MP questions what, when sports minister knew about Hockey Canada sexual assault

NDP member of Parliament Peter Julian speaks during a press conference in Ottawa on Tuesday, March 29, 2022. (Sean Kilpatrick/CP)

Editor’s Note: The following story deals with sexual assault, and may be distressing for some readers.

If you or someone you know is in need of support, those in Canada can find province-specific centres, crisis lines and services here. For readers in America, a list of resources and references for survivors and their loved ones can be found here.

A member of Parliament has questioned Canada’s sports minister on when and what the government knew about an alleged sexual assault at a 2018 Hockey Canada event.

Hockey Canada was called on the carpet recently by the Canadian government, and subsequently lost some corporate sponsorship, over its handling of an alleged sexual assault in London, Ont., the night following its 2018 gala event.

Hockey Canada executives told a government standing committee last month that it notified Sport Canada about the allegations back in 2018, New Democrat MP Peter Julian pointed out in a letter sent Tuesday to Sport Minister Pascale St-Onge.

“Was that information passed on to the Minister of Sport?” Julian asked in the letter. “If not, why not? If the Minister was informed, why didn’t the Minister at the time act on that information?

“Parents who have kids in hockey have the right to know why Hockey Canada handled this case in such an irresponsible manner and how the government reacted.

“Canadians deserve to know what their government is doing concretely for a real culture change in the face of sexual misconduct and assault at Hockey Canada and in other sports organizations across the country.”

As first reported by TSN, Hockey Canada recently settled a lawsuit filed by the woman, now 24, who alleged that she was repeatedly raped by eight unnamed junior hockey players who were members of Canada’s under-20 men’s hockey team that year.

Those allegations were not proven in court.

Hockey Canada executives appeared before a Canadian Heritage Standing Committee in Ottawa on June 20.

Julian was among the MPs who questioned Hockey Canada president Scott Smith and outgoing chief executive officer Tom Renney that day. The committee scheduled more hearings for July 26-27.

St-Onge’s office referred Tuesday to comments and actions the minister made after the June hearing.

When asked by Sportsnet to comment about being subpoenaed to testify in front of the Heritage committee on July 26-27, St-Onge issued this statement through a spokesperson: “My priority as Minister is safety in sport. I am committed to working and collaborating with the committee.’’

She froze Hockey Canada’s federal funding until the organization discloses recommendations for improvement made by a third-party law firm hired by Hockey Canada, as well as details on how to implement cultural change.

Another condition is Hockey Canada becoming a signatory to the new office of the sports integrity commissioner.

St-Onge also ordered a financial audit of Hockey Canada to review expenditures reported to Sport Canada. That audit was to be conducted between June 27 and July 7.

When St-Onge was named sports minister last October, she became the third person to oversee that portfolio since 2018. 

Kirsty Duncan was sports minister from January 2018 until November 2019. Sport then fell under the Heritage umbrella and Minister Steven Guilbeault until St-Onge’s appointment.

Julian, who represents New Westminster-Burnaby, B.C., contends there were too many questions left unanswered in the June 20 hearing in Ottawa. He demanded further investigation by St-Onge.

“Canadians are shocked to hear about this situation, and they want to see action to prevent this from happening again,” he wrote.

The full text of the letter, as obtained by Sportsnet:

July 5th, 2022

The Honorable Pascale St-Onge

Minister of Sport

RE: Hockey Canada’s involvement in alleged sexual assault case

Dear Minister St-Onge,

I am writing to you today regarding Hockey Canada’s response to serious allegations of
sexual assault dating from 2018.

During the hearing of Hockey Canada’s testimony on June 20, there were many questions
left unanswered. This is why the NDP is calling for further investigation into Hockey
Canada’s involvement in the alleged sexual assault case from 2018. As you know, after
the committee hearing, a consensus was reached at the Canadian Heritage Committee to
pursue this study later this month on July 26 and 27.

According to the testimony, Sports Canada was informed about the allegations of sexual
assault in June 2018. Was that information passed on to the Minister of Sport? If not, why
not? If the Minister was informed, why didn’t the Minister at the time act on that
information? Parents who have kids in hockey have the right to know why Hockey Canada
handled this case in such an irresponsible manner and how the government reacted.

Canadians deserve to know what their government is doing concretely for a real culture
change in the face of sexual misconduct and assault at Hockey Canada and in other sports
organizations across the country.

Canadians are shocked to hear about this situation, and they want to see action to prevent
this from happening again. Thank you for your attention to this important matter and I
look forward to hearing from you soon.

Sincerely,

Peter Julian, MP
New Westminster–Burnaby

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