Calls for accountability and change in Canadian hockey mount in wake of national scandal
Calls for accountability and change within Canadian hockey are mounting in the wake of the national organization’s alleged sex abuse scandal – but there’s also hope it will be the catalyst to finally change the toxic culture Sport.
« I am not sure [change] can happen without a change in leadership,” said Daryl Fowler, president of Hockey Winnipeg, which represents about 10,000 players.
“We made the chairman of the board resign. New things are happening. We hope we can do that with the leaders who are there. Otherwise, again, you know, that’s where the provinces and the members have to push and say, we want to see some action. »
With the hockey tryouts just weeks away, Fowler said he’s been getting a lot of calls from concerned parents.
« Parents want to know what the fee is for, the $23.80 [per player] that is sent to Hockey Canada each year and how much of that money was actually used in this settlement? « , he said.
« That’s their concern. And, you know, rightly so. »
In April, a woman filed a $3.5 million lawsuit alleging she was sexually assaulted by eight hockey players in 2018, including members of the world junior team.
Hockey associations and parents were outraged to learn that a special fund made up in part of their registration fees was used to help pay for the settlement.
Earlier this month, Canada’s 13 regional hockey federations sent a letter to Hockey Canada, demanding a detailed action plan and a meeting by the end of November to address their concerns. They have also threatened to withhold payment of dues unless their conditions are met.
Hockey Canada Responds
The chair of Hockey Canada’s board has since resigned and been replaced by an interim chair, and a former Supreme Court justice has been appointed to review the organization’s governance structure.
This week, Hockey Canada released a new post to review the handling of mistreatment, harassment and abuse within the organization. This will involve the creation of a new player selection program and complaints tracking system.
Several federations, including Hockey Manitoba and Saskatchewan Hockey, have expressed satisfaction with the way Hockey Canada is proceeding.
But Fowler is skeptical of Hockey Canada’s course of action and says it’s time to backtrack.
« Just because someone comes out and says, ‘That’s our plan,’ doesn’t mean we can’t sit back and say, ‘Okay, great, we’ll let it go,' » he said. -he declares.
« We want to see accountability. We want to know that our voices are heard and our members are represented. »
But others see some hope on the hockey horizon.
“I want to get back to this sport”
« We’re cautiously optimistic that this could be the catalyst or a watershed moment to say, ‘No more. We are going to investigate and we are going to bring the community or communities involved in restructuring and reframing what it is to be a boy and a man in the context of hockey,” said Tim Skuse, associate professor at the faculty of education from Brandon University.
As an elite hockey player, Skuse said he was disturbed by some of the things he saw in the locker room and at team events in the 1970s and 1980s, but he didn’t think he could. talk to anyone.
« Misogynistic comments, homophobic slurs, notions of hypermasculinity, endowment, » he said.
As a college student, Skuse decided to study hockey culture. In one project, he examined how playing elite-level hockey has shaped and influenced understandings of what it is to be a boy or a man. The second focused on elite level hockey players who were trying to resist the dominant culture of hockey.
He discovered that some players were still deeply affected by their experiences many years later, wishing they had spoken back then.
« I think one of the most poignant things that comes to mind is how deeply ingrained the culture of hockey is that this former NHL player who also played in the college at the end of the interview said, « I never thought about how hockey has shaped me as a father, as a husband and as a man, » said Skuse.
« So I think it’s one of those things how deeply playing hockey in this culture is deeply involved in who you are and your notion of identity. »
As a father, Skuse is now considering whether to enroll his 10-year-old son in hockey this fall.
Many players and parents have the same concerns and criticisms, but they are afraid to speak up and rock the boat, fearing their children will be ostracized.
« That’s the kind of culture we have to change, » said Hockey Winnipeg’s Fowler.
« We have to raise good people. That’s part of being part of hockey. You know, there’s a social aspect to it. And we have to raise good people. And you can’t raise good people if it’s a toxic culture. »
It’s one of the reasons Hockey Winnipeg is launching a new recreational hockey program that will make the game more welcoming, accessible, diverse and hopefully safe,” said Janelle Forcand, local programs coordinator for Hockey Winnipeg.
« I want to get back into this sport, » she said.
A former award-winning player and coach, Forcand said she felt discouraged by the state of hockey. Then she thinks about the friends she has made and the opportunities she has received, and she wants others to experience the same.
« It’s not going to change overnight. But…we can’t give up because the moment we get out of the game it’s never going to get better, » she said.
« Held to the most lax standards »
One way to improve, said Jennifer Fraser, educator and author of The bullied brainis to empower players, parents and victims to speak out, holding leaders to account.
“The base will never feel safe when there is a power imbalance,” she said from Victoria, British Columbia.
« What we need is a law that says if you allow a crime like child abuse or if you allow a crime like gang rape, you cover it up, you are criminally liable. That would make a huge change there. »
Fraser believes change must start at the top. She points to the resignation of Ken Starr, the former president of Baylor University, who resigned from his post after a sexual assault scandal involving his football team. Or Rutgers basketball coach Mike Rice, who was fired after a video emerged showing he was physically and verbally abusive towards his players, including making homophobic slurs.
“So you look at those kinds of examples and then you look at Canada where no one is ever held accountable. It’s unbelievable,” Fraser said, adding that she thinks the Hockey Canada board and “bureaucrats” should step down.
“They must step down, as leaders do, when they have failed miserably in trust, in transparency, in fiduciary duty, especially as they are involved in organizations that have children and young people They must be held to the highest standards, and they are in fact held to the most lax standards. »