Rarely is sexual abuse covered as publicly as we have seen with cases involving Hockey Canada. Even when former CHL head coach Graham James’s decades-spanning story of abuse came to light, there was no committee in the House of Commons.
Perhaps this is a sign that the hockey community, and society in general, is ready to confront and discuss the rampant problem of rape and sexual abuse. Unfortunately, we have seen very little progress in the way society views these deplorable events. Victims and survivors often live in silence and shame, while perpetrators go on with their lives.
I desperately want to believe that this hearing will change, in a positive way, the way we view and discuss sexual assault and rape and, more importantly, how we discipline and punish perpetrators, but the problem is so widespread that I am not optimistic.
How did we get here with Hockey Canada?
It stems from a lawsuit filed last April by a woman who alleged eight former CHL players sexually assaulted her at a Hockey Canada Foundation event in London, Ontario in June 2018.
Hockey Canada settled the lawsuit in May, but if Rick Westhead’s reporting hadn’t exposed this deal, then we probably never would have made it to the House of Commons Committee. would not have led to globe and mail report on the national equity fund, which is generated by Hockey Canada membership fees and investments according to Hockey Canada CFO Brian Cairo. Cairo said this during his testimony before the House of Commons.
Without Westhead’s initial report, nothing within Hockey Canada would have changed.
At that same hearing, Hockey Canada CEO Scott Smith told the committee that he would not resign from his position and that he was capable of creating the necessary change. I’m sorry, but the organization needs a cleanup. It needs a new direction, new priorities and new leadership. The current regime did not want to change. They were forced to do it. A few months ago, Smith and Hockey Canada paid for the problem to go away quietly. it did not
Smith told the committee that they have paid $8.9 million in sexual abuse settlements to 21 whistleblowers since 1989. And $7.6 million for nine claims came from the National Equity Fund. Most of it, $6.8 million, went to deals related to Graham James.
An additional $1.3 million was paid through insurance to 12 other sexual misconduct claims.
“We haven’t used money to protect our image,” Smith said. “We have used money to respond and support the victims… so we have used money to support the families.” I don’t doubt they believe that, but how come none of his internal investigations uncovered as much as Westhead’s reports? Smith and company may think they’re helping families, but by asking for nondisclosure agreements, it sounds like they were trying to keep things under wraps.
Lately, when you hear the term hockey culture, it’s often negative. I think there are many good things about the game of hockey, but hockey is not immune to sexual abuse, sexual misconduct and other deplorable actions. Sadly, it exists in hockey circles just as it does in football, gymnastics, ballerina, tennis, and just about every sport. Just like it exists in all walks of life, from teachers, lawyers, the church, and many neighborhoods.
Sexual abuse and rape are a major problem in society, and I have noticed that some people in hockey become defensive when the term “hockey culture” is used to describe allegations involving the world’s junior hockey teams. 2018 and 2003. It’s okay to admit there’s a problem within hockey. Instead of trying to deviate from it, all of us involved in hockey need to acknowledge that it exists and stand up and say that it needs to change.
Hockey touches most communities in our country. Many of us play it, continue to play it, are coaches or volunteers or have children involved. Instead of getting defensive saying it happens everywhere, maybe hockey should become a leader in initiating change. If everyone in hockey decides we’ve had enough of protecting perpetrators, or turning a blind eye to sexual abuse, and being the voice of change, then perhaps the rest of society will follow suit.
Waiting for someone else to lead the change has not worked. We’re far from perfect when it comes to racism and homophobia, but at least we’ve made progress in recent years to get better. We still have steps to go, but at least we have taken some in the right direction. There really hasn’t been any positive developments for decades when it comes to sexual abuse.
Child abuse is rampant and the frightening aspect is that 95% of child victims know and trust their perpetrators. In Canada, 30% of women over the age of 15 have reported experiencing sexual abuse at least once. Reports suggest that 10-20% of men experience some form of sexual abuse or assault in their lifetime., but even now, in 2022, male sexual assault is downplayed or mocked if they admit it. Sexual abuse affects children, men and women.
There are a lot of great things about hockey, but right now Hockey Canada has shown that hockey’s largest governing body has a problem. But Smith, and others within Hockey Canada, don’t really admit it, because they’re still there.
Smith added: “If our board (of directors) or the governance review that we have outlined in our action plan suggests that I am not the person, then I am prepared to accept that,” lest he resign on his own. own, but would if the board suggested it.
But how many people on the current board should stay there? Smith is just one person. He shouldn’t be the scapegoat for all of Hockey Canada. He is not the only one who felt that his secret to pay the victims was the best plan. There should be more changes besides him.
My main question is: Does anyone at Hockey Canada have the experience to lead the organization through the murky waters of sexual abuse? How will they tackle it? What guidelines and rules will they establish?
The truth is that all of us involved in hockey need to have uncomfortable conversations about sexual abuse. It can’t be screaming and yelling. It has to be calm and open dialogue and discussions, and it can’t be a one-time online course that people take. That will do very little. This is a deeply rooted problem in hockey and in society, and it needs to be brought to the fore. We can no longer sit back and wait for others to start the awkward conversations.
Waiting has done nothing. Change is needed within Hockey Canada, but also awareness and change within hockey culture. Start there and hopefully the rest of society will take notice and follow suit.
He was scheduled to do play-by-play for the upcoming World Junior Championships on the radio for all Canada games. I was excited to do it last December and enjoyed the two games I called before the tournament was postponed due to COVID, but with recent events and my personal connection to sexual abuse, I have opted not to call the games this month.
I made the decision because my mother, Pearl Gregor, was sexually abused as a child. And two of my close friends were abused. One when she was a teenager taking care of children: when her husband came home, he raped her. My other friend was raped by a co-worker. Unfortunately, the statistics say that I have more friends who have been abused, it just hasn’t been discussed.
My mother has books written about her journey to healing, and that is why I can mention his name publicly. It is not for me to mention the names of my friends, as they were never made public. They had to live with shame and fear for many years and that is not right. They didn’t do anything wrong, but they’ve had to deal with trauma for the rest of their lives. We need to do more to protect victims and support survivors. And we have to punish the perpetrators.
My decision to retire from calling games was mine alone. I don’t expect others to do the same, as they may not have the same personal connection to rape or sexual assault. I respect their decision and I hope they respect mine.
I have worked with the Edmonton Women’s Shelter and been an event host for Little Warriors. They are a wonderful charity that focuses on child sexual abuse awareness, treatment, prevention and advocacy.. I met some of the survivors and heard their stories firsthand. Their courage is inspiring, especially when you hear the details and pain of their stories.
I have spoken many times about the need to change and improve the way we view sexual abuse. I didn’t want to talk about it on my radio show one day, and then the next day they’ll announce games for Team Canada. I want to make it clear that my decision was not based on the players or coaches on this year’s team. They haven’t done anything wrong and they deserve to play. I just didn’t feel like it was the right time to call games.
If I want a change, then I have to be willing to walk away from something that impacts my personal opportunity. I wish the best for the Canadian team.