Canadian hockey chiefs quit amid sexual abuse scandal
Hockey Canada’s entire board and CEO resigned on Tuesday amid a sexual abuse scandal that has seen it criticized by politicians such as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and dropped by sponsors including Nike.
Hockey Canada announced that CEO Scott Smith and the board were leaving their posts in a statement on Tuesday.
“Recognizing the urgent need for new leadership and perspectives, the entire board of directors announced it will step aside,” it read.
Hockey Canada explained that an interim management team will be installed until the embattled organization appoints a new CEO.
The resignation of the previous board is the latest chapter in a developing scandal that has further tarnished Hockey Canada’s reputation.
The organization had its federal funding frozen in June, with Canada’s minister for sport, Pascale St-Onge, later warning executives that they needed to leave Hockey Canada before they “burned it to the ground.”
Sportswear giant Nike cut ties with Hockey Canada last week, as a number of provincial hockey associations announced they would also stop remitting fees to it.
At recent parliamentary hearings, lawmakers blasted the organization’s unwillingness to clean house as Hockey Canada’s board chair Andrea Skinner claimed before a Canadian Heritage committee in Ottawa that toxic behavior “exists throughout society.”
“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.
New Democratic party member Peter Julian told Skinner that parents “scrimp and save to register their kids in Hockey Canada programs”.
“And the revelations – both the allegations of sexual violence and sexual abuse and how that is handled within Hockey Canada, but also the complete lack of financial transparency – are profoundly disturbing,” he added.
Skinner resigned on Saturday, as other sponsors such as Bauer announced that it would halt its support at upcoming tournaments and events due to an “extremely disturbing” repeated breach of trust from Hockey Canada’s leadership.
Canadian outlet TSN first revealed in May how Hockey Canada had paid an undisclosed settlement to a woman who alleged she has been sexually assaulted by eight members of the men’s world junior team at a 2018 Hockey Canada gala in London, Ontario.
Further scandal was caused when news broke that Hockey Canada had used the registration fees of young players across the country to fund most of the payments to the alleged victim.
According to the Globe and Mail newspaper, Hockey Canada also failed to disclose the existence of a second secret fund for legal efforts to fend off future sexual assault claims.
Hockey Canada claims that it has paid out C$7.6 million ($5.5 million) in relation to nine sexual assault and abuse claims since 1989. This does not include the payout made to the London, Ontario accuser this year, with the majority of the money going to survivors of the abuse of former junior hockey coach Graham James.
Hockey Canada has also announced that members of the 2003 men’s world junior team are being investigated for a group sexual assault, which triggered calls for change at the top of Hockey Canada.
Trudeau said he understood why Canadians were “disgusted” with Hockey Canada in July and that he thought it was “hard for anyone in Canada to have faith or trust in anyone” at the organization.
On Thursday last week ahead of a cabinet meeting, he told reporters that it was “inconceivable that folks at Hockey Canada continue to dig in”.
“It’s not like there’s something extraordinarily special about the people at Hockey Canada that means they are the only people in the country that can run an organization like this,” Trudeau added.