Government freezes Hockey Canada funds, new investigation demanded

The Government of Canada has decided to temporarily freeze the millions of dollars it was paying to Hockey Canada, while all elected members of the House of Commons believe that an independent investigation into the organization is necessary .

Government freezes Hockey Canada funds, new investigation demanded

The Government of Canada has decided to temporarily freeze the millions of dollars it was paying to Hockey Canada, while all elected members of the House of Commons believe that an independent investigation into the organization is necessary .

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Federal Sports Minister Pascale St-Onge confirmed her decision on Wednesday afternoon.

“On Monday, Hockey Canada's testimony did not provide us with enough information. We haven't learned much, but what we have learned is deeply disturbing,” she said.

“The organization said it would not share with the committee any advice it received from the independent firm or how it intends to act on that advice. We also learned that the independent investigation could not be completed and that the eight players had not been identified either. This is unacceptable,” she added.

The Minister established two conditions for the resumption of funding: on the one hand, that Hockey Canada send Sport Canada the "although partial" report of its independent mechanism, which includes "a plan that details how they will implement the recommendations in the organization.

Second, Hockey Canada will need to join the Office of the Sport Integrity Commissioner and work “closely to change the culture of silence” if the organization hopes to touch federal funds.

Called to comment on the leadership of the organization, Ms. St-Onge did not mince words: “deficient”, “inappropriate” and “from another era”.

The statement comes two days after senior Hockey Canada officials testified before the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage in the House of Commons. It all concerned the out-of-court settlement of a lawsuit brought by a woman who alleged she was sexually assaulted by eight Junior Team Canada players in 2018.

"It's about changing a deeply rooted culture, it's not just about band-aid solutions," said Minister St-Onge.

"I'm going to use every tool at my disposal to make sure people are held accountable for what's happening in the hockey world."

An independent investigation called for

On Wednesday afternoon in the Commons, elected officials from all parties supported a Bloc Québécois motion calling for an independent investigation "into Hockey Canada's management of the June 2018 events, to find out if it was of an isolated event or if there are deficiencies in the way Hockey Canada deals with complaints of sexual assault, sexual harassment and other types of misconduct that are reported to it”.

All parties had expressed their dissatisfaction after the committee hearing of senior Hockey Canada officials.

Recently, Hockey Canada requested $2.2 million from the Canadian government to help it recover from the effects of COVID-19. This money will not be allocated as long as the federation has not met the requirements of the political authorities.

Hockey Canada has received approximately $14 million in grants from the federal government over the past two years.

Disturbing revelation

During testimony Monday, CEO Scott Smith declined to discuss two other sexual assault complaints that are currently being investigated by Hockey Canada. He also indicated that his organization receives two or three sexual assault complaints a year.

"This is the most disturbing revelation we have heard," said St-Onge. To me, that can't be the status quo for Hockey Canada, one of the strongest sports organizations in Canada. This culture can no longer be protected.”

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