Skip to main content

What You Need To Know After Hockey Canada's Hearing From Oct. 4

The Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage questioned the former chair and current interim chair of Hockey Canada's board of directors about aspects of its leadership and handling of sexual assault cases.
Hockey Canada

Representatives of Hockey Canada returned to questioning by the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage Tuesday, with past and present members of the organization giving testimony. Former chair of Hockey Canada’s board of directors Michael Brind’Amour, and current interim chair of the board Andrea Skinner appeared.

The hearing occurred only 24 hours after another bombshell was dropped on Monday with the Globe & Mail reporting on the existence of a second fund created by Hockey Canada for its member branches in the case of uninsured “matters including but not limited to sexual abuse," known as the Participants Legacy Trust Fund. As NDP MP Peter Julian told the Globe & Mail, “The name of the fund is designed to conceal and there is no doubt that that is the attempt. This is another example of stonewalling and concealing of information that hockey parents and the general public need to know.”

In previous hearings, information was heard about the National Equity Fund created by Hockey Canada to cover uninsurable losses, including those related to sexual assault, which paid out several million dollars to settle cases outside of the courts.

"I think it shows a total lack of transparency," Pascal St-Onge told reporters on Parliament Hill referring to the discovery of the Participants Legacy Trust Fund. "And the other thing it shows is that sexual violence has been treated as an insurance problem at Hockey Canada instead of a systemic problem that needs to be addressed at the root."

At Tuesday’s hearing, both Brind’Amour and Skinner received repeated criticism from members of the standing committee for a lack of transparency similar to that from St-Onge. Despite the questioning, both the former and current chair continued to defend Hockey Canada’s actions, “Action Plan,” and current CEO Scott Smith.

“I strongly believe that Hockey Canada took appropriate action,” Brind’Amour said in French of the handling of the 2018 sexual assault scandal. Brind’Amour was repeatedly asked by MP John Nater for a “yes or no” answer as to whether he believes Scott Smith is capable, and if he trusts him to run Hockey Canada.

“My personal beliefs have absolutely no holding on the situation – I believe the board of directors has all necessary tools to be able to make the appropriate evaluation,” said Brind’Amour. Chair Hedy Fry instructed Brind’Amour to answer the yes or no question as he was subpoenaed and under oath, to which he eventually relented with a “yes.”

Liberal MP Chris Bittle asked Brind’Amour why he, a member of the Quebec bar, thinks he doesn’t need to answer a question from members of parliament under oath. “You’re a witness under supeona, under oath, and I know there isn’t a judge in front of you, but I guess this is shocking and it really speaks to, again, how Hockey Canada and its leadership views this proceeding and how it’s taken part in past actions,” Bittle said. “It’s truly troubling that you would dismiss and dismiss us – we have the same powers as a court, we’ve brought you here under summons, and this is truly disappointing.”

Skinner also defended Hockey Canada’s leadership, pointing multiple times throughout her testimony to what she described as “misinformation” from media. “Our board frankly does not share the view that senior leadership should be replaced on the basis of what we consider to be substantial misinformation and unduly cynical attacks,” Skinner said. In particular, Skinner asserted the media’s portrayal of the newly discovered Participants Legacy Trust Fund “do not accurately reflect the situation.”

In fact, when asked by Liberal MP Anthony Housefather to grade Hockey Canada CEO Scott Smith’s performance, Skinner replied saying “I would say that he’s conducting himself as an ‘A’ in the circumstances.”

Housefather called Housefather Skinner’s view a “clear discrepancy between how the leadership of Hockey Canada views the management of Hockey Canada and how this committee of all parties and the Canadian public views the leadership of Hockey Canada.”

He went on to say to Skinner, “You are contributing to maintaining toxic culture. You don’t understand that it is up to you to properly communicate your message – you are accusing us as elected members and the media.”

Skinner also suggested that the issue of sexual violence is more widespread than it is being portrayed, saying that hockey is being used as a “scapegoat.”

“Suggesting that toxic behavior is somehow a specific hockey problem or to scapegoat hockey as a centerpiece for toxic culture is in my opinion counterproductive to finding solutions and risks overlooking the change that needs to be made more broadly to prevent and address toxic behavior, particularly against women,” Skinner said.

Member of the Standing Committee and Bloc Quebecois representative Andreanne Larouche argued that Skinner’s points, as well as those of CEO Scott Smith in previous hearings, “trivialized” the severity of issues facing Hockey Canada.

“We were all shocked around the table by the trivialization of the allegations of sexual assault, but it is serious, and to say to the committee that there are other sexual assailants elsewhere in society, well we are all shocked by this trivialization, and today the same is happening again,” Larouche said in French. “Earlier you compared what happened at Hockey Canada with other cases elsewhere in the media, with violence elsewhere in society, but we are here to talk about Hockey Canada.”

While little new information was revealed in more than two hours of questioning, it was confirmed that $7.1 million was transferred in 1999 from the National Equity Fund to the newly exposed Participants Legacy Trust Fund. As well, Brind’Amour confirmed some previously reported expenses, including board members receiving championship rings valued in excess of $3,000 for various Hockey Canada gold medal victories.

Another point discussed was that despite Scott Smith’s assertion in previous testimony that Hockey Canada would release victims from non-disclosure agreements, no such discussion had occurred at the board level. NDP representative Peter Julian called Skinner’s testimony a contradiction to Smith’s, as Skinner stated “Hockey Canada will consider it” when asked about releasing victims from non-disclosure agreements.

As Standing Committee chair Hedy Fry said in response, “This is so fascinating the testimony, and listening to what I consider sometimes to be absolutely contradiction in the testimony.”

The trust level appeared so low that at one point, Bittle asked Skinner if there was someone typing or providing answers to her as she was not looking at the camera. Skinner answered that no there was not, stating she was using notes, and “had very little time to prepare for this hearing.”

It was also discussed that Hockey Canada had missed their Action Plan’s Sept. 15 deadline to form an independent committee to oversee the implementation of the Action Plan itself. As Hockey Canada’s meeting minutes stated, the organization and their hired firm Navigator “for a variety of reasons provided, did not have success confirming three qualified independent individuals to agree to be on the special committee on action plan implementation at this time.”

Hockey Canada’s board of directors meeting minutes also discussed a desire to push back against public perception.

“We are a family and we need to push back hard, need to start defending and stop sitting in the neutral zone,” the notes read.

Conservative MP John Nater called the minutes “deeply troubling” deeming they displayed that Hockey Canada “is more concerned about shifting the narrative than actually meaningfully implementing change.” As he stated, the minutes directed Hockey Canada “to get the message into the public, get ahead of communication and shift the narrative (to be) the National Equity Fund is in place to protect children or programs and to take care of any victims, settlement payments must be viewed in a positive manner not a negative manner.”

The questioning was contentious throughout with the committee chair and MPs repeatedly voicing their frustration, as Julian stated, that Hockey Canada’s “transparency has not been forthcoming.”

Fry concluded the hearing by stating, “I have heard questions been asked, I have not heard a lot of the answers being given.”

“I’m really quite distressed to hear that the current leadership that has been at the helm since all of this has been happening should be kept because it’s a grade A team,” Fry continued. “I don’t believe that we have come to any kind of conclusions from these because we have not had any kind of sense of responsibility. Blaming everyone else does not mean there’s a sense of accountability.”

With answers still outstanding, the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage will continue their hearings regarding Hockey Canada at a future date.

TOP HEADLINES

Olen Zellweger
Play

Reacting to Team Canada's 2023 World Junior Camp Roster

Team Canada’s preparing for the world juniors after naming 29 players to the camp roster. Tony Ferrari lists some surprises, snubs and other players to watch.

Logan Cooley
Play

Reacting to Team USA's 2023 World Junior Camp Roster

Tony Ferrari lists the snubs, the surprises, the first-year NHL draft eligible players and an X-factor as Team USA released its world junior camp roster on Monday.

Jacob Trouba
Play

Fischler Report: Figuring Out the Flawed New York Rangers

Stan Fischler's report defines a team that's crumbling and a team that's invincible, evaluates players under pressure, praises the Kraken and more.