Hockey Canada says players were not required to cooperate in 2018 sexual assault investigation – National

Youth hockey players who may have been involved in an alleged sexual assault at a hockey canada event in 2018 were not required to cooperate in a research on the matter, the organization’s top executives told lawmakers on Monday.

Outgoing chief executive Tom Renney and president and chief operating officer Scott Smith, who will soon replace Renney as chief executive, told a House of Commons committee that players were “encouraged” instead. to cooperate.

Because of that, the pair couldn’t definitively say how many players participated and gave wildly different answers when pressed by lawmakers.

“I’m not sure, but due to the incomplete (investigative) report, there’s not much more we can offer in terms of information in that regard,” Renney said, after suggesting only four to six players spoke to investigators. .

“I think the number is higher than that, I just don’t have that at my fingertips,” Smith added, after Renney referred to him for more “definition” of his response. “But it definitely wasn’t four to six.”

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The executives were called to testify after TSN reported Hockey Canada had settled a lawsuit with a woman who accused eight Canadian Hockey League players, including members of the 2018 junior national team that won junior world gold that year, of sexual assault following a Hockey Canada Foundation gala. in London, Ontario, in June. of 2018.

According to the lawsuit brief, the woman claimed she was repeatedly assaulted while intoxicated in a hotel room.

He filed a $3.55 million lawsuit against Hockey Canada, the CHL and the anonymous players. The lawsuit has been settled, but details of the settlement have not been released. The accusations against the players were never proven in court.

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The Canadian Heritage committee was charged in part with ensuring that no taxpayer money was used in the deal. Government assistance accounts for 6 percent of Hockey Canada’s funding, according to the organization’s 2020-21 annual report, which did not specify how much money that is.

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Renney said Monday that no public funds were used, while Smith said a portion of Hockey Canada’s investments were liquidated to pay for the deal, adding that government funds are kept separate from those accounts.

But the audience quickly expanded to broader issues of accountability and responsibility.

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Renney and Smith testified that Hockey Canada notified London police and an outside investigator, Henein Hutchison LLP, within hours of learning of the woman’s stepfather’s allegations the day after the alleged incident.

Both investigations were suspended in September 2020, they added, and they did not reveal the identities of the eight players who were allegedly involved.

“That third party, nor the London Police Service, could confirm who the accused were,” Smith said.

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Because the woman did not wish to speak to investigators or identify her alleged abusers, no further efforts were made to identify the players involved, executives said.

Renney’s estimate that only four to six of the 19 junior team members were known to have been involved in the investigations attracted the most concern and attention from committee members.

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When pressed again near the end of his testimony, Smith altered the number again to say that he was “pretty sure” it was between 12 and 13.

“I think the number that Mr. Renney was referring to was not necessarily the number that did participate, but the number that did not,” he said.

Smith said discussions are currently underway to change the code of conduct so players can be forced to participate in future investigations.

He and Renney pointed to the appointment of a director of safe sport and other steps the organization is taking to improve the culture within Hockey Canada. Some of those steps are direct responses to the alleged 2018 incident, including cracking down on underage drinking at public events and strengthening mandatory sexual harassment training.

However, Renney also admitted that “the lines are blurred” between Hockey Canada’s required conduct of players during competition and practices, and at public events such as the London gala, a divide the organization is working to address.

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MPs raised concerns that the players involved may still be playing on teams, including in the National Hockey League, and could even become coaches one day. The NHL has launched its own investigation into the matter.

However, Renney repeatedly suggested that those players would only face disciplinary action if the woman changed her stance and came forward with identifying information.

“I’m concerned that if she does in fact wish not to be identified, and at this point she wishes the players not to be identified, I really don’t know what else we can do in that regard,” he said.

No report disclosure, settlement

Renney said that because the investigations are incomplete, a report they received from Henein Hutchison on their findings is also incomplete and could not be published, even if redacted, as it would be “speculative.”

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Smith also did not say whether there is a confidentiality agreement in place to protect the details of the settlement, telling the committee only that they are “covered by the settlement privilege.”

However, Sports Minister Pascale St-Onge later told the committee that Renney had called her on May 24, two days before the TSN report was published, to alert her to the allegations, and that a NDA prevented him from giving details about the deal.

The committee has the power to subpoena Hockey Canada for any documents related to the investigations and the settlement, which would nullify attorney-client privilege.

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Executives were also unable to provide details of at least two other separate active investigations into sexual assault allegations involving Hockey Canada players.

Smith estimated that Hockey Canada sees between one and two allegations of sexual violence reported to leadership per year over the last five years.

“Let me be clear, just one is too many,” Smith said.

“We certainly have a problem. How widespread that problem is, I’m not sure. … If we have issues like this in the game, even if they are limited in scope or limited in number, it is an issue that is important to you and me and to all Canadians, and it is an issue that we need to remove from the game. ”

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St-Onge told the committee he had no details of any other sexual assault investigations.

She ordered a financial audit of the deal, with which Hockey Canada has said it will cooperate.

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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