MP Peter Julian demands answers from Hockey Canada CEO Scott Smith in letter
NDP MP Peter Julian is calling for more accountability and transparency at Hockey Canada through a letter to the organization’s president and CEO, Scott Smith.
The letter, delivered to The Canadian Presscomes on the heels of new information that Julian had been told by a former board member – who chose to remain anonymous – regarding benefits and luxurious accommodations provided to board members.
« Thousands of dollars are spent on board meetings, on luxury suites, on rings that come with championship teams that are given to board members, » he said. « And I’ve asked those questions in the hearings we’ve had so far that have been blocked by Hockey Canada.
“Responsibility is fundamental here. And I expect Hockey Canada to provide answers to Canadians. There’s been a lot of spending that I don’t think has passed the head test when it comes to hockey parents enrolling their daughter or son in hockey programs. And they don’t see the responsibility for those funds that Hockey Canada should exercise.
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In the letter, Julian follows up on Smith’s testimony at a July 27 parliamentary hearing where he said: ‘The board and our members have received a version of the championship rings from time to time and some members of the staff have bonuses that relate to the performance of medals.
Featuring information on dinners costing north of $5,000 for the board, as well as accommodations over $3,000 a night » like the Presidential Suite at (Westin) Harbor Castle in downtown Toronto “, Julian wonders how many times these payments have been fabricated.
Julian also notes the claims that the championship rings received by board members are said to be worth over $3,000 each and asks for confirmation of their cost.
In a statement provided to The Canadian PressHockey Canada says board members’ expenses are « regularly reviewed to ensure they are appropriate. »
“Given the volunteer nature of their role, Hockey Canada covers a range of expenses related to board duties, including meetings, food and travel expenses. Our Board Travel and Expense Policy strictly dictates what expenses are appropriate, including a requirement that directors book the most economical travel available.
“Eligible expenses include airfare, accommodation, meals and ground travel. Hockey Canada does not cover hotel stays longer than required for Board business, incidentals, or airfare to locations other than the meeting location and home.
With Parliament due to resume on September 19, Julian continues to express his desire for Hockey Canada to return to the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage.
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« It’s up to the majority of the committee (to decide on future hearings), » Julian said. « I expressed a few weeks ago that I felt we needed to continue with these important audiences and expand them to include other national sports organizations as we have become aware of other sports organizations where there has been a lack of similar responsibility.
“Sport Canada and the Minister of Sport must be held accountable for the decisions that have been made over the past two years. So I hope and I feel that the members of the committee understand the importance of this. I certainly hope that we will continue with these hearings, and this will be a decision that I believe the committee will make (at) its next meetings.
With the whistleblower now in the fold, Julian hopes that, if possible, they would be willing to testify. However, the member is aware of a need for protection of the said person.
“I certainly believe it is important that whistleblowers are protected. And so that’s something that we have to ensure as well,” Julian said. « Whether or not that council member testifies in camera or in open court, I think will be up to that council member, but I would certainly like to see that council member testify before the committee. »
Hockey Canada has been under immense pressure to be publicly transparent with its finances and handling of sexual assault allegations since TSN first reported an undisclosed settlement with a woman who alleged she was sexually assaulted by eight players, including members of the 2018 World Junior Team.
The plaintiff was asking for $3.55 million.
READ MORE: Nearly 60% of Canadians doubt Hockey Canada’s plan to tackle sexual abuse: Poll
The organization has since admitted to using its National Equity Fund to pay out $7.6 million in nine settlements related to sexual assault or abuse since 1989. The fund has tapped into the costs of minor hockey membership to pay uninsured debts, including such claims.
Hockey Canada also disclosed an investigation into an alleged sexual assault involving members of the 2003 World Junior Team on July 22.
Amid the revelations, Sports Minister Pascale St. Onge froze funding for the sports body, in addition to Scotiabank, TELUS, Imperial Oil, Canadian Tire and Tim Hortons pulling sponsorship money.
Former Hockey Canada CEO Tom Renney retired at the end of June, leaving Smith to be his successor while continuing to serve as president of the organization. Michael Brind’Amour, the former chairman of the board, resigned on August 6 and Andrea Skinner took over as interim chairman on August 9.
READ MORE: Hockey Canada names interim board chair after Brind’Amour resigns
Despite the moving parts and an action plan that includes, among other measures, having a centralized system in place to track and report abuse complaints by the end of September, Julian believes a change in current leadership is still needed within the organization.
« As I mentioned last month during the hearing, I have lost faith in the current leadership, » he said. “There needs to be a change in leadership at Hockey Canada, I think, to restore public confidence. »
“The fact that these questions are now being asked in terms of quite staggering expenses, for the Board of Directors, is something that I think indicates that there are people within Hockey Canada who are concerned about the lack responsibility for sexual violence and sexual harassment and concerned about the current direction of Hockey Canada (and) where their priorities seem to lie.
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