Prime Minister Justin Trudeau rips Hockey Canada leadership over sexual assault fund

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau understands the public’s frustration and disgust with Hockey Canada.

He shares many of those same sentiments.

Trudeau ripped the federation’s leadership on Tuesday following revelations that it maintains a fund to handle sexual abuse complaints.

« I think right now it’s hard for anyone in Canada to have faith or trust in anyone at Hockey Canada, » he told reporters at an event on Bowen Island, Utah. British Columbia.

« What we are learning…is absolutely unacceptable. »

Hockey Canada has been under intense scrutiny since May, when news broke that the organization quietly settled a lawsuit brought by a woman who alleged she was assaulted by eight anonymous players, including team members. 2018 Junior World Cup, following a gala in London, Ontario. ., Four years ago.

The organization has since had its federal funding cut due to its handling of the case and the settlement, while a number of companies have suspended sponsorship funds.

Trudeau, who added that the situation was « completely outrageous » by responding in French, said government support would remain frozen « pending meaningful reforms, transparency and accountability. »

The Canadian Press was first to report on Monday that Hockey Canada has maintained the fund – which comes from membership fees collected across the country – to pay for uninsured liabilities, including sexual abuse claims.

The detail was included in a July 2021 affidavit signed by Glen McCurdie, who was then Hockey Canada’s vice-president of insurance and risk management, in a lawsuit brought by an injured player in Ontario.

« Hockey Canada maintains a reserve in a separate account to pay these uninsured debts as they arise, » said McCurdie’s affidavit, which goes on to state that « uninsured debts include potential claims for past sexual abuse”.

Hockey Canada confirmed in a statement Tuesday that it has a so-called « national equity fund » to cover a « wide range of expenses related to safety, wellness and equity initiatives. »

« The fund is also used to pay the organization’s insurance premiums and to cover any claims not covered by insurance policies, including those related to physical injury, harassment and sexual misconduct, » it says. the press release.

Hockey Canada added that the fund was « established in a manner consistent with reserve funds maintained by other major national organizations. »

“When I think of the culture that seemingly pervades the highest levels of this organization, I can understand why so many parents, why so many Canadians who are so proud of our national winter sport, are absolutely disgusted by what is happening. said Trudeau. said Tuesday. “As a government, we will continue to be unequivocal in our condemnation of what we learn.

« And especially in our demands that things change significantly. »

Hockey Canada CEO Scott Smith testified before the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage in Ottawa last month that no government money was used in settling the alleged assault, both of which were reported for the first time by TSN in May.

The woman was seeking more than $3.5 million in damages from Hockey Canada, the Canadian Hockey League and unidentified players.

None of the allegations have been proven in court.

The NHL is conducting its own survey because many 2018 World Junior Team players are now in the league, but is not making participation mandatory.

St. Louis Blues forwards Robert Thomas and Jordan Kyrou released separate statements on social media on Tuesday saying they were not involved in the alleged incident.

Anaheim Ducks center agent Sam Steel also released a statement saying his client « did not commit any of the misconduct described in the media. »

Chicago Blackhawks winger Taylor Raddysh said in a Twitter post that he only learned of the allegations in 2019.

Four other players on that team – Cale Makar, Victor Mete, Conor Timmins and Jonah Gadjovich – have also publicly stated that they were not involved.

McCurdie, who retired in December, was not present for committee deliberations last month due to the death of his father, but was called by the committee for an upcoming round of meetings due to begin next Tuesday.

Hockey Canada released a carefully crafted open letter last week containing a number of promises, including a commitment to reopen an incomplete third-party investigation into the alleged assault and a full governance review.

« We know we have not done enough to address the actions of some members of the 2018 National Junior Team or to end the culture of toxic behavior in our sport, » Hockey Canada wrote last week.

« For this, we unreservedly apologize. »

Smith, who succeeded Tom Renney as CEO on July 1, testified on Parliament Hill last month that Hockey Canada had reported a total of three sexual assault complaints over the past few years, but did not did not want to discuss the other two before the committee.

He added that there have been up to two sexual misconduct complaints each in the last five or six years.

Hockey Canada said in its open letter that player participation in the third-party investigation into the London incident will be mandatory – unlike before – and anyone who refuses will be banned from all activities and programs.

Smith testified last month that « 12 or 13 » of the 19 players were interviewed before the initial and incomplete investigation concluded in September 2020.

The woman’s lawyer said in an email last week that his client, who did not participate in the initial investigation or speak to police, « will participate in Hockey Canada’s investigation. »

« I’m very, very concerned about the culture, which has apparently reached the highest levels of the organization, » Trudeau said Tuesday of Hockey Canada in French.

“It is essential – really crucial – that there is a new approach and that there is oversight, responsibility, accountability.

-With files from Amy Smart on Bowen Island, BC

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on July 19, 2022.


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