The Canadian government has restored funding to Hockey Canada.
Hockey Canada made the announcement Sunday — and Canadian sport minister Pascale St-Onge made it official — before the Canada-United States gold-medal game at the world women’s hockey championship.
“When we suspended the funding for Hockey Canada, it was never a matter of doing it forever. It was so that the proper change was implemented in the organization,” St-Onge told reporters at the CAA Centre. “I set three conditions for them, they’ve met those three conditions and now we’re reinstating that funding, but it’s not a blank cheque.
“We’re going to ask them to report the situation constantly with Sport Canada. We want to make sure that they keep on going in the right direction and implementing all recommendations from all two reports that were produced in the past few months and we want to make sure that their action plan is actually moving forward.”
Hockey Canada saw its funding shut off by the federal government, while a number of sponsors have pulled dollars since May, when it was revealed a woman alleged she was sexually assaulted by eight players — including members of the 2018 world junior team — following a foundation gala in London, Ont. in June 2018.
Hockey Canada and the woman quietly settled a $3.55-million lawsuit out of court.
The organization then announced members of the 2003 men’s world junior roster — the last time Halifax hosted — were also being investigated for a group sexual assault.
It was also revealed that Hockey Canada’s little-known National Equity Fund — maintained by fees collected from players across the country — had been used to pay for uninsured liabilities, including sexual abuse claims.
Hockey Canada executives in July revealed they paid out $8.9 million in sexual abuse settlements since 1989, excluding the 2018 deal.
In order to have its funding reinstated, Hockey Canada needed to meet three conditions outlined by St-Onge, which included:
— Become a full-signatory to Abuse-Free Sport and the Office of the Sport Integrity Commissioner (OSIC);
— Review and implement the recommendations from an independent governance review led by retired Justice Thomas Cromwell;
— And commit to more frequent reporting to the federal government.
“Today marks an important milestone for Hockey Canada in our journey to earn and maintain the trust of Canadians,” Hockey Canada chair Hugh L. Fraser said in a statement. “While I would like to thank Minister St-Onge and the government for their vote of confidence and for their ongoing efforts to prioritize safe sport in Canada, I also wish to stress that we still have work to do to change the culture of our sport.
“This is a significant moment for the future of Hockey Canada, and hockey in Canada, as it will enable us to further our commitment to supporting all levels of the sport.”
A parliamentary committee unanimously passed a motion on March 27, ordering Hockey Canada to hand over a report from an investigation into the 2018 allegations by March 28. Heinen Hutchison Robitaille LLP was hired by Hockey Canada to perform a third-party investigation.
This was followed hours later by Hockey Canada saying that players from the 2018 world junior team will not be considered for international competition until the investigation is complete.
“Well, there’s still police investigations, so they do need to be extremely prudent not to interfere with the ongoing cases open with the local police,” St-Onge said when asked if Hockey Canada had submitted the report. “So we’re giving a chance for these investigations to move forward.”
Hockey Canada elected a new nine-member board in December after the previous board resigned and CEO Scott Smith was ousted as a result of the controversies.
Cromwell recommended the new board serve only a one-year term focused on improving the organization’s governance and safety across the sport.
While Hockey Canada has yet to hire a new CEO, St-Onge expressed her confidence and pleasure with the current leadership.
“I’ve had the opportunity to meet the president of Hockey Canada and also all the board members, and we’ve had extensive discussions about their role. I’m extremely impressed by the diversity at the table right now,” St-Onge said. ” … They’re putting their own credibility in play by joining an organization in a time of crisis, so I know that they’re there for the right reasons.
“In November, there’s going to be a new board that’s coming in, a new CEO as well. Their mandate is only for a year. Their role is to change the governance that inner policies and to put this change in motion, and I think that that’s what they’re doing.”
Banner image: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 16, 2023.