Slapped with questions before the Canadian Heritage Standing Committee, Hockey Canada bigwigs admitted they never identified the eight players allegedly involved in a 2018 gang rape case and that the athletes were under no obligation to participate in the investigation to cooperate. Nothing to lessen grumbling about the body.
• Also read: Public money to cover up a gang rape?
Both Hockey Canada President and Chief Operating Officer Scott Smith and Chief Executive Officer Tom Renney looked pretty bad during the drill in front of elected officials in Ottawa.
Even after many questions, there is still some gray area surrounding the events that allegedly took place on June 18-19, 2018 at a Hockey Canada Foundation gala in London.
The 26-month independent investigation launched by the sports federation will therefore not have made it possible to identify the alleged culprits.
“Neither the investigation nor the London Police have been able to confirm who the accused were,” Smith said, while Renney recalled that the complainant had agreed to an out-of-court settlement and had not taken part in questioning.
“We can only respect his wishes,” he argued.
No public funds
According to the two representatives of Hockey Canada, the public funds used to finance the organization were never used, either for an out-of-court settlement or for the legal costs incurred.
Smith also mentioned that Hockey Canada did things right.
“You must take a step back before you suggest that we covered up the affair. The police were quickly notified. We have launched an investigation. We offered the young lady support.
“The process we went through in this case is common. Agreements like these are common and serve to protect everyone involved. They result from a mutual agreement. No one was forced to remain silent,” he stressed.
While Hockey Canada wanted to show its goodwill on the matter, it was peppered with questions about the fact that the 19 players present at the 2018 events gone awry were not required to answer questions during the game.
On that point, Renney told the committee that only four to six hockey players worked together. Information Smith later contradicted by speaking to 13 players instead of 12.
Be that as it may, it was enough for Hockey Canada to be identified in the eyes of some politicians, including Bloc Québécois MP Sébastien Lemire, even as an accomplice in this sexual assault case.
“I can see from your answers that you were more or less proactive. You have made incomplete inquiries and reports. You don’t know what happened, but you rushed to pay to cover it up.
“There is a certain form of complicity that you demonstrate. I sincerely hope that you did not put pressure on the victim to reach this out-of-court settlement. To me you play like John Doe 9 in this story,” he cursed, referring to the eight unidentified players.
– With Guillaume St-Pierre, Parliament Office
Too many unanswered questions
In the eyes of elected officials who questioned Hockey Canada officials, the appearance did not bring the expected clarifications.
“I think it left a lot of questions unanswered,” said Peter Julian of the New Democratic Party.
“I think the fact that they didn’t force players to take the survey confuses the majority of Canadians. If you conduct an investigation, everyone must be obliged to take part,” he later lamented to a press crowd.
Scott Smith, Hockey Canada’s president and chief operating officer, also said the federation has had to deal with “one or two incidents” of sexual assault per year for the “last five or six years.” Two investigations are currently underway, about which the organization declined to provide any further information.
“This sexual assault has to be the last, but it doesn’t appear to be the case. There are still cases. They talked about a dozen cases and two investigations. It leaves me worried. Hockey Canada has not taken all necessary action,” ruled Mr. Julian.
review code of conduct
Hockey Canada is currently revising its Code of Conduct. This is also a measure that does not seem to move the elected members of the body.
“What good is a code of conduct if you don’t go along with it [à une enquête] when there are startling allegations of sexual assault?” Mr Julian asked.
On the subject, Mr. Smith revealed that Hockey Canada’s future Code of Conduct could require players to cooperate with such investigations. He also acknowledged that the organization is “probably behind” in terms of educating players to prevent such occurrences.
The committee hasn’t decided on next steps, but it doesn’t appear that removing subsidies from Hockey Canada is part of the solution.
“They made a mistake but we will penalize young players across the country if we don’t give funds to national institutions like Hockey Canada or Soccer Canada. The way to ensure a safe environment for all is not to withhold funds from a national association,” said Anthony Housefather, Montreal MP for the Liberal Party of Canada.
– With Guillaume St-Pierre