Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Tuesday condemned Hockey Canada’s use of the multimillion-dollar fund to pay for such settlements. The existence of the fund was first reported by the Globe and Mailwho said it “raises new questions about Hockey Canada’s handling of sexual assault allegations” at a time when the organization is under intense scrutiny for its handling of the alleged incident involving members of the country’s 2018 national junior team.
“I think right now it’s hard for anyone in Canada to have faith or trust in anyone at Hockey Canada,” Trudeau said. told reporters. “What we are learning is absolutely unacceptable.”
According to the Globe and Mail report, the National Equity fund, which surpassed $15 million as recently as 2016, is tapping into registration fees paid by players across the country. The organization “has regularly used these funds to settle sexual abuse claims against Hockey Canada, its officers and directors, former coaches or volunteers”, and it has done so “without its insurance company and with a minimum of control exterior”.
In comments to AthleticismCanadian Member of Parliament Chris Bittle called the fund “absolutely shocking, in terms of what most Canadians would consider the pre-eminent sports organization in the country for simply having a slush fund built on children’s registration fees to pay for sexual assault cases.
“It’s also troubling that there was a greater concern to put this in place than to really tackle a culture that would lead to an organization giving up and saying this fund is needed,” Bittle added. .
This latest revelation comes as Hockey Canada, the sport’s national governing body, grapples with the aftermath of its handling of an incident in which a woman alleged that she was sexually assaulted by eight members of the 2018 World Junior National Team after a Hockey Canada Foundation golf event held in June of that year. This led to a police criminal investigation which was closed in 2019. A separate investigation, by a law firm hired by Hockey Canada, was completed in 2020.
In April, the woman filed a lawsuit alleging the assault in a London, Ont. hotel room by the eight players. She sought $3.55 million in damages, but settled with Hockey Canada for an undisclosed amount in May.
In the last days, some players of the 2018 World Junior Team has distanced itself, issuing statements denying any involvement in the incident. London, Ont. On Wednesday, police ordered an internal review of their initial investigation, leading later that day to Hockey Canada announcing that the fund will no longer be used to settle sexual assault complaints.
Last month, Hockey Canada officials were questioned by lawmakers in Canada’s Parliament about the organization’s practices and procedures, including whether it used taxpayers’ money in its out-of-court settlement, to which the former CEO Tom Renney said no government funds were used. Canadian Sports Minister Pascale St-Onge said the government freeze federal funding for Hockey Canadaand several companies with ties to Hockey Canada have suspended their sponsorships of the organization, including Tim Hortons and Scotiabank.
In an open letter last Thursday, Hockey Canada outlined several planned organizational changes, including the reopening of its investigation into the alleged assault.
“We know that we have not done enough to address the actions of some members of the 2018 National Junior Team or to end the culture of toxic behavior in our sport,” Hockey Canada said in a statement. statement at the time. “For that, we unreservedly apologize. We know we need to do more to address behaviors, on and off the ice, that conflict with what Canadians want hockey to be and undermine the many good things that the game brings to our country.