Michel Saba and Emily Bergeron, The Canadian Press
OTTAWA – Lawmakers in the House of Commons on Wednesday unanimously called for an independent investigation into Hockey Canada’s handling of an alleged gang rape case, hours after Ottawa announced it was freezing funding for the organization.
A proposal submitted by Bloc Québécois Sébastien Lemire was adopted with the unanimous consent of the parties.
The text of the proposal also specifies that the investigation should determine “whether this is an isolated event or whether there are deficiencies in the way Hockey Canada handles complaints of sexual assault, sexual harassment and other types of reported misconduct.”
“What Hockey Canada did to belittle what happened is totally unacceptable. (…) What we heard was that in particular it was voluntary on the part of players to participate or not” in the survey, Mr. Lemer commented after the question period.
Sports Minister Pascal Saint-Aung said work was underway to determine what “the right process to take forward and enforce the proposal”.
It was recently revealed that Hockey Canada has reached an out-of-court settlement with an alleged victim of sexual assault by eight junior players in the Canadian Hockey League.
In court documents, the young woman alleges that the events took place in a hotel room after a Canada hockey party in June 2018, in London, Ontario.
Earlier this afternoon, during another press meeting in the lobby of the House of Commons, Minister St Ong described the testimony given by the organization’s leaders on Monday in Parliamentary Committee as “extremely disturbing and disturbing”.
She explained that Hockey Canada will see refinancing once two conditions are met.
The first is to provide Sport Canada with the report of the law firm assigned to investigate the alleged incident and a plan outlining how the recommendations within the organization will be implemented.
The second is to join the Office of the Sports Integrity Commissioner and work “closely to change the culture of silence and (…) fight sexual violence within the organization”.
She concluded that the organization’s leadership is currently “incomplete, and inappropriate, from another era.”
On Monday evening, following the appearance of the organisation’s senior leaders, Ms Saint Ong said “we are facing an organization that perpetuates a culture of silence”.
At the time, she declined to say whether she intended to withhold public funds or whether chiefs would roll until she received the results of the financial audit she was tasked with.
Richard Martel, a conservative sports critic, said he, too, was “deeply concerned” about the Canadian hockey team’s handling of sexual assault complaints. “It wasn’t convincing at all,” he said.
“I also wonder about the top executives at Hockey Canada because it’s a really troubling situation especially when we know that they pick the best players on every team, often the captains who (…) are supposed to have leadership, discipline and accountability,” he added.
The leader of the Quebec bloc, Yves Francois Blanchett, called for a response, praising Minister Saint Ong’s work.
«Il n’y a pas grand monde à qui l’on décerne les meritas, mais je pense sincèrement pour avoir vu plusieurs des interventions de Mme St-Onge (…) qu’elle est orientée vers les bonnes décisions», at -say .
Mr Blanchett added that residents should know what happened and accused Hockey Canada officials of making an “embarrassing PR show on Monday” that showed “a serious disrespect for parliamentarians”.
For his part, NDP Representative Peter Julian said Hockey Club Canada had not put in place what was necessary to conduct an investigation that was “down to the heart of matters”.
Appearing before the Standing Committee on Heritage, the organization’s CEO, Tom Rainey, emphasized that Hockey Canada had not attempted to “swept history” through a cover-up.
Several members of Parliament reacted strongly to learning that the 2018 national junior team players allegedly involved in a gang rape case were selected to take part in the investigation into the events.
Hockey Canada received $14 million from Ottawa in 2020 and 2021, including $3.4 million in COVID-19-related grants, according to government documents obtained by CBC and TSN.