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Quitting is ‘not enough’ to change Hockey Canada: former Olympian, MP

Click to play video: 'Hockey Canada brass should leave before they ‘burn it to the ground,’ minister says'
Hockey Canada brass should leave before they ‘burn it to the ground,’ minister says
Hockey Canada is losing more major sponsors amid the amplifying calls to revamp or replace the national governing body. It stems from how the organization handled sex assault claims and had a secret slush fund to settle with accusers. Mike Armstrong reports on the sponsors taking action over Hockey Canada's inaction – Oct 6, 2022

Andrea Skinner resigning from her position as Hockey Canada’s interim board of directors chair is “definitely not enough” to make a difference at the scandal-ridden national sports body, according to former Canadian Olympic skier Allison Forsyth.

“It’s time for more change,” she told The Roy Green Show. “She’s too far from the actual impact of what has happened. The acting leaders that make the decisions everyday are the ones that also need to leave.”

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Before Skinner’s departure Saturday, she held the position for two months before her predecessor, Michael Brind’Amour, resigned in early August, ahead of his term this fall.

After he left, no other senior positions, including CEO Scott Smith, followed suit as they continued to work for Hockey Canada.

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Forsyth, a two-time Olympian has alleged she was sexually abused by Alpine Canada coach Bertrand Charest in 1997 and 1998. Charest was sentenced to 12 years in prison for various sex cries against young skiers under his tutelage in the 1990s.

After appealing, the Quebec Court of Appeal dropped 21 of the 37 convictions against him and reduced his sentence to 57 months, from the date of conviction.

Charest has since been granted full parole and Forsyth has an ongoing lawsuit against Alpine Canada over the matter.

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‘Heads should roll’ member of BC Hockey Hall of Fame demands Hockey Canada changes

Now, Forsyth sees a systemic issue across the nation in national sports organizations.

“We have a massive issue in this country,” she said. “Every sport has an issue with the normalization of behaviours.”

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Anthony Housefather, Liberal MP, lawyer and member of the parliamentary heritage committee involved in Skinner’s questioning, also believes her resignation won’t bring change to Hockey Canada, though he isn’t surprised by her decision to leave.

Skinner was pressed by MPs while appearing before the standing committee on Canadian heritage in Ottawa last week where she said hockey shouldn’t be made a “scapegoat” for culture that exists elsewhere in society.

She also insisted more leadership changes weren’t needed at this time.

“We believe it’s in the best interests of Hockey Canada and for all its participants that the organization’s leadership remain stable,” she said.

Andrea Skinner, Interim Chair of the Board of Directors, Hockey Canada, is pictured on ParlVU as she appears virtually as a witness at a House of Commons Committee on Canadian Heritage on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2022. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

“Andrea Skinner, as her testimony showed, became almost an apologist for Hockey Canada,” Housefather told The Roy Green Show, noting the position the organization took coming into the hearings seemed “a bit delusional.”

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“I think they ended up seeing her as a liability,” he said, calling her departure a “symbolic resignation.”

The national sports body needs to enact a culture that includes a zero tolerance policy for sexual misconduct, according to Housefather, and if action isn’t taken soon, they’ll feel “untold embarrassment yet again.”

“I don’t think they have much time left,” he said, noting although Skinner left, management is still the problem.

“It’s the management that’s there and what they’ve done over the last period of time, which seems to be a very big sense of entitlement in condoning a culture of ‘boys will be boys and let’s pay the people off,” said Housefather.

And, it’s not only Hockey Canada that has problems either, according to Housefather.

“There are great problems in other federations as well,” he said, noting the heritage committee has broadened their study on Hockey Canada to start dealing with other sports.

Pascale St-Onge, federal sports minister, said Skinner’s resignation, and Brind’amour’s before it, are “steps in the right direction.”

“It must now be followed by a process of meaningful change in Hockey Canada’s values and culture. We hope that the remaining members work actively toward the transition to a new leadership and governance team, one that can put in place the training and support that players require, and create an environment free of sexual violence, maltreatment and discrimination,” St.-Onge said in a statement.

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“We expect Hockey Canada to develop not only exceptional athletes, but also to educate and develop citizens who respect women, the public and Canadian law.”

Sebastien Lemire Bloc-Quebecois MP, who also sits on the standing committee, said Skinner made the right decision to resign.

Lemire tweeted in French on Sunday that “for the good of all” Hockey Canada must continue to clean house.

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Since May, Hockey Canada has been under intense scrutiny, after it was revealed that an undisclosed settlement had been paid to a woman who alleged in a $3.55-million lawsuit she was sexually assaulted by eight players – including members of the county’s world junior team – in London, Ont., in 2018.

It has also come to light that the organization kept a fund partly maintained by minor hockey registration fees to pay for uninsured liabilities, including sexual assault and abuse claims.

Since 1989, Hockey Canada has paid out $7.6 million in nine settlements related to sexual assault and abuse claims, not including this year’s payout to the London plaintiff, organization officials testified on Parliament Hill in July.

Multiple governing bodies including Hockey New Brunswick, the Ontario Hockey Federation, Hockey Quebec, and Hockey Nova Scotia have all cut ties with the association.

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The federal government also froze funding to Hockey Canada in June.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also said the government could step in and allow a new national body to replace the scandal-plagued association.

Meanwhile, a growing list of top-tier sponsors including Nike, Telus Corp., Scotiabank, Tim Hortons and Canadian Tire Corp., have also pulled their support in recent says.

Click to play video: 'Sponsors sever ties with Hockey Canada amid sexual assault mishandling'
Sponsors sever ties with Hockey Canada amid sexual assault mishandling

“Recent events” made it clear for Skinner that “it no longer makes sense” for her to continue with the organization, according to a statement released Saturday.

Hockey Canada’s board said it wished Skinner well and thanked her for her “service.”

“We will continue to meet over the weekend to discuss other changes and reforms to the organization,” it said.

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— With files from The Canadian Press

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