House of Commons passes motion to ask for an independent investigation into Hockey Canada

The House of Commons unanimously passed a motion calling for an independent investigation into how Hockey Canada handled sexual assault allegations in 2018, which was made public in a lawsuit the national governing body resolved last month.

The motion, proposed by the deputy of the Bloc Québécois Sébastien Lemire, was presented to carry out an investigation “to understand if it was an isolated event or if there were shortcomings in the way Hockey Canada handles complaints of sexual assault, harassment sexual and other types of misconduct. “

“This is not biased. This is responsibility and a change of culture,” said MP Michelle Ferreri Atletico to the question about universal support for action.

A young woman filed a lawsuit claiming she was sexually assaulted by eight players in a hotel room in London, Ontario following a Hockey Canada Foundation event in June 2018. The lawsuit, filed in April in the Superior Court of Ontario, was settled in an out-of-court settlement last month.

News of that deal sparked protests over transparency, and on Monday the Canadian Heritage Standing Committee criticized Hockey Canada officials, including President Scott Smith and outgoing CEO Tom Renney. At that hearing, those officials said they did not know the identities of the eight players identified as John Doe’s defendants in the lawsuit, despite having resolved the lawsuit on their behalf. It was also revealed that Hockey Canada did not require members of the 2018 U20 junior men’s hockey team, the team identified in the lawsuit, to participate in the third-party investigation into the matter.

Members of Parliament questioned Hockey Canada officials how they learned about the incident, how they reported it, and how the organization paid for the deal. Hockey Canada, which receives government funding, said it did not use government money or insurance premiums to pay for the deal, but instead liquidated the investments to obtain the funds.

Ferreri said timing is of paramount importance so that any investigation doesn’t drag and trauma potential victims again. While it’s not immediately clear what the investigation would encompass, she’d like to see Hockey Canada’s finances examined in more detail, as well as how the organization has historically dealt with sexual assault complaints. Smith said Monday that the organization has faced one to two sexual assault charges per year over the past five to six years.

The focus, said Ferreri, should be on responsibility, both for individuals and for institutions.

“Nobody had any repercussions from this,” Ferreri said. “Nobody lost their job. Nobody lost a day of work. Nobody was held responsible personally, so I think the investigation really needs to go into that.”

The motion’s approval came just hours after the federal government decided to freeze Hockey Canada’s funding. Sports Minister Pascale St-Onge told TSN that the money will be withheld until Hockey Canada signs up to work with a newly established federal agency to independently review and investigate allegations of abuse.

“It’s about changing a deeply rooted culture, it’s not about simple patch solutions,” St-Onge told TSN.

On Tuesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called the way Hockey Canada handled complaints “unacceptable” and said all options were on the table for answers.

Ferreri said he found Monday’s testimony “disturbing” and felt Hockey Canada officials’ comments on the institution of cultural change were less about introspection and more about reacting to public pressure.

“I think every organization, group, culture, sport sometimes goes through decades of doing things the way they do things until something forces them to realize it’s no longer acceptable,” he said.

(Photo: AP / Marcio Jose Sanchez)

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