Hockey Canada did not use public funds for legal settlements, federal audit finds

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Hockey Canada did not use public funds issued by Canadian Heritage to pay for sexual assault settlements or related legal fees, an audit conducted on behalf of the federal government has found.

The audit was conducted by consulting firm Samson & Associates, to determine if Hockey Canada was in compliance with existing contribution agreements with the Canadian government, covering activities between 2018-2019 to 2021-2022 under the Sport Support Program and the Hosting Program.

A summary of the audit made several conclusions, including that funds disbursed by the federal government to Hockey Canada have been used for that intended purpose.

In June 2022, Sport Minister Pascale St-Onge ordered the audit following a TSN report that said Hockey Canada had settled a $3.55 million sexual assault lawsuit. St-Onge requested the investigation to make sure that public funds had only been used to support amateur hockey.

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The lawsuit involved a woman who alleged being sexually assaulted by eight junior hockey players following a Hockey Canada event in 2018 that took place in London, Ont.

In July 2022, Hockey Canada admitted that the organization had paid out nine settlements with a total of $7.6 million from its National Equity Fund since 1989.

Hockey Canada had said then that the organization will no longer use the National Equity Fund, which is generated in part by children’s registration fees, to settle sexual assault claims.

The audit also found that Hockey Canada had an adequate internal control framework and a budgeting process in place as set out in the contribution agreements.

The audit team has provided 11 suggestions to Hockey Canada to improve its management practices and processes, such as aligning the financial coding to the contribution agreement funded categories, reviewing the salaries recorded, and documenting financial processes.

In a statement released on Wednesday, Hugh Fraser, chair of the Hockey Canada Board of Directors, said Hockey Canada is “grateful for the auditor’s review.”

“The Government of Canada is an integral partner in promoting Canada’s game and ensuring communities across the country have access to safe and accessible hockey programming,” said Fraser.

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“We have made significant progress in addressing the government’s concerns to date, and are grateful for the auditor’s review, which serves as another important step in repairing our partnership.”

— with files from the Canadian Press

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