Hockey Canada executives questioned over handling of sexual assault claims in 2018

OTTAWA (Ontario) — Hockey Canada executives should have made members of the gold-medal-winning junior hockey team speak with third-party investigators regarding an alleged sexual assault four years ago. A member of Parliament said this to the executives during Monday's hearing.

A woman claims she was sexually assaulted at the gala event in June 2018 by eight members from the 2018 world junior team. The lawsuit was settled last month.

Hockey Canada president Scott Smith and CEO Tom Renney were called before the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage in Ottawa to testify about how they handled the allegation.

Smith, who will be taking over as CEO for Renney on July 1, stated to the committee that junior players are “strongly encouraged to speak to third-party investigators hired to investigate Hockey Canada. Interviews were not required.

Kevin Wraugh, Conservative MP, stated that Hockey Canada should have required all players to participate in interviews (with an outside law firm). You own that. That is unacceptable.

Smith, who also serves as the national sport body’s chief operating officers, responded that Hockey Canada “borrows” players from other leagues in order to participate in international competitions.

He stated that they had made changes to the code of conduct. “We are discussing right now whether or not it is possible to increase the ability to compel those we borrow to participate with investigations concerning what happens under our custody.”

Bloc Quebecois MP Sebastien lemire suggested that Hockey Canada be played without its logo for one year, “so people will think about this topic… culture in Hockey Canada. And the responsibility that I have.” I believe Hockey Canada is John Doe Number. 9 in this particular case.”

Renney claimed that Hockey Canada learned about the alleged incident when a relative of that woman called its human resources department and that the London, Ontario police were informed that night.

Smith claimed that although it took the story four years to become public, and TSN only reported the details last month the fourth time, there wasn't any cover-up.

He stated that the police were notified. They also engaged a third-party investigator and notified Sport Canada. The young woman was offered support. “That's no indication that we should sweep something under the carpet.”

Smith has not released details of the settlement with the woman but stated that the players alleged to have been involved in the case did not contribute financially, and that no government money had been used.

All allegations against the players were not proven in court.

Smith claimed that London police informed Hockey Canada about the close of their criminal investigation. Hockey Canada, however, continued its investigation through September 2020.

Smith stated that “a lot of people are accepting the allegations in this statement of claim as facts.” “Despite a 26-month period of intensive efforts, we couldn't confirm what had happened that evening. That was the challenge we faced.”

The NHL is now conducting its own investigation after a number of players from the world junior team are currently in the league. Canada's sports minister has ordered a forensic audit to Hockey Canada.

John Nater, Conservative MP for Johnstown, said that nobody was being held responsible for the alleged attack. “No one was denied the right to wear the Maple Leaf on their jersey.” … I've never heard zero tolerance spoken of today. That would be wonderful.

“But if it's really a zero tolerance situation, every player who was there that weekend should be mandated to take part in that review or lose that opportunity and the privilege to be associated with Hockey Canada.”

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