‘Clean house… or disband it,’ Hamilton MP says of Hockey Canada amid sex assault investigation
Published July 19, 2022 at 3:50 pm
Hamilton Centre member of Parliament Matthew Green is calling out a “predatory” culture at Hockey Canada after the latest bombshell about how it handles sexual assault claims.
Hockey Canada, which oversees all amateur hockey in Canada and delivers the popular world junior championship (WJC) when it is held in the nation, is facing public outcry, fleeing corporate sponsors and suspended federal funding. The scandal stems from how it initially settled a lawsuit with a plaintiff who alleged she was sexually assaulted by eight unidentified Canadian Hockey League players after a gala and golf function feting the 2018 gold medal-winning Canadian junior team in London, Ont., four years ago. The investigation, first led by the Henein Hutchison law firm, was never completed, but is now being reopened due to the fallout.
On Tuesday, the Toronto Globe and Mail amplified a sworn statement by a former executive that Hockey Canada has a multimillion-dollar fund that exists to pay settlements without involving its insurance company. A separate Globe article also stated that the plaintiff claims in her lawsuit that she was under pressure from defendants not to report them to police or cooperate with investigators.
On Twitter, Green blasted the organization and suggested that it might have to be disbanded.
“This organizational culture isn’t normal,” the second-term New Democratic Party (NDP) MP said, sharing a screenshot from the Globe & Mail coverage. “(I)t’s predatory and only serves to cover up gender based violence.
“When an organization becomes this toxic, it’s time to either clean house from top to bottom or disband it all together.”
The piece about Hockey Canada having a fund to cover uninsured liabilities, including sexual abuse claims, came to light in a separate lawsuit filed by an injured player in Ontario. It was stated in July 2021 affidavit sworn by Glen McCurdie, who was Hockey Canada’s vice-president of insurance and risk management at that time, The Canadian Press reported last week.
This organizational culture isn’t normal…it’s predatory and only serves to cover up gender based violence.
— Matthew Green 🍊📈✊🏾 (@MatthewGreenNDP) July 19, 2022
Hockey Canada said last week it was reopening the investigation from 2018.
A month ago, Hockey Canada CEO Tom Renny, president and COO Scott Smith and Hockey Canada Foundation chair Dave Andrews all appeared before a Canadian Heritage parliamentary committee (CHPC) in Ottawa.
After the three executives were questioned by legislators from all four official parties, Minister of Sport Pascale St-Onge said “we did not receive many answers” from Hockey Canada. Federal funding, which accounts for 6 per cent of Hockey Canada’s annual budget (compared to 43 per cent from business and development partnerships), was frozen the next day.
Green is not on the CHPC, but was a serious athlete in his youth who played university-level Canadian football with the McMaster Marauders and Acadia Axemen. During his first campaign in 2019, his campaign included hockey card-style posters that gave his position as “left wing.”
Two of the Liberal MPs on the Canadian Heritage committee, Lisa Hepfner (Hamilton Centre) and Chris Bittle (St. Catharines), represent from the Hamilton-Halton-Niagara area. Milton MP Adam van Koeverden, a Liberal, also attended one of the meetings. Peter Julian represents the NDP on the CHPC.
Hockey Canada representatives are set to return to Parliament later this month to appear before the same committee and answer further questions.
Reports about the incomplete investigation were first revealed by TSN in May and boosted by reporting from The Athletic.
The plaintiff’s lawsuit says that the eight defendants were not all necessarily on the 2018 Canadian junior team. It says all eight played on CHL teams in the Ontario, Québec and Western leagues.
Fifteen of the 22 players have released some form of statement on the matter. That includes all three players who played Junior A and U.S. college hockey instead of in the CHL. St. Louis Blues forward Robert Thomas, who played on the Hamilton Bulldogs’ 2018 OHL championship team, released a statement on Tuesday saying, “I had no involvement in, nor did I witness, the alleged incident,” adding that he would cooperate with any and all investigations “if appropriate and if required.”
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— Robert Thomas (@RThomas_27) July 19, 2022