Hockey Canada officials face MPs about sexual assault payouts


Hockey Canada’s board chair and her predecessor have been summoned to appear before the Commons Canadian Heritage committee Tuesday to face questions about multi-million dollar payouts to victims of sexual abuse.

The embattled governing body has faced a torrent of criticism for its secretive use of player registration fees and other investments to compensate sexual assault complainants.

This summer, after a number of news outlets, including CBC News, broke stories about the existence of these funds, Hockey Canada revealed it has paid out $8.9 million in settlements to 21 complainants with sexual misconduct claims since 1989.

Some of that money was funnelled through the body’s National Equity Fund, with much of it going to settlements related to Graham James, a former junior hockey coach convicted of sexually assaulting young hockey players.

Andrea Skinner, the current chairperson of the board, will face questions about the fund — amid new reporting from the Globe and Mail that there was a second, previously undisclosed fund called the Participants Legacy Trust Fund that was also used to compensate sexual assault victims and settle other lawsuits.

3rd round of testimony for Hockey Canada execs

Skinner replaced Michael Brind’Amour as the board’s chair earlier this year amid pointed questions about his handling of sexual assault in the game. Brind’Amour will also appear before MPs Tuesday.

It will be the third time Hockey Canada executives have testified before the committee since news broke of an alleged sexual assault involving players on Canada’s junior team in 2018, after a Hockey Canada gala in London, Ont., and a hushed settlement between the organization and the complainant.

A second allegation, against members of the 2003 junior team, has surfaced since.

Hockey Canada CEO Scott Smith has previously defended the actions of the governing body, saying the shadowy funds were not designed to protect the governing body’s image but rather to compensate victims. 

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his government have called for major changes at the governing body. Sport Minister Pascale St-Onge has said the sport suffers from a “systemic problem” of sexual violence.

Speaking to reporters before Question Period on Monday, St-Onge said Hockey Canada’s management needs to be “replaced.”

“What I’m expecting is … executive management resignations at this point,” she said.

She said the use of these funds for payouts shows “a total lack of transparency.” 

“What it shows is that sexual violence has been treated as an insurance problem at Hockey Canada instead of a systemic problem that needs to be addressed at the root of the problem,” she said.

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