensate for events beyond the scope of Hockey Canada’s insurance coverage – in particular certain injuries suffered by athletes – is partly financed by the registrations of underage players from across the country.
Of the 7.6 million that have been used, 6.8 million are linked to the case of Graham James, a coach convicted of multiple sexual assaults on players in the 1980s and 1990s. In addition, of the sum of 1.3 million covered by Hockey Canada’s insurer, 1 million was paid out after four incidents related to the same individual. His identity was not disclosed to the Heritage Committee.
The elected officials were eminently critical of the governance of Hockey Canada. Several of them accused the organization of having “swept under the rug” these stories to the detriment of the victims.
Liberal MP Anthony Housefather was stunned by the unfolding of events leading up to the out-of-court settlement with the victim of the alleged 2018 gang rape. It was just weeks between the filing of his civil suit before the Superior Court of Ontario and the conclusion of an agreement. The organization, which had in hand only a very incomplete report of the events produced by the firm Heinen Hutchison, had not even notified the eight players who were also targeted by the legal action.
“It’s extremely unusual,” argued the lawyer by training.
“We made the decision to reach an agreement in the best interest of the young woman, and in order to protect her privacy. We didn’t want her to go through what she’s been going through for 10 or 12 days in the media. We made this decision to help him move forward, ”replied Scott Smith.
Mr. Housefather was also surprised that the insurance company of Hockey Canada, which nevertheless provides coverage in the event of sexual assault, did not have access to the lawsuit or take part in the discussions on its settlement.
The parliamentarians also expressed their surprise and incomprehension to note that no minutes had been produced following the meeting during which the board of directors formally approved the compensation that would be paid to the victim. None of the minutes of the board meetings held since mid-March – at least five – are also available.
Liberal Michael Coteau hounded Scott Smith to find out if he considered that Hockey Canada, or even the sport in general, was going through a “crisis”.
“One accident is one accident too many,” replied the CEO, dodging the question.
Do the scandals of recent years betray “systemic” problems?, asked the MP.
“We haven’t had any problems in women’s hockey or in certain areas of minor hockey [masculin], retorted Mr. Smith. But in other sectors, and in the higher levels, there have been. »
Dan MacKenzie, president of the Canadian Hockey League, has also supported the thesis of isolated incidents, at a time when critics are coming from all over the culture of toxic masculinity associated with hockey.
“The culture is about the teams, the coaching, the leadership, the trainings that are provided,” MacKenzie said. It’s very specific. »
Arguments that did not seem to move the parliamentarians.
“We need a cleanup of hockey and sport,” concluded curator Kevin Waugh.