Sports Minister calls for ‘change’ at Hockey Canada as calls for resignations mount
Warning: This story contains details of a sexual nature that may upset readers.
As calls mount for leaders of Canada’s national hockey organization to step down over sexual misconduct scandals, federal sports minister Pascale St-Onge calls for ‘change’ within the organization.
St-Onge told CBC News The House that she was horrified by the details of a video a man said he viewed of an alleged 2003 gang sexual assault involving junior hockey players of that year.
Asked if news of the video and other misconduct scandals that have come to light recently should lead to resignations among Hockey Canada executives, St-Onge said the organization has lost “confidence Canadians”.
“I am as worried as all Canadians,” she said. “Furthermore, my fellow parliamentarians (…) have called for the resignation of the board of directors and the resignation of the administrators.
“I feel the same, that there needs to be changes within the organization.”
CBC News: The House11:35Sports Minister responds to Hockey Canada crisis
“I’m using all the tools I have…to create and force this change on Hockey Canada. But at some point they also have to look at themselves…Are they the right people to implement the change that Canadians They have to take responsibility for what is happening within their own organization and so far , that was not enough.
The comment is one of the strongest St-Onge has made about Hockey Canada’s leadership. She previously said more diversity was needed in senior positions in the hockey organization and its board of directors.
“Extremely disturbing and horrifying”
A man who said he saw the video told CBC News he recently shared with police the names of two players he recognized in the footage who went on to NHL careers.
The man said the video showed the two players entering a hotel room where about six other players were standing naked and masturbating around a very drunk woman while someone penetrated her.
“It’s extremely disturbing and horrifying,” St-Onge said. “I think it’s pretty clear that there are problems in this sport.”
St-Onge said it was “a huge problem for society” that players who allegedly committed assaults “have not been held accountable”.
Police are investigating three allegations of gang sexual assaults by former junior hockey players. The allegations cover the period from 2003 to 2018.
All reportedly involve a group of players degrading an inebriated lone woman. In two of the cases, police reopened investigations in the past month in response to public outrage over the lack of charges.
None of the allegations have been proven in court.
“Culture of Silence”
When asked if these three cases were just the tip of the iceberg, St-Onge said it was hard to know.
“It raises extremely concerning questions about what happens at these events, in the post-tournament celebration,” St-Onge said. “And how these players are educated about sexual violence, consent and all these topics that we talk about [about] now in society.”
St-Onge said Hockey Canada “needs to recognize the magnitude of the problem.”
To date, only one Hockey Canada executive — Board Chair Michael Brind’Amour — has resigned ahead of schedule.
Olympic champion Marnie McBean confirmed to CBC News that a crisis management firm hired by Hockey Canada recently revoked an offer to put her on a watchdog group because they made it clear they wanted members of management be removed.
St-Onge said she cannot ask Hockey Canada executives to resign because all government-funded sports organizations are independent. But she said the organization needs to look closely at itself and take responsibility for what is happening.
Since becoming sports minister more than eight months ago, St-Onge has been made aware of a large number of allegations against at least eight different sports organisations, her office said.
The allegations include sexual violence, mistreatment and psychological abuse, St-Onge said. In some cases, she added, coaches have been accused of crossing the line and pushing athletes too far to be their best.
In April, St-Onge announced that Canada would open the first Office of the Sports Integrity Commissioner to oversee a complaints intake process, conduct preliminary investigations and maintain a database of sanctions imposed.
This new office began accepting incident reports on June 20.
But Sport Integrity Commissioner Sarah-Eve Pelletier told CBC News her office can only investigate incidents involving national sport organizations that have signed on.
Negotiations on bringing more than 40 sports organizations into the commissioner’s office — on issues such as insurance and legal liability — are underway, Pelletier said. So far, only four organizations have joined the effort: the Canada Games Council, Canada Sport for Life, Volleyball Canada and Weightlifting Canada.
This means that the office must reject complaints involving other organisations.
“Right now, if people can’t have their complaints handled by us, maybe it’s not a good use of time if they file a complaint,” Pelletier told CBC News. “Because unfortunately he won’t be able to go any further at this stage.”
Hotline under fire
Some cases may be referred to Sport Canada, which launched a sports helpline in 2018.
This hotline has recently come under fire for its handling of hockey-related complaints. CBC News reported this month that, until recent months, callers to this hotline who wanted to report bad hockey experiences were referred to either a law firm or an insurance adjuster. insurance – both chosen by Hockey Canada.
The law firm – Henein Hutchinson – is a well-known criminal defense firm known for its high-profile court cases, some involving the defense of individuals accused of sexual assault. St-Onge said he’s heard from athletes that third-party organizations paid directly by sports organizations don’t feel “independent enough.”
Henein’s company has been retained by Hockey Canada to investigate allegations of gang sexual assault by members of the 2018 World Juniors team in London, Ont.
Hockey Canada pledged to sign with the Office of the Sports Integrity Commissioner last month as part of its plan to address what it calls “toxic behavior” on and off the ice. He hasn’t done it yet.
St-Onge said sports organizations like Hockey Canada will have to submit to the Office of the Sports Integrity Commissioner by April 2023. When asked why the office was opened before all sports organizations n signed, St-Onge said the athletic commissioner is independent. and responsible for its operation.
“What we have done as a government is provide in the last budget $16 million so that they have all the resources they need to put this new system in place,” she said. declared.
“We are creating something new in Canada that has never existed before.”
Pelletier said her office is in its early stages and “working hard and fast” to begin preventing and responding to reports of abuse and discrimination.
“There is simply no place for any form of abuse in sport,” Pelletier said. “We will work hard to fulfill our mandate and be part of the change the sport system needs right now.”
A House of Commons committee holding public hearings into Hockey Canada’s handling of sexual assault allegations is set to resume next month when Parliament returns.