Monday, October 3, 2022

Hockey Canada reopens investigation into alleged 2018 sexual assault

TORONTO ( Associated Press) — Hockey Canada made a series of announcements Thursday in an open letter to Canadians, including reopening a third-party investigation into an alleged sexual assault involving members of the country’s 2018 junior world team.

The national federation said participation in the investigation of the players in question is mandatory, adding that anyone who refuses will be banned from all federation activities and programs with immediate effect. He previously said he “strongly encouraged” players to participate in the investigation of the alleged incident, which occurred at a Hockey Canada function in London, Ontario.

Hockey Canada executive director Scott Smith, who took over on July 1 and has held various positions with the federation since 1995, testified last month that “12 or 13″ of the team’s 19 players were interviewed before they conclude the original and incomplete investigation. in September 2020.

“We know we have not done enough to address the actions of some members of the 2018 junior national team or to end the culture of toxic behavior within our game. For that we apologize unreservedly,” the letter from Hockey Canada said. “We know we need to do more to address behaviors, on and off the ice, that conflict with what Canadians want hockey to be and that undermine the many good things the game brings to our country.”

Hockey Canada quietly settled a lawsuit in May after a woman claimed she was assaulted by eight players, including members of the country’s 2018 gold medal-winning junior team. None of the accusations have been proven in court.

Smith, the then president of Hockey Canada, and outgoing chief executive Tom Renney were questioned by parliamentarians in Ottawa last month after news of the alleged assault and settlement broke. Unhappy with what it heard from executives, the federal government subsequently stopped public funding for the national body. Several companies also suspended sponsorships while they awaited the next steps.

“We recognize that many of the actions we are taking now should have been taken sooner and more quickly,” the letter from Hockey Canada said. “We own that and we will do better to fulfill our responsibilities to Canadians.”

Hockey Canada said it will now require players, coaches, team staff and volunteers associated with its high-performance program to participate in mandatory sexual violence and consent training.

It will also undertake a full third-party review of organizational governance and commits to becoming a full signatory to the Office of the Integrity Commissioner, a new government agency with the power to independently investigate allegations of abuse and enforce sanctions.

Hockey Canada said it will also create an “independent and confidential complaints mechanism” to provide victims and survivors with tools and support to come forward.

Sports Minister Pascale St-Onge said last month that the federal money would only be reinstated once officials submitted the incomplete third-party report and became signatories to the Office of the Integrity Commissioner. Hockey Canada received $14 million from Ottawa in 2020 and 2021, including $3.4 million in COVID-19 subsidies, according to government records.

Hockey Canada did not commit to publishing the full or incomplete report to the government in its letter. Once the investigation is complete, by the same Toronto law firm hired in 2018, it will be forwarded to “an independent adjudication panel of current and former judges who will determine appropriate consequences, which may include a lifetime ban from Hockey Canada activity, on and off the ice.

The woman who made the assault allegation was seeking $3.55 million in damages from Hockey Canada, the Canadian Hockey League and the unidentified players.

“We acknowledge the courage of the young woman involved and respect her decision to participate in the investigation in any way that she chooses,” Hockey Canada wrote Thursday.

Hockey Canada has said that it learned of the incident the day after it allegedly occurred, began investigating and notified police.

Details of the deal have not been made public, but Smith testified before the Canadian Heritage Standing Committee in June that Hockey Canada provided the funds and paid the full sum, adding that no government money was used. St-Onge ordered an audit to make sure that is the case.

The committee will meet on July 26 and 27 to hear more witnesses. It also requested a redacted copy of the confidentiality agreement related to the settlement along with a long list of communications from Hockey Canada.

The NHL is also conducting an investigation because some of the team’s players are now in the league.

Companies that have stopped or withdrawn funds from Hockey Canada or specific events include Scotiabank, Telus, Tim Hortons and Imperial Oil, under its Esso brand.

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