Hockey Canada’s non-disclosure agreement in crosshairs of parliamentary committee

Click to play video: 'Trudeau calls Hockey Canada’s behaviour ‘unacceptable’ amid investigation into sex assault allegations'
Trudeau calls Hockey Canada’s behaviour ‘unacceptable’ amid investigation into sex assault allegations
Accused by Interim Conservative Party Leader Candice Bergen of “covering up bad behaviour” by Hockey Canada amid an investigation into sex assault allegations, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called the organization’s behaviour “unacceptable” during question period on Tuesday – Jun 21, 2022

The non-disclosure agreement covering Hockey Canada‘s settlement of a lawsuit alleging sexual misconduct is now in the crosshairs of a new parliamentary committee request for documents about the organization’s handling of the matter.

The Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage met behind closed doors on Wednesday afternoon. Late Thursday afternoon it published the minutes of that meeting.

They detail the decision of the committee to formally request documents about how Hockey Canada handled the allegation of sexual assault in 2018 against multiple players on the World Junior championship team — in time for two meetings next month.

On July 26 and July 27, the committee will invite Sports Minister Pascale St-Onge back to testify.

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It is subpoenaing officials from Hockey Canada, the Canadian Hockey League and Sport Canada, and also inviting witnesses from the insurance company BFL Canada and Henein Hutchison, which is the external firm that probed the allegations.

The committee is requesting copies of communications between Hockey Canada and teams and players about the alleged sexual assault, as well as a copy of the non-disclosure agreement that is redacted in order to protect identities.

Members of Parliament on the committee also want minutes of meetings held by Hockey Canada and the Hockey Canada Foundation subject to solicitor-client privilege, litigation privilege and settlement privilege from June 2018 until July 15, 2022.

Of note, the committee does not yet appear to have used its power to order the documents be released.

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“Parents who have kids in hockey have the right to know why Hockey Canada handled this case in such an irresponsible manner,” said the NDP’s Peter Julian in a statement about the decision.

“And they deserve to know what their government is doing concretely for a real culture change in the face of sexual misconduct and assault connected to Hockey Canada and other sports organizations across the country.”

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The organization remains deep within a firestorm of scrutiny over its handling of sexual assault allegations stemming from 2018. A lawsuit filed earlier this year alleged eight players on the national junior team sexually assaulted a woman in a hotel room in London, Ont. at the time.

The allegations have not been tested in court.

Click to play video: 'Sports minister says government freezing funds for Hockey Canada amid scrutiny'
Sports minister says government freezing funds for Hockey Canada amid scrutiny

Hockey Canada settled the lawsuit in May, and is now facing a financial audit due to wrap on July 22 about its handling of the matter and whether any federal funds were used in connection with the deal.

Amid the intense scrutiny, Sports Minister Pascale St-Onge said on Wednesday she is freezing federal funding to the organization until it signs up with newly created Office of the Sport Integrity Commissioner — which was created to ensure independent investigation of abuse allegations.

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St-Onge said Hockey Canada will also have to make public the report and recommendations it received from Toronto law firm Henein Hutchison LLP, which did the initial external probe of the allegations, along with its plan to change the “culture of silence” in the organization.

During question period on Tuesday, St-Onge had said she was “not satisfied” with the testimony from Hockey Canada top leaders the previous day at the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Tuesday called the organization’s handling of the allegations “unacceptable,” while St-Onge said Hockey Canada will be “held accountable.”

Scott Smith, president of the organization, had been asked by Liberal MP Anthony Housefather how many other allegations of sexual assault Hockey Canada has received over the past decade.

In response, Smith said they have received one to two allegations of sexual assault per year for the past five or six years, which would cover the period extending back to 2016 or 2017.

Click to play video: 'Hockey Canada executives testify about sexual assault lawsuit settlements'
Hockey Canada executives testify about sexual assault lawsuit settlements

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