St. Catharines MP says cleaning house at Hockey Canada just the start of fixing sports culture

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Published October 12, 2022 at 1:45 pm

When Hockey Canada CEO Scott Smith and all of the group’s board members stepped down yesterday (October 11) “to make room for a new slate of directors,” that was just the beginning of reforms to Canadian sports, says St. Catharines MP Chris Bittle.

“This is a positive step, but it doesn’t erase all of the issues with the organization. I look forward to a report from former Supreme Court Justice Thomas Cromwell on culture of Hockey Canada,” Bittle said of the group mired in alleged cover-ups of sexual abuse. “I hope that provides a useful blueprint for new leadership at Hockey Canada.

However, Bittle said cleaning house at Hockey Canada is just the just beginning. “As a member of the House of Commons committee studying culture in sport I will push to expand our study. We haven’t even scratched the surface with cultural problems in hockey and need to expand to look further at other National Sports Organizations.”

Bittle says that includes making sure there are consequences when athletes, coaches or others behave inappropriately, including being barred from wearing the Maple Leaf in competition.

The heritage committee began investigating Hockey Canada in June after it came to light that the organization settled a lawsuit with a woman who alleged eight members of the 2018 national junior team sexually assaulted her after a Hockey Canada gala.

Hockey Canada officials told the committee they learned about the alleged assault the day after the gala, but an internal investigation was not able to identify the players involved and no disciplinary action was taken.

Bittle says while sports are a great source of entertainment, he wants an end to the win-at-all-costs attitude that puts players and coaches on pedestals from which they are allowed to behave badly without reproach.

The heritage committee study is being expanded to look beyond hockey, and Bittle says he wants to shift from focusing on wrongdoing at Hockey Canada to making sport safe for everyone involved.

With files from The Canadian Press

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