Hockey Canada called to answer questions before Heritage Committee next month

By Paul D. Grant, Sportsnet

The Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage has issued subpoenas for witnesses from Hockey Canada and the Canadian Hockey League to appear and requested emails and texts for hearings scheduled for July 26 and 27 as part of an investigation into how Hockey Canada handled sexual assault allegations.

Also issued subpoenas to attend were former Hockey Canada risk management vice president Glen McCurdie, Nicole Mulligan of Sport Canada and representatives of Hockey Canada’s affiliated leagues.

Called as witnesses for the hearings were representatives from Hockey Canada’s third-party investigator into the incident, law firm Henein Hutchison LLP; Minister of Sport Pascale St-Onge; and president of Hockey Canada insurance company BFL Canada, Barry Lorenzetti. One MP confirmed that the witnesses are required to attend the hearing, which is expected to be held in Ottawa and not virtual.

The committee has also requested any non-disclosure agreements, with names of players and the plaintiff redacted, and copies of all communications between Hockey Canada and teams and players pertaining to this issue, as well as all communications between Sport Canada and Hockey Canada. An MP confirmed these communications would be relevant emails, texts and any hard-copy correspondence.

Also requested were the minutes of Hockey Canada and the Hockey Canada Foundation subject to solicitor-client privilege, litigation privilege and settlement privilege between June 2018 and June 23, 2022, all by Friday, July 15.

“We must get to the bottom of how Hockey Canada handles sexual assault cases to better understand how this was addressed,” NDP MP and committee member Peter Julian said. “Canadians are shocked to hear about this situation and they want to see action to prevent this from happening again.

“We want to get answers from Hockey Canada; we didn’t get answers from Hockey Canada last time.”

RELATED: Feds freeze Hockey Canada’s funding amid sexual assault allegations: Minister of Sport

Specifically, Julian said the committee wants to know how two other ongoing investigations into sexual assault involving Hockey Canada members are being handled. In testimony on Monday, Hockey Canada officials said they did not mandate that players on the 2018 World Junior team participate in an investigation into allegations by a woman of sexual assault. They also mentioned during testimony that Hockey Canada has had one to two allegations of sexual assault annually over the last five to six years.

The Heritage committee’s requests came out of a two-hour-and-36-minute closed-doors meeting Wednesday night about the allegations.

“I think this issue is something that has to be top-of-mind,” Julian said after Wednesday’s meeting. “Hockey is one of our two national sports — it’s something that Canadians grow up with. We take great pride in our hockey players. We take great pride in the players that wear the Maple Leaf. We need to make sure that there is a code of conduct that is strictly adhered to. And this is something where I think Hockey Canada has fallen disturbingly short in the last few years.”

On Wednesday, the House of Commons unanimously passed a motion to ask for an independent investigation into Hockey Canada’s handling of the June 2018 sexual assault allegations.

As presented by Bloc Quebecois MP Sébastien Lemire during Question Period, the investigation would examine Hockey Canada’s management of the allegations, which came to light last month, and, as he said in French, “figure out if this was an isolated event or if there are shortcomings in the way that Hockey Canada handles reported complaints of sexual assault, sexual harassment, and other types of misconduct.”

Hockey Canada has been under scrutiny since late May when news emerged that they settled a lawsuit involving a woman who says she was sexually assaulted by eight Canadian Hockey League players. In the lawsuit, which was filed April 20 in Ontario Superior Court in London, Ont., the woman says at least some of the players were part of the Canadian national junior team, and the assault happened in June 2018 after a Hockey Canada Foundation event.

She has not identified the players, and wishes to keep her own identity private. Terms of the settlement were not disclosed.

Pascale St-Onge, Canada’s Minister of Sport, earlier on Wednesday announced the immediate freezing of government funding to Hockey Canada.

St-Onge said the funds will be released when Hockey Canada meets two conditions: shares its report conducted by third-party investigators at Henein and Hutchison and its plans to implement changes; and become signatories to the office of the sports integrity commissioner.

On Thursday, a spokeswoman for Hockey Canada issued a statement to Sportsnet when asked to respond to the freezing of its funding by the government:

“Hockey Canada is aware that the Minister has set conditions relating to the funds the organization receives from the federal government.

“Hockey Canada is deeply committed and actively working to foster a culture in our sport where everyone involved feels safe, and of which all Canadians can feel proud. We recognize that as leaders we need to do more – and we are committed to doing just that. In the days and months ahead Canadians can expect to hear more about our work in this area.”

Government funding accounts for six per cent of Hockey Canada’s yearly budget, which amounts to about $7.8 million annually.

With files from Sportsnet’s Emily Sadler

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