Hockey Canada faces backlash over survey into sexual assault allegations

A recent survey distributed by Hockey Canada has left some shaking their heads over what they see as out-of-touch questions about the organization’s handling of sexual assault allegations.

The survey, seen by CBC News, was distributed to parents, volunteers and coaches, in order to gauge opinions about the sport’s national body.

It has been under intense scrutiny since the news broke this spring. of an alleged sexual assault after a 2018 gala in London, Ontario, which involved eight unnamed players, including members of that year’s world junior team, and the subsequent settlement.

accusations of another gang sexual assault involving the 2003 world junior team surfaced in July. None of the accusations have been proven in court.

Participants were asked to rate their level of agreement with several statements, including:

  • “The level of media criticism of Hockey Canada is overblown.”
  • “It is unlikely that incidents like this will happen again.”
  • “The allegations are only about a few hockey players and are not representative of the hockey culture in this country.”

They were also asked to weigh in on how important it is for Hockey Canada, as it works “to address systemic issues in hockey,” to “discontinue the use of membership dues to cover sexual misconduct claims without insurance.”

Hockey Canada told a parliamentary committee that it took most of the money from its settlement from its National Equity Fund, which is funded in part by minor league hockey registration fees, a fact that has sparked public outrage.

The organization said in July that no longer use the fund to settle such claims.

‘How can they be so clueless?’

Lisa Wallace is a sportswriter from Ottawa, who covers all levels of hockey, from minor hockey to the NHL, and has a 15-year-old son who plays AAA hockey.

“I was doing a survey [and] I was literally shaking my head and reading some of these questions, because I was like, ‘How can they be so clueless?'” she said.

Whether it’s Hockey Canada or market research firm Forsta conducting the survey, Wallace said he felt those behind the questions didn’t have a good understanding of how people feel about the organization right now.

The question about media coverage also left a bad taste in my mouth.

“I just thought, ‘Really? Is that what you’re worried about? Like people were, you know, worried they were being treated unfairly?'”

Asked about the poll on Wednesday, Sports Minister Pascale St-Onge told reporters in French that she wanted concrete changes from Hockey Canada, not a public relations exercise.

Participants were also asked to express their opinion on whether the sports organization should implement enhanced character assessment for all high-performance players, a comprehensive tracking and reporting system for all allegations of abuse, and offer an apology.

They were also asked if the sports body should “have leadership that is inclusive and diverse”, “explain what happened” and “introduce new leadership”.

In July, Hockey Canada issued an apology and announced that it would reactivate a dormant third-party investigation into the alleged 2018 sexual assault.

It has also appointed attorney Andrea Skinner as interim chairman of its board of directors amid mounting public pressure for a major leadership review.

Range of questions asked

Screenshots of the survey questions are being distributed on social media. “The questions in this poll tell you exactly where their heads are at,” one tweet read. “So @HockeyCanada… is this all media hype? Step up to the mic and say that,” said another.

In a statement, the organization said it was not trying to downplay the challenges it faces or the “horrific allegations of sexual assault against former members of the Junior National Team.”

“Certain survey questions were constructed to gauge sentiment and awareness of the issues facing Hockey Canada from members of the hockey community,” the statement read.

“Regarding some questions recently shared on social media, participants were provided with a variety of statements to answer indicating the extent to which they agreed or disagreed.”

Hockey Canada noted that those statements include “I am reconsidering my son’s involvement in hockey as a result of the allegations” and “There is nothing Hockey Canada can do to restore my confidence.”

Wallace isn’t sure why the sports organization needed a survey in the first place. She said the money could have been spent on better programs, such as instilling the importance of consent.

“It just made me wonder if their leadership isn’t so involved that they don’t understand the pulse of Canadian parents right now. [To the degree] that you feel the need, again, to spend money… to carry out this survey?”

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