MPs begin another two days of hearings into Hockey Canada’s sex assault settlement

More Hockey Canada officials are appearing before a parliamentary committee this week as fallout continues over allegations that players from two World Junior Championship teams committed group sexual assaults in 2003 and 2018.

The House of Commons heritage committee has called for two days of meetings as it tries to unravel what happened when the organization learned of an alleged group sexual assault following a gala in 2018 involving eight unidentified players.

Hockey’s national governing body has been under intense scrutiny since news of the settlement was first reported by TSN in May. That grew Friday as news broke of another allegation related to the 2003 team.

The federal government has cut off funding and ordered an audit and a number of corporate sponsors have also paused their funding as a result.

Scott Smith, Hockey Canada’s president and COO, and recently retired CEO Tom Renney were grilled by parliamentarians during a committee meeting last month. Both are expected to be back on Wednesday.

MPs will also hear from a partner at the law firm that conducted Hockey Canada’s investigation into the 2018 allegations, CHL President Dan McKenzie and Hockey Canada’s former vice-president of insurance and risk management, Glen McCurdie.

Sport Minister Pascale St-Onge is scheduled to appear on Tuesday.

The committee will also hear from the president and CEO of insurance firm BFL Canada and the commissioners of the QMJHL, WHL and OHL.

The meetings come a day after players from Canada’s most recent Olympic and world championship women’s hockey teams demanded a “thorough and transparent investigation” into the allegations, and say the organization has a lot to do to address “toxic behaviour” in the sport.

“Once the whole truth is out, Hockey Canada and its elected board must ensure that all steps are taken and appropriate measures are put in place to ensure that this kind of behaviour is never again accepted, and never repeated,” the players said in an open letter Monday.

Hockey Canada has responded to the allegations by saying it’s created a plan to combat the toxic culture.

It includes the implementation of a centralized tracking and reporting system for abuse complaints, to be in place by September. It said the results will be published annually to “hold Hockey Canada accountable.”

It also said an independent board will be appointed by Sept. 15 to ensure its plan is implemented.

In May, it was revealed that the sport’s national governing body was told about an alleged assault in 2018 the morning after a gala in London, Ont., attended by players on the gold-medal winning world junior team.

The woman at the centre of the case filed a lawsuit seeking just over $3.5 million in damages from Hockey Canada, the Canadian Hockey League and the unnamed players. Hockey Canada settled the case quickly for an undisclosed amount.

Details of the settlement, including the identities of the complainant and the men involved, have not been made public.

During a June committee hearing, Hockey Canada officials said they had no knowledge of what happened the night of the alleged assault and did not know the identities of the players involved.

Smith told the committee Hockey Canada reported three sexual assault complaints in recent years, but wouldn’t discuss the other two in front of the committee. He added there have been up to two complaints of sexual misconduct each of the last five or six years.

MPs on the committee took issue with the lack of transparency around the allegations. London police investigated in 2018 but did not lay charges. An independent investigation by a law firm hired by Hockey Canada ended without a final report because some players did not participate.

It is now reopening that third-party investigation and says player participation in will be mandatory. Anyone who declines will be banned from all activities and programs.

London police have ordered an internal review into their investigation, and the NHL is also investigating.

The woman’s lawyer said in an email two weeks ago that his client, who did not take part in the 2018 probe or speak with police, “will be participating in the Hockey Canada investigation and will not be commenting to media at this time.”

Last Friday, the organization revealed it learned of allegations of a group sexual assault involving players on Team Canada at the 2003 tournament in Halifax.

Hockey Canada said members of its staff heard a rumour about “something bad at the 2003 world juniors” two weeks ago, but only got details from TSN on Thursday.

Hockey Canada said it immediately contacted Sport Canada and police. Halifax Regional Police have opened an investigation.

None of the allegations have been proven in court. A number of players from the 2018 and 2003 teams have released public statements in the last several weeks denying their involvement and saying they will co-operate with the investigations.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 26, 2022.