Trudeau slams Hockey Canada as lawsuit slush fund revealed during investigation

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau did not mince words in his condemnation of Hockey Canada, saying it is unacceptable for the body to have a fund that is used to settle claims such as sexual assault.

Addressing questions on Bowen Island, B.C. on Tuesday, Trudeau said it’s hard to see how anyone in Canada can have faith in the hockey body.

“I can understand why so many parents, why so many Canadians, who take such pride in our national winter sport are absolutely disgusted by what’s going on,” he said.

Trudeau’s comments come as The Globe and Mail first reported that a special multi-million-dollar fund, financed by player registration fees, has been used to pay out settlements in cases of alleged sexual assault without the involvement of its insurance company, and therefore, without outside accountability.

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The Globe reported that the reserve fund has exceeded $15 million in recent years, however details of how the fund operates is not disclosed in Hockey Canada’s annual report.

The sport’s national body has been under intense scrutiny since news of an alleged sexual assault at a 2018 gala in London, Ont., involving eight unidentified players — including members of that year’s world junior team — and subsequent settlement broke in May. None of the allegations have been proven in court.

“We will continue to be unequivocal in our condemnation of what we’re learning and mostly in our demands that things change significantly,” the prime minister said.

Trudeau notes the government froze funding for Hockey Canada after the allegations surfaced in May. Funding was frozen last month, with a number of corporations pausing their sponsorship dollars.

The organization released a carefully worded open letter July 14 with a number of promises, including a pledge to reopen an incomplete third-party investigation into the alleged assault.

“We know 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 behaviour within our game,” the body wrote. “For that, we unreservedly apologize.”

– with files from Cormac MacSweeney and The Canadian Press

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