One would have expected that an alleged gang rape involving eight Junior National Team players would turn out to be a particularly traumatic event for Hockey Canada (HC), an event so disturbing that the leaders of this sports federation would have moved heaven and earth to stop it. know the background of the story and keep track of all the steps aimed at guaranteeing this search for the truth.
However, last Monday, outgoing CEO Tom Renney and his successor, Scott Smith (who has had a career at HC for decades), literally set fire to the gunpowder during their appearance before the Heritage Standing Committee. They arrived poorly prepared, lacked transparency and gave explanations that were irreconcilable with notions of leadership and common sense.
A 20-year-old woman has alleged that eight hockey players sexually assaulted her in June 2018 on the sidelines of a Hockey Canada Foundation gala in London, Ontario.
For one thing, HC executives commissioned an internal investigation by a Toronto law firm to shed light on the matter. However, on the other hand, they did not force any of the players present in London to collaborate with the investigators. The investigation obviously failed. So they torpedoed their own approach.
What’s more, Renney and Smith didn’t even agree on the number of players who collaborated with the investigators. That says a lot about the interest they took in this terrible matter.
Therefore, for four long years, none of the alleged aggressors has been identified, concerned or punished. And HC didn’t try to find out more. However, when the alleged victim filed a $3.55 million civil lawsuit last April against Hockey Canada, the three major Canadian junior hockey leagues and the eight alleged attackers, HC took full responsibility for the case by quickly concluding a friendly agreement with a confidentiality clause.
If Renney and Smith saw this appearance in Parliament as a visit to the dentist, the soft approach surrounding their handling of the case changed everything. The chosen ones have just tied them to their chairs and are about to pull out their teeth one by one.
The next few months will be extremely difficult for Hockey Canada and the leaders of Canadian junior hockey.
Last Wednesday, 48 hours after Renney and Smith’s appearance, Sports Minister Pascale St-Onge announced that government funding for Hockey Canada had been frozen.
To begin receiving the roughly $7 million in subsidies paid to it annually, HC will have to publish the investigative report submitted to it by the Toronto law firm into the alleged gang rape.
At the same time, HC will no longer receive public funds until the federation joins the new Office of the Integrity Commissioner. This independent body has the power to investigate federations and impose sanctions on them when complaints are filed against them.
In addition, the House of Commons unanimously adopted a motion by Bloc Québécois MP Sébastien Lemire calling for an independent investigation to be launched. This investigation will aim to shed light on how HC leaders handled the situation from the moment they learned of the gang rape allegations.
Parliament also wants to know how Hockey Canada deals with all the sexual assault cases (one or two cases per year) that come to its attention. This latest statistic particularly appealed to elected officials in Ottawa.
Parliamentary privilege allows ordering and forcing the production of documents. And it also makes it possible to order the appearance of witnesses. Thus, one would expect, for example, that independent investigators would have access to all of the emails, exchanges, and documents that circulated within Hockey Canada in connection with this alleged gang rape and the manner in which it was settled out of court with the victim.
On Thursday, the camera that surrounded the last meeting of the members of the Heritage Committee was lifted. Later we learned that other appearances are scheduled for mid-summer, on July 26 and 27, to clarify this case.
Much to his chagrin, Hockey Canada executives will have to show up again. But first, they will need to provide the committee with a copy of the confidentiality agreement entered into with the alleged victim, as well as copies of communications between Hockey Canada and the youth teams, as well as various documents covered by legal professional secrecy. of the federation. .
The commissioners of the three major Canadian junior hockey leagues will also be subpoenaed to testify.
Last Monday, Hockey Canada officials testified that youth teams were told in early 2018 that their players may be involved in an alleged gang rape story. It will be interesting to see what action team and league leaders have taken with their athletes in the wake of such troubling allegations.
You can also ask the three commissioners why they shelved, in late 2020, a report they commissioned that revealed misbehavior has become a cultural norm in youth hockey and a law of silence prevents athletes report abuse.
The commissioners of the three major Canadian junior hockey leagues could perhaps also explain why the three credible authors of the report (Danièle Sauvageau, Sheldon Kennedy and former New Brunswick Premier Camille Thériault) were denied permission to comment publicly. the findings of your research. .
Also among the witnesses subpoenaed is Glenn McMurdie, who was Hockey Canada’s vice president of insurance and risk management at the time of the alleged 2018 breach.
Mr. McMurdie, who worked for more than three decades at HC, will likely have to explain why, on his LinkedIn account, he claims to have gained particular experience with complex insurance claims, including those related to sexual abuse.
In short, it comes from everywhere. The bulk of the storm is approaching.
The embarrassing questions are piling up and, remarkably, all the political parties represented in Ottawa seem to have decided to band together to shed light on this alleged gang rape and bring about a culture change within Canadian hockey.
For these reasons, it is clear that Hockey Canada will not be able to put the toothpaste back in the tube. Therefore, it would be very surprising if the current management team survived this shocking episode.
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