The sports minister has frozen Canadian hockey government funding as a result of a settlement of sexual assaults

The federal government has alerted Hockey Canada.

Sports Minister Pascale St-Onge announced on Wednesday that the organization’s access to public funds had been frozen with immediate effect in response to its alleged sexual assault and subsequent out-of-court settlement.

The move comes after Hockey Canada President Scott Smith and outgoing CEO Tom Renney were grilled by MPs earlier this week during a hearing from the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage.

“We all expected answers to all the questions, to the many questions we have about how they dealt with the whole situation, when they testified,” St-Onge told reporters in Ottawa. “Unfortunately, we have not received many answers.

“But we’ve learned a few things.”

St-Onge said Hockey Canada would have renewed funding only after the recommendations contained in the incomplete report of a third-party law firm hired to investigate the alleged incident four years ago were released.

Hockey Canada must also become a signatory to the Office of the Commissioner for Integrity, a new government agency with the power to independently investigate complaints of abuse and impose sanctions.

“Given the story itself, which is completely dire, and the whole management of this situation, which is completely inappropriate, I have decided to suspend any future public funding until two very simple but important conditions are met,” St-Onge said.

WATCH Hockey Canada denies public funds used to settle allegations of sexual assault:

Hockey Canada denies that public funds were used to settle allegations of sexual assault

Hockey Canada leaders said before a parliamentary committee they did not use public funds to pay compensation after allegations of sexual assault on players.

Later on Wednesday, the House of Commons unanimously approved Bloc Quebecois MP Sebastien Lemire to conduct an independent inquiry into how Hockey Canada dealt with the allegations.

“[The aim is] to find out if this was an isolated incident or if there are shortcomings in the way Hockey Canada handles complaints about sexual assault, sexual harassment and other forms of misconduct, ”Lemire said in French.

Federal money accounts for six percent of Hockey Canada’s treasury, by organization figures, business development and partnerships (43 percent), financial agencies (14 percent), insurance premiums (13 percent) and interest income (10 percent). cent).

St-Onge was asked if the government would ask Hockey Canada to repay any federal funds in the last four years.

“All options are still on the table,” she replied.

Hockey Canada quietly settled a lawsuit last month after a woman claimed to have her at a gala and golf event in London, Ont, in June of that year.

The 24-year-old has now claimed $ 3.55 million from Hockey Canada, the Canadian Hockey League and unnamed players. Details of the settlement were not disclosed, but Smith said on Monday that no government or insurance money had been used.

None of the allegations have been proven in court.

St-Onge said she learned of the allegations and the settlement just two days before TSN released the story late last month after a call from Renney. Hockey Canada announced that it had informed Sport Canada of the situation in June 2018.

A Hockey Canada spokeswoman did not respond to an email request for comment on Wednesday.

The criminal investigation ended in 2019

Hockey Canada has hired Toronto law firm Henein Hutchison LLP to lead the investigation, but Smith and Renney told MEPs that although players present at the London event were “strongly encouraged” to attend, it is not mandatory.

Members were surprised at Monday’s committee meeting.

Renney initially testified that four to six of the 19 players involved spoke to investigators, while Smith later said the number was 12 or 13.

“The independent mechanism they commissioned to investigate … was unable to complete the investigation and not all players participated, indicating that their mechanism is not working well,” St-Onge said.

Hockey Canada has repeatedly stated that the woman has chosen not to speak to the police or her investigators. Smith and Renney reiterated on Monday that the woman also chose not to identify the players.

Management added that Hockey Canada still does not know the identity of the eight players.

Smith said London police informed Hockey Canada that the crime investigation had been closed in February 2019. The independent investigation ended in September 2020, but Renney said the report was incomplete and should not be made public.

“There is not much more we have to offer in terms of information in this regard,” he said on Monday.

‘unacceptable’

“Hockey Canada has said they will not share with the board the advice they received from the independent company … or how they plan to respond,” St-Onge said in a statement Wednesday. “We also heard that the independent investigation was not completed and eight John Doe players were not identified.

“This is unacceptable.”

The NHL, which has also recently learned of the allegations, is conducting its own investigation, as some of the players involved are now in the league.

Hockey Canada received $ 14 million from Ottawa between 2020 and 2021, including $ 3.4 million in COVID-19 grants, according to government records obtained by CBC and TSN.

Smith said Hockey Canada had reported three sexual harassment complaints in recent years, including an incident in London, but would not discuss the other two before the committee.

“I can’t comment on the level of investigation,” Smith said, adding that in the last five or six years, there have been one or two complaints of sexual misconduct.

Not good enough, according to St-Onge.

“I cannot accept this standard as a regular business in our national sports organizations,” she said in a statement.

“And Canadians shouldn’t either.”

Ferdinand Medina

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