Canada’s regional hockey federations are threatening to withhold dues payments to Hockey Canada unless the organization better informs them of internal improvements in light of sexual-assault allegations involving members of the 2018 world junior hockey team.
The hockey federations for Canada’s 10 provinces and three territories, led by Hockey Quebec, made their demands in a letter to Hockey Canada this week, in which they called for a meeting with the national organization’s president and board of directors.
Hockey Quebec said its members were “appalled” and “concerned” by the alleged behaviour by players, and the decisions made by Hockey Canada.
Hockey Canada has been under intense scrutiny since the details of a $3.55-million lawsuit it settled for an undisclosed amount surfaced in May. The suit was related to allegations that a woman was sexually assaulted by eight Canadian Hockey League players after a gala in London, Ont., in June, 2018.
The Globe and Mail was the first to report last month that a Hockey Canada account known as the National Equity Fund used player registration fees to payout sexual-assault lawsuits.
Hockey Canada was heavily criticized at recent federal hearings for not fully investigating the matter or holding the eight unnamed players accountable. Its chief financial officer, Brian Cairo, told the proceedings, “We didn’t know all the details of the night, but we did believe harm was caused.”
Sport Canada, which provides federal funding to national sports organizations such as Hockey Canada, suspended payments to the body over the controversy. And companies such as Scotiabank, Tim Hortons and Telus paused or withdrew their support for Hockey Canada or specific events, including the world juniors taking place in Alberta this month.
The London police have reopened its investigation into the case. Halifax police also opened an investigation into allegations of a group sexual assault involving members of the 2003 world junior hockey team in that city.
In this week’s letter, the regional hockey federations ask Hockey Canada to provide a written report on its plan to improve the federal organization, and to provide a progress report before they begin paying dues on Dec. 1. The federations are also asking for another progress report before another instalment of dues are scheduled to be paid on April 1.
“Through these actions, we want to continue to offer our members and all those who wish to take part in our sport a healthy, positive, safe, inclusive and accessible environment,” read the letter, signed by Claude Fortin, chairman of the board of directors for Hockey Quebec. The letter was translated from the original French version.
“We also believe that communication, transparency and accountability will be required to maintain our members’ confidence in Hockey Quebec, to restore that of families in Hockey Canada and for a lasting change in the culture of hockey.”
Hockey Canada did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the demands from the regional federations.
Minor-hockey associations in Canada began to rebel against Hockey Canada in July. In Quebec, the Granby Minor Hockey Association’s board voted to suspend payments to Hockey Canada, and Hockey Winnipeg said the matter will be a big topic of discussion at a board meeting later this month.
Federal Sports Minister Pascale St-Onge responded to concerns by hockey associations across the country earlier this week, saying she understands “that parents and hockey organizations across Canada have questions about the future of Hockey Canada.”
“With all that we have heard over the past weeks and months, we all have the same questions. Now, it’s time for Hockey Canada to ask serious questions about its future.”
Hockey Canada has said it recognizes that there is work to do to regain the trust of Canadians.
“We know we need to hold ourselves accountable,” the organization said in a statement in late July.
“That is why we are beginning a full governance review of our organization that will be overseen by an independent third party.”
Hockey Quebec said the national organization’s updates should address a review of the National Equity Fund, the appointment of a special committee and its mandate around improving the organization, and the implementation of an independent and confidential system for submitting complaints.
“We all have a role to play for the well-being of our players, as well as for all those who work in the hockey ecosystem,” Mr. Fortin said. “Our sport must do more but above all do better. Hockey should be more than a game.”
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