Hockey Canada had a previously undisclosed second fund to handle uninsured claims that could have been used for settling sexual assault claims, according to a report on Monday in the Globe and Mail and confirmed by Sportsnet.
Called the Participants Legacy Trust Fund, the fund was established in 1999 by transferring money from the National Equity Fund, which was funded partially by player registration fees, according to the Globe.
The trust was established to handle uninsured claims against Hockey Canada’s member branches that occurred between 1986 to 1995, before Hockey Canada began purchasing insurance for sexual assault claims and other liabilities, according to the report and confirmed by Sportsnet. This fund could have provided coverage for sexual abuse cases associated with former WHL coach Graham James, among others.
However, Jeremy Knight, a spokesperson for Hockey Canada, told Sportsnet the fund has not been used and was not set up exclusively to pay out sexual assault claims.
The fund was set up to be dissolved in May 2020, but according to the Globe, Hockey Canada went to court in late 2018 and early 2019 to extend the use of the trust until 2039.
Knight told the Globe that the fund was not extended with knowledge of any particular incident in mind.
“It is important to keep in mind that since 1999, when the trust was first formed, Canadians’ understanding of the nature and extent of claims of sexual abuse has improved significantly,” Knight said in a statement. “We now know that these claims often arise many decades after the alleged incident occurs, which is why it was reasonable to apply to extend the trust beyond 2020.”
The revelation drew sharp criticism from Conservative MP John Nater, a member of the Heritage committee that will meet on Tuesday in the next set of hearings into Hockey Canada’s handling of alleged sexual abuse involving the 2003 and 2018 Canadian world junior teams.
“This is a blatant omission of pertinent information that our committee and Canadians really need to know about,” Nater told the Globe. “When families put their money into registration fees, they assume it’s going to be related to their kids, to their families, their participation in the sport. And to hear that funds are being used for matters of significant wrongdoing, this fails the test on transparency.”
In a letter sent Monday morning to Minister of Sport Pascale St-Onge, NDP MP and committee member Peter Julian reiterated his request for a full financial audit of Hockey Canada.
“As the Minister who oversees Sports Canada and Hockey Canada, it is your responsibility to make sure that Hockey Canada uses government funds and hockey parents’ registration fees in an accountable and transparent manner,” Julian said in the letter, a copy of which was sent to Sportsnet. “The latest revelations show that Hockey Canada has not been transparent and accountable to the public and particularly to hockey parents.”
A recent Nanos survey showed that “73 per cent of Canadians felt anger that the National Equity Fund – money financed by player registration fees used for payments not covered by insurance that included sexual assault complaints – was maintained by Hockey Canada.”
–with files from Sportsnet’s Paul D. Grant