Hockey Canada at committee: MPs push for answers amid sexual assault allegations – National


Two high-profile allegations of group sexual assault have rocked the world of Canadian hockey — and now, Parliamentarians have the opportunity to push Hockey Canada figureheads for answers.

The House of Commons heritage committee is meeting on Tuesday at 10 a.m. ET and Wednesday at 11 a.m. ET this week. Global News will carry both meetings live.

On Tuesday, members of Parliament will have the chance to grill Sport Minister Pascale St-Onge about the high-profile sexual assault allegations.

Read more:

As Hockey Canada re-opens alleged sex assault probe, here’s what 2018 players say so far

Then, on Wednesday, the committee will question leadership from Hockey Canada, the Canadian Hockey League, the Ontario Hockey League, the Western Hockey League and the Ligue de Hockey Junior Majeur du Québec.

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“There needs to be a real reckoning with the kind of behaviour that we saw from that organization and the willful blindness to something that other organizations have been faced with, struggled with, but made good decisions around, as opposed to what Hockey Canada has been doing,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said, speaking to reporters on Thursday.

How did we get here and what is the committee hoping to achieve? Here’s what you need to know.

A woman alleged that at a gala event in London, Ont. in 2018, eight unnamed players from Canada’s 2018 world junior team assaulted her while she was intoxicated.

The allegation burst into the spotlight when, in May, TSN first reported that Hockey Canada had quietly settled a lawsuit with the woman.

The backlash was swift. By late June, MPs had convened a parliamentary committee to grill Hockey Canada officials and St-Onge about the settlement.

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Not long after the committee convened on June 20, Hockey Canada lost corporate sponsorships and federal funding was frozen.

Global News reached out to the agents for all players who were on the roster at the time of the alleged incident. Several players have since released public statements denying their involvement. Read the full list of responses from the team here.

Read more:

Hockey Canada: A timeline of how the agency handled 2018 sexual assault allegation

Last week, reports surfaced that Hockey Canada maintained a fund that drew on membership fees to pay for uninsured liabilities — including sexual abuse claims.  This information was included in a July 2021 affidavit sworn by Glen McCurdie, who was then Hockey Canada’s vice-president of insurance and risk management, as part of a lawsuit launched by an injured player in Ontario.

Last Tuesday, Hockey Canada said they would no longer use this fund for sexual abuse claims.

Then, on Friday, another allegation emerged. Hockey Canada and Halifax police both confirmed they are investigating an “alleged group sexual assault” that they say involved members of the 2002-03 world junior hockey championship team.


Click to play video: 'What will it take for Hockey Canada to rebuild the trust of hockey fans?'







What will it take for Hockey Canada to rebuild the trust of hockey fans?


What will it take for Hockey Canada to rebuild the trust of hockey fans?

 

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The day before the committee was set to meet, Hockey Canada released its plan to combat any “toxic” behaviour in the sport. The plan includes the implementation by the end of September of a centralized tracking and reporting system for abuse complaints. 

Hockey Canada also said it will implement enhanced screening for high-performance players and will mandate that breaching the organization’s code of conduct or refusing to participate in an investigation could result in a lifetime ban.

What are MPs hoping to achieve?

MPs were clear about what they’re hoping to hear during committee this week: transparency, and accountability.

“I’m hoping to see greater transparency from Hockey Canada. They have breeched the trust of Canadians as an organization we expect to protect children,” said Chris Bittle, a Liberal MP who sits on the heritage committee, in a statement sent to Global News on Monday.

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“Though today’s statement from Hockey Canada is a positive step, we need greater assurances and need to see action if there is any hope to regain the trust that has been lost,” he added in reference to the organization’s action plan published Monday.

The last time Hockey Canada appeared before the heritage committee last month, MPs were left unsatisfied with the responses they received — as one politician told the executives to their face.

Read more:

Police, Hockey Canada investigate 2nd world junior team over alleged group sexual assault

During the June 20 committee meeting, Parliamentarians learned that Hockey Canada didn’t make participation in its investigations mandatory, did not know the identities of the players are the centre of the scandal, and paid the settlement without a full picture of what happened.

“This incident from June 2018 will be talked about in many homes in this country: Should I sign up my daughter or my son into Hockey Canada programs? I’m not sure of the answer here today,” Conservative MP Kevin Waugh said during the meeting.

“I haven’t really gotten from any of your reassurances that Hockey Canada has changed in its harassment, bullying and abuse policies.”

Still, MPs are holding on to hope that this week will provide a fresh opportunity for the answers they didn’t get from the organization last month.

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“Hockey Canada has an opportunity to be fully transparent and fully accountable,” said NDP MP Peter Julian in an interview with Global News last week.

“This is really their last chance…I hope that they step up because so far I’ve been profoundly disappointed, as most Canadians have been, with their lack of action, their secrecy, their lack of transparency and their lack of accountability.”

— with files from Global News’ Eric Stober, The Canadian Press

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.





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