A Hockey Canada executive told a House of Commons committee under oath that the organization did not use any government money to settle a lawsuit with an alleged sexual assault victim.
CBC News reported Monday that financial records show that Hockey Canada received $14 million in support from the federal government in 2020 and 2021, including $3.4 million in emergency COVID-19 grants.
But in testimony before the House of Commons standing committee on Canadian Heritage on Monday, Hockey Canada CEO Tom Renney said none of that money was used to settle a $3.55 million lawsuit filed in April. by a woman who alleges she was sexually assaulted by eight former Canadians. Hockey League (CHL) players after a Hockey Canada Foundation event in London, Ontario. in June 2018.
The allegations have not been proven in court.
“I can assure you that no government funds were used in this deal,” Renney said in his opening statement to the committee.
The terms of the settlement and the identity of the parties to the lawsuit are unknown.
Earlier this month, Sports Minister Pascale St-Onge ordered a financial audit of the settlementsaying the move was meant to ensure that taxpayer money was not used to settle the case.
Renney said the organization would fully cooperate with the audit.
When questioned by the committee, Hockey Canada COO Scott Smith said the organization liquidated some of its investments to pay for the deal. The government funding is kept in a separate account, Smith testified.
Renney said the organization moved to resolve the matter quickly because it felt it had a moral obligation to do so.
He said that although Hockey Canada’s independent investigation into the matter was inconclusive, the alleged incident was “unacceptable and inconsistent with Hockey Canada’s values and expectations, and clearly caused harm.”
He added that the organization hopes to address behavioral issues through changes to its code of conduct and improved educational programs.
Renney is set to step down from his post as CEO at the end of this month. He stated that his decision to step aside is unrelated to the alleged facts or the arrangement.
Investigations failed to identify the players.
Renney said that Hockey Canada learned of the reported incident a day after it allegedly occurred, and that organization staff informed London, Ontario. policeman.
Shortly afterward, he said, Hockey Canada hired an outside investigator.
But on Monday, Smith said under questioning that no investigation is active, and that investigations failed to identify the eight players.
“We were unable to confirm the identity of the defendant,” Smith said.
He said that Hockey Canada contacted the unnamed players through a representative and that the independent investigation commissioned by Hockey Canada ended after the settlement.
Executives testified that while Hockey Canada encouraged all players at the event to participate in third-party research, there was little uptake.
Renney and Smith gave conflicting and unclear testimony about how many players were involved.
Renney said that if he had to guess, he would say “four to six” players participated. Smith maintained that the number was higher, but did not give a figure.
Liberal MP Anthony Housefather said he felt there was a lack of effort on the part of Hockey Canada to identify the players.
“The fact that they have not been identified surprises me,” Housefather told the committee.
The plaintiff said in her statement of claim that the eight players, currently identified as John Does one through eight, were members of Canada’s junior national team.
The National Hockey League (NHL) is investigating to determine if any of the eight are playing in the league.
Conservative MP Kevin Waugh raised concerns that players could end up coaching hockey at some point in the future.
He also questioned why the sequence of events was not made public for four years.
“Who made the decision to keep this a secret?” Waugh asked.
Smith responded that Hockey Canada was awaiting the conclusion of the two investigations.
“We did the work that we needed to do and were prepared to respond once the investigation was complete at the criminal level, or once the investigation was completed by our third party, but unfortunately neither could be completed,” Smith said. . committee.