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What You Need to Know After Hockey Canada's Hearing From July 27

Members of parliament involved in the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage inquired about several aspects of Hockey Canada on Wednesday, including its leadership. Here's what you need to know.
Hockey Canada

Questioning intensified on the fourth day of hearings related to an alleged sexual assault in 2018 involving Hockey Canada. Scrutiny from members of parliament involved in the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage inquired about several aspects of Hockey Canada, including its leadership.

Specifically, MPs John Nater and Peter Julian both called for Hockey Canada’s leadership, including President and CEO Scott Smith to step down. Smith stated he would not voluntarily step down unless directed by the board of directors. 

Nater referenced a statement by former NHLer and sexual abuse victim Sheldon Kennedy calling on Smith to resign urging, “I strongly believe there needs to be new leadership within Hockey Canada. Will you step down?" Kennedy had posted a statement on social media saying “The same people with a new plan expecting different results is the definition of insanity. I call for the resignation of Hockey Canada CEO Scott Smith, his leadership team and the board of directors to resign and step down from their positions immediately.”

MP Kevin Waugh added to the idea of calling out past presidents of Hockey Canada and their power to direct the organization stating to Scott Smith, "Bob Nicholson, Tom Renney, and you are too powerful…Hockey Canada needs to change at the board level...this is where it has to start."

Additional information also came forward during the hearing.

Brian Cairo, Hockey Canada’s CFO, confirmed that since the founding of the National Equity Fund, which was used to pay the current victim settlement, has been used for nine settlements totalling $7.6 million. In addition, the firm hired to conduct the independent investigation, Henein Hutchison LLP, led by Danielle Robitaille, was paid $287,000 for their services. 

MPs repeatedly questioned Scott Smith about the processes leading to those settlements, however, he claimed Hockey Canada kept no meeting minutes from in-camera sessions held related to the 2018 settlement or other settlement discussions.

Smith’s demeanor in the initial hearings from June 2022 came under fire throughout the hearing. As MP Adrienne Larouche stated, "It seems you had to be criticized severely...it seems you had to have a knife put to your throat to change,” continuing by claiming Smith and Hockey Canada “used money to protect your image."

While Smith denied using money to protect his, or Hockey Canada’s image, the image and reputation of hockey in Canada was a concern for Canadian Hockey League president Dan MacKenzie who said he wanted “to make sure not to damage the reputation of millions of players, coaches…” in Canada.

Scott Smith repeatedly stated that Hockey Canada, including the creation of a fund to pay victims, specifically in the case of the alleged 2018 assault, focused on the “best interest” and “looking after” the victim. MP Peter Julian rebutted this assertion, stating, "I believe Hockey Canada has failed at its task to protect athletes who are victims, public who are victims." 

MP Karen Vecchio echoed the belief that more could be done related to the 2018 incident saying, "We know there are 8 perpetrators on a hockey team...we weren't doing anything...it was swept under the rug."

The tone was markedly different from Wednesday’s questioning and testimony, which focused on third-party involvement from Heinen Hutchison LLP, Sport Canada, and the Minister of Sport. 

Thursday’s questioning and testimony focused on the perceived failings of Hockey Canada and the Canadian Hockey League in the prevention of issues within the sport and the future plans to solve shortcomings related to assault, abuse, diversity, and inclusion. Specifically related to making hockey inclusive, Smith responded by saying "I'm not sure we will ever hit the finish line on that.”

Despite the evidence provided, Hockey Canada president Scott Smith refused to call issues within hockey in Canada “systemic.” MP Michael Coteau pressed this matter referring to Hockey Canada’s letter to Canadians referencing issues of sexual violence existing only in “corners of the game.”

While this was the last scheduled day for questioning by the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage in reference to Hockey Canada alleged role in a 2018 gang sexual assault, interest was expressed to continue this inquiry in September.

Hockey Canada is scheduled to host both the 2022 and 2023 World Junior Hockey Championship, with the 2022 edition taking place in August in Alberta.

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