One would have expected that an alleged gang rape involving eight National Junior Team players would have proved a particularly traumatic event for Hockey Canada (HC), an event so disturbing that the leaders of this sports federation would have moved heaven and earth to know. the background of the story and to trace all the steps aimed at ensuring this search for truth.
However, on Monday, outgoing CEO Tom Renney and his successor Scott Smith (who had a career at HC for decades) literally set the dust on fire during their appearance before the Heritage Standing Committee. They arrived unprepared, lacking in transparency and provided explanations irreconcilable with the notions of leadership and common sense.
A 20-year-old woman claimed she was sexually assaulted by eight hockey players in June 2018 on the sidelines of a Hockey Canada Foundation gala in London, Ontario.
On the one hand, HC executives commissioned an internal investigation from a Toronto law firm to shed light on the matter. However, on the other hand, they did not force any of the players present in London to cooperate with the investigators. The investigation obviously failed. So they torpedoed their own approach.
Also, Renney and Smith didn’t even agree on the number of players who teamed up with investigators. This speaks volumes about the interest they have aroused in this terrible story.
For four long years, therefore, none of the alleged attackers were identified, worried or punished. And HC didn’t try to find out more. However, when the alleged victim filed a $ 3.55 million civil suit last April against Hockey Canada, Canada’s three major junior hockey leagues, and eight alleged attackers, HC assumed full responsibility. of the case by quickly concluding an amicable agreement with a confidentiality clause.
If Renney and Smith viewed this parliamentary appearance as a visit to the dentist, the soft focus surrounding their handling of the case changed everything. The chosen ones have just tied them to their chairs and are about to extract their teeth one by one.
The next few months will be extremely difficult for Hockey Canada and the leaders of Canadian Major Junior Hockey.
On Wednesday, 48 hours after Renney and Smith appeared, Sports Minister Pascale St-Onge announced that government funding for Hockey Canada had been frozen.
To begin receiving the roughly $ 7 million annually paid subsidies, HC will have to publish the investigation report presented to him by the Toronto law firm on the alleged gang rape.
At the same time, HC will no longer receive public funding until the federation joins the new Office of the Integrity Commissioner. This independent body has the power to investigate federations and impose sanctions on them when complaints are made against them.
In addition, the House of Commons unanimously adopted a motion by Bloc Québécois deputy Sébastien Lemire calling for an independent investigation. This investigation will aim to shed light on how HC leaders have handled the situation since they learned of the gang rape allegations.
Parliament also wants to know how Hockey Canada treats all cases of sexual violence (one to two cases per year) that come to its attention. The latter statistic particularly attracted elected officials in Ottawa.
The parliamentary privilege allows to order and oblige the production of documents. And it also allows you to order the appearance of witnesses. One would therefore expect, for example, that independent investigators have access to all emails, exchanges and documents circulating in Hockey Canada relating to this alleged gang rape and how an out-of-court settlement was concluded with the victim.
The camera that surrounded the last meeting of the members of the Heritage Committee was raised on Thursday. We then learned that other apparitions are scheduled for mid-summer, on July 26 and 27, to shed light on this case.
Much to their chagrin, Hockey Canada executives will have to appear again. But first they will have to provide the committee with a copy of the nondisclosure agreement concluded with the alleged victim as well as a copy of the communications between Hockey Canada and the junior teams as well as various documents covered by the professional secrecy of the federation’s lawyers. .
Commissioners from Canada’s three major junior hockey leagues will also be sued to testify.
On Monday, Hockey Canada officials testified that youth teams were told in early 2018 that their players could be involved in an alleged gang rape story. It will be interesting to see what steps the teams and league leaders have taken with their athletes in the wake of such troubling allegations.
The three commissioners could also be asked why they set aside, at the end of 2020, a report commissioned by themselves which showed that incorrect behavior has become a cultural norm in junior hockey and that a law of silence prevents athletes from reporting abuse.
The commissioners of the three Canadian majors junior hockey leagues could perhaps also explain why the three credible authors of the report (Danièle Sauvageau, Sheldon Kennedy and former New Brunswick premier Camille Thériault) were denied permission to publicly comment on the results of their research. .
Among the witnesses sued is Glenn McMurdie, who was the vice president of insurance and risk management at Hockey Canada at the time of the alleged rape in 2018.
Mr. McMurdie, who has worked for more than three decades at HC, will likely need to explain why, on his LinkedIn account, he claims to have gained particular expertise in complex insurance claims, including those related to sexual abuse.
In short, it comes from everywhere. The bulk of the storm is coming.
The awkward questions are piling up and, remarkably, all the political parties represented in Ottawa seem to have decided to join hands to shed light on this alleged gang rape and to bring about a change of culture within Canadian hockey.
For these reasons, it is clear that Hockey Canada will not be able to put the toothpaste back in the tube. It would therefore be very surprising if the current management team had survived this shocking episode.