Hockey Canada introduces plan to combat ‘toxic’ culture
Hockey Canada released a plan on Monday to combat the “toxic” culture in its sport. It comes ahead of a second round of parliamentary hearings into the organization’s handling of sexual assault complaints.
The plan includes putting together a centralized tracking and reporting system for abuse complaints by the end of September, the results of which will be published annually to “hold Hockey Canada accountable.”
The organization also will publish an annual social responsibility report with information on complaints received at both the national team and subnational levels and a scorecard based on “key performance indicators.” Hockey Canada said it was in the process of identifying the measures to be included in the scorecard.
Hockey Canada did not say what data on the complaints will be made public in the report, but historical allegations of sexual assault will not be included.
Hockey Canada also says it will implement enhanced screening for high-performance players — “considering their behavior and track record outside of their time with Hockey Canada and outside of the rink.” Breaching the organization’s code of conduct or refusing to participate in an investigation could result in a lifetime ban.
The measures are in addition to those announced by Hockey Canada in a July 14 open letter, which came amid intense criticism for the organization’s handling of a sexual assault allegation involving eight players and settlement of an ensuing lawsuit following a 2018 gala in London, Ontario. A second sexual assault allegation involving the Canadian team participating at the 2003 junior championship in Halifax, Nova Scotia, surfaced on Friday.
None of the allegations have been proven in court.
The women’s national hockey team issued a statement Monday directed at Hockey Canada, saying the allegations are “extremely disturbing and wholly unacceptable” and that the team “intend to be part of the fight for the truth.”
“All of the facts related to this terrible situation must — and will — come to light,” the letter said. “After all, the only way to treat an injury is to acknowledge it fully.”
The team also said that the governing body’s plan is encouraging but “much more work and action” is needed to “fully address the underlying issues,” as is having “women sitting at the table as this process evolves.”
Hockey Canada had its federal funding frozen and multiple corporate partners pause sponsorships after former chief executive Tom Renney and current president and CEO Scott Smith testified about their handling of the 2018 allegation in a parliamentary hearing on June 20. Smith and Renney said the 19 players present at the Ontario event were “strongly encouraged´´ to speak with third-party investigators, but not mandated to do so.
Hockey Canada plans an independent review of its governance and a commitment to become a full signatory to the Office of the Sport Integrity Commissioner, a new government agency with the power to independently investigate abuse complaints and levy sanctions. Hockey Canada also said previously it would create an independent mechanism to handle complaints at the regional, provincial and local levels, which are not covered by the OSIC.
The Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage will hear testimony Tuesday and Wednesday.
Smith and Renney have been subpoenaed to testify Wednesday, along with the heads of the Canadian Hockey League, Ontario Hockey League, Quebec Major Junior Hockey League and Western Hockey League, as well as Glen McCurdie, Hockey Canada’s former vice president of insurance and risk management.
The Canadian Press reported on July 18 that Hockey Canada maintains a fund that draws on minor hockey membership fees to pay for uninsured liabilities, including sexual abuse claims. That fund will no longer be used to settle sexual assault claims.
The action plan released Monday also includes mandatory chaperones for underage athletes at Hockey Canada events to enforce curfews and ensure no alcohol is consumed, as well as no more “open bar” events.
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