Canada's minister of sport ordering forensic audit of Hockey Canada in wake of lawsuit

Federal Minister Pascale St-Onge at a press conference in Montreal, Quebec, Monday, March 14, 2022. (Mario Beauregard/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.

Canada's minister of sport, Pascale St-Onge, said Thursday she is launching an investigation into whether public funds were used in the Hockey Canada settlement of a lawsuit by a person alleging sexual assault by some of the organization's players.

Before question period on Parliament Hill, in a scrum with reporters, St-Onge said she would conduct "a forensic audit" to make sure public funds were not used to settle the suit and that the players are accountable. She added that "Canadians deserve to know."

"The financial audit is to ensure that Hockey Canada has complied with its funding agreement with Sports Canada and to ensure that there are no public funds that have been used to settle that agreement," St-Onge said in French.

Hockey Canada said last week it reached a settlement with a person alleging they were sexually assaulted by members of the 2017-18 national junior men's hockey team. The organization confirmed the settlement in a statement provided to Sportsnet.

TSN’s Rick Westhead was the first to report on the lawsuit and the settlement.

The allegations, which have not been heard in a court of law, date back to 2018 and involve players who were on the 2017-18 under-20 men’s national junior team, which won gold at the annual late-December tournament. According to the statement of claim, the alleged assault occurred in June of 2018 after a Hockey Canada Foundation event in London, Ont.

In its statement, Hockey Canada said it immediately contacted local authorities after learning about the alleged assaults in 2018 and retained Henein Hutchison LLP to "undertake a thorough independent internal investigation and make recommendations on areas for improvement which we have been implementing and will continue to pursue."

Hockey Canada says the person making the allegations chose not to speak with police or Hockey Canada’s independent investigator. That person has also chosen not to identify the players involved, Hockey Canada said.

In its own statement on May 26, the NHL said it was informed of the suit two days prior and that the specific allegations made in the statement of claim are "both abhorrent and reprehensible."

“We will endeavor to determine the underlying facts and, to the extent this may involve players who are now in the NHL, we will determine what action, if any, would be appropriate,” the league said.

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