Feds to investigate Hockey Canada sexual assault allegations

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The Canadian government has put Hockey Canada under the microscope.

Sports Minister Pascale St-Onge has ordered a financial audit of an out-of-court settlement involving a woman who alleged she was sexually assaulted by junior hockey players following a Hockey Canada event in London, Ont.

A motion also passed Thursday in Canada’s House of Commons summoning Hockey Canada to Canadian Heritage’s standing committee “to shed light on its involvement in a case of alleged sexual assaults committed in 2018.”

As first reported by TSN, the woman accused eight Canadian Hockey League players, including members of the 2018 national junior team that won world junior gold that year, of sexual assault following a Hockey Canada Foundation gala in London, Ont., in June of 2018.

She filed a $3.55-million lawsuit against Hockey Canada, the CHL and the unnamed players. The lawsuit was settled. The allegations against the players were never proven in court.

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Hockey Canada refused comment Friday on the forensic audit and the committee summons. A spokesperson referred The Canadian Press to a previous statement in response to the settlement:

“Hockey Canada is deeply troubled by the very serious allegations of sexual assault regarding members of the 2017-18 National Junior Hockey Team. As soon as Hockey Canada became aware of this matter in 2018, we contacted local police authorities to inform them. The same day, we also retained Henein Hutchison LLP, a firm with extensive experience in this area, to undertake a thorough independent internal investigation and make recommendations on areas for improvement which we have been implementing and will continue to pursue.”

“The person bringing the allegations forward chose not to speak with either police or with Hockey Canada’s independent investigator and also chose not to identify the players involved. This was her right and we fully respect her wishes.”

“We have settled this matter and as part of that settlement, we will not be commenting further.”

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But neither the Canadian government nor the NHL appear willing to close the book on the matter.

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St-Onge said in a scrum with reporters before Thursday’s question period in Ottawa she wants a forensic audit of the settlement to ensure Hockey Canada didn’t use taxpayer dollars to settle the case.

“What I want to know and what I think all Canadians want to know is, was there any public funds used to cover up that horrible story of collective rape?” St-Onge asked.

“The other thing that Canadians want to know is how could such an important organization make sure that their players are not accountable for these allegations and that most of them are now playing the NHL. And I think that Canadians deserve to know.”

Safe sport has been at the forefront of St-Onge’s first eight months in the sports portfolio because of a recent spate of complaints about abuse and maltreatment in high-performance sport.

The minister has declared she will hold organizations’ feet to the fire to clean up inappropriate and abusive behaviour.

Government assistance accounts for six per cent of Hockey Canada’s funding, according to the organization’s 2020-21 annual report which didn’t specify how much money that is.

Hockey Canada received a total of $7.8 million in Own The Podium high-performance funding for its men’s and women’s national teams in the four-year quadrennial between the 2018 and 2022 Winter Olympics.

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Own The Podium makes funding recommendations directing Sport Canada money to federations based on medal potential.

Since the defendants could potentially be NHL players now, that league is conducting its own analysis.

“The National Hockey League was advised of a lawsuit involving sexual allegations filed against eight unnamed members of the 2018 Canadian World Junior hockey team,” the NHL said in a statement.

“We were subsequently provided with the statement of claim, containing allegations of behaviour that is both abhorrent and reprehensible.”

“We will endeavour to determine the underlying facts and, to the extent this may involve players who are now in the NHL, we will determine what action, if any, would be appropriate.”

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