NDP asks minister of sport to conduct ‘thorough audit’ of Hockey Canada

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

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NDP MP Peter Julian is asking the federal government to conduct “a thorough audit” of Hockey Canada’s finances dating back to 2016.

The request, made in a letter to Minister of Sport Pascale St-Onge on Tuesday, references thousands of dollars in expenses attributed to the sport’s national governing body, including high-end dinners, luxurious hotel suites and championship rings for board members.

A member of House of Commons’ heritage committee, which has been examining the federation since an explosive sexual assault allegation and subsequent hushed payment were revealed in the spring, Julian wrote that he also raised the issue with embattled Hockey Canada CEO Scott Smith in another letter.

Julian told The Canadian Press last month he received information regarding the perks — including meals in excess of $5,000 — and swanky accommodations from an unnamed former board member.

In a statement provided to CP at the time, Hockey Canada said board expenses are “regularly reviewed to ensure they are appropriate.”

St-Onge oversees Sport Canada and Hockey Canada, and according to Julian “it is your responsibility to make sure that Hockey Canada uses government funds and hockey parents’ registration fees in an accountable and transparent manner.” 

The B.C. parliamentarian added in his letter the latest revelations “show that Hockey Canada has not been transparent and accountable to the public and particularly to hockey parents.”

Hockey Canada has been under intense scrutiny since TSN first reported an undisclosed settlement paid to a woman who alleges she was sexually assaulted by eight players, including members of the 2018 world junior team, at a gala event in London, Ont.

The complainant had been seeking $3.55 million dollars in damages. None of the allegations have been tested in court.

St-Onge ordered a forensic audit of Hockey Canada to ensure no public funds were used as part of the settlement.

Hockey Canada officials told the heritage committee in July it has used the organization’s National Equity Fund, which draws on minor hockey membership fees, to pay out $7.6 million in uninsured claims across nine settlements related to sexual assault or abuse since 1989.

That figure did not include the alleged London incident.

Hockey Canada has also revealed there’s an investigation into an alleged sexual assault involving members of the country’s 2003 world junior team.

The federation’s current board said last month it supports Smith, who also serves as president, and his executive team despite loud calls for change at the top.

That prompted Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to state that Hockey Canada’s leadership has lost the confidence of the federal government and the country at large.

The federation’s response to the scandal has included the release of an action plan and a third-party review of its governance, but the only leadership change to date was the resignation of board chair Michael Brind’Amour, whose term was set to end in November.

He stepped down Aug. 6 and was replaced by Andrea Skinner on an interim basis three days later. Skinner then released the Aug. 29 statement backing Smith.

Conservative MP Karen Vecchio, chair of the Standing Committee on the Status of Women, told The Canadian Press last week she believes everything Hockey Canada is doing at the moment is related to optics.

“It’s actually disingenuous,” she said. “I believe that.”

“No one’s quitting, that’s great,” Vecchio added sarcastically. “You guys have done such a great job so far. 

“It’s like going back to the same restaurant that continues to give you bad food.”

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