Canadian government not closing the book on Hockey Canada’s settled lawsuit

The Canadian government has put Hockey Canada under the microscope.

The Canadian government has put Hockey Canada under the microscope.

Sports Minister Pascale St-Onge has ordered a financial audit of an out-of-court settlement involving a woman who alleged she was sexually assaulted by junior hockey players following a Hockey Canada event in London , Ontario.

A motion was also passed Thursday in Canada’s House of Commons summoning Hockey Canada to the Canadian Heritage standing committee “to shed light on its involvement in an alleged sexual assault case committed in 2018.”

As first reported by TSN, the woman has accused eight Canadian Hockey League players, including members of the 2018 National Junior Team which won world junior gold that year, of sexual assault following a Hockey Canada Foundation gala in London, Ont., in June 2018. .

She filed a $3.55 million lawsuit against Hockey Canada, the CHL and Players Anonymous. The lawsuit was settled. The allegations against the players were never proven in court.

Robert Talach, the plaintiff’s attorney, confirmed that his client had agreed to a settlement but made no further comment.

Hockey Canada declined to comment on Friday’s forensic audit and committee call. A spokesperson referred The Canadian Press to a previous statement in response to the settlement:

“Hockey Canada is deeply troubled by the very serious sexual assault allegations involving members of the 2017-18 National Junior Hockey Team. As soon as Hockey Canada became aware of this case in 2018, we contacted local law enforcement authorities to inform them. To date, we have also retained the services of Henein Hutchison LLP, a firm with extensive experience in this area, to undertake a thorough independent internal investigation and make recommendations on areas of improvement which we have implemented and will continue continue.

“The person making the allegations chose not to speak to the police or Hockey Canada’s independent investigator and also chose not to identify the players involved. It was their right and we fully respect their wishes.

“We have settled this matter and as part of this settlement we will not comment further.”

But neither the Canadian government nor the NHL seem to want to close the book on the issue.

St-Onge said in a scrum with reporters ahead of Thursday’s Question Period in Ottawa that she wanted a forensic check of the settlement to make sure Hockey Canada didn’t use taxpayers’ money to settle the matter.

“What I want to know and what I think all Canadians want to know is were there any public funds used to cover up this horrific gang rape story?” asked St-Onge.

“The other thing Canadians want to know is how can such an important organization ensure that its players are not responsible for these allegations and that most of them are now playing in the NHL. And I think Canadians deserve to know.

Safe Sport has been at the forefront of St-Onge’s first eight months in the sports portfolio due to a recent spate of complaints about abuse and mistreatment in high performance sport.

The minister said she will put organizations on fire to clean up inappropriate and abusive behavior.

Government assistance represents 6% of Hockey Canada’s funding, according to the organization’s 2020-2021 annual report, which does not specify the amount.

Hockey Canada received a total of $7.8 million in Own the Podium high performance funding for its men’s and women’s national teams over the four-year quadrennial period between the 2018 and 2022 Olympic Winter Games .

Own the Podium makes funding recommendations to direct Sport Canada money to federations based on medal potential.

Since the defendants could now be NHL players, that league is conducting its own analysis.

“The National Hockey League has been notified of a lawsuit regarding sexual allegations filed against eight unnamed members of the 2018 Canadian World Junior Hockey Team,” the NHL said in a statement.

“We then received the statement containing allegations of both heinous and reprehensible behavior.

“We will endeavor to determine the underlying facts and, to the extent it may involve players who are now in the NHL, we will determine what action, if any, would be appropriate.”

Author Laura Robinson, who wrote about violence and sexual assault in Canadian junior hockey in the 1998 book “Crossing The Line,” says the hierarchical nature of some men’s hockey teams can lead to abuse of their teammates and can extend to people outside the team.

She draws a direct line between the hazing of her teammates and the sexual assault of women.

“It always happens,” Robinson said. “I looked at what was happening to players mainly in terms of initiations and how they were sexually abused during initiations.

“It was part of the culture to be hazed. It’s always sexualized, it’s always sexual assault and it’s always humiliating. It’s always a performance. I think what the body of the girl, this is the stage where the players perform for each other,” she continued.

“It’s terrible that young people, whether it’s a boy who walks into a bathroom at the wrong time, or a rookie player who gets stuck in a locker room, or a girl who get stuck, you know at a so-called party who they’re the recipients of this highly toxic, very violent, always sexualized masculinity.”

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on June 3, 2022.

Donna Spencer, The Canadian Press