It’s been three months since the federal government froze Hockey Canada’s funding in the wake of allegations of group sexual assault coming to light.
At the time of the funding freeze in June, Minister of Sport Pascale St-Onge specified three requirements for its renewal: the completion of a financial audit of Hockey Canada to ensure no public funds were used in the settlement; that Hockey Canada become a signatory with the Office of Sport Integrity Commissioner; and the disclosure of the recommendations made to Hockey Canada by its third-party law firm investigating the incident.
When asked for an update on Hockey Canada’s progress, both the organization and the minister of sport’s office told Sportsnet that Hockey Canada continues to take steps toward meeting the criteria.
St-Onge froze Hockey Canada’s federal funding after it was learned the organization had settled a lawsuit with a woman who said she had been sexually assaulted by eight Canadian Hockey League players, including members of the 2018 Canadian world junior team.
Hockey Canada relies on the Canadian government for roughly six per cent, or $7.8 million, of its annual funding. CBC News reported Hockey Canada received $14 million from the federal government in 2020 and 2021, $3.4 million of which was emergency COVID-19 funding.
The financial audit is being carried out by Ottawa-area accounting firm Samson and Associés. The firm was to visit Hockey Canada’s head offices in Calgary between June 27 and July 7 to conduct the financial review of expenditures reported to Sport Canada. The minister’s office told Sportsnet that “there is no actual delay in the conduct of the audit” and it is “proceeding on a priority basis.”
The preliminary findings from that report are due this month, with a draft report expected in “the fall of 2022.”
Although the process has started, Hockey Canada has yet to sign on with the Office of Sport Integrity Commissioner. Five national organizations, including Volleyball Canada and Wrestling Canada, signed on with the integrity office upon its unveiling at the end of June.
However, according to Marie-Claude Asselin – the CEO of the Sport Dispute Resolution Centre of Canada, which oversees the new sport integrity office – a final agreement with national sport organizations on the specific obligations of a signatory was reached just three weeks ago.
“Hockey Canada is working expeditiously to become a full signatory to the Abuse-Free Sport program, ceding oversight to the Office of the Sport Integrity Commissioner for all maltreatment complaints, allegations or concerns with national-level programming,” Hockey Canada said in an email to Sportsnet. “Hockey Canada is in the process of amending relevant policies and procedures, including the adoption of the Universal Code of Conduct to Prevent and Address Maltreatment in Sport 6.0. Parallel to this, we are in discussions with the Sport Dispute Resolution Centre of Canada to finalize our Service Agreement to join Abuse-Free Sport.
“Once complete, Hockey Canada will work diligently to ensure a seamless transition to the new, independent process.”
Technically, 13 provincial and territorial partners would have to agree to sign on with the integrity office before Hockey Canada could agree, as those associations would be largely responsible for enforcing the new policies and reporting any maltreatment.
In addition, Hockey Canada has not yet provided a full report of recommendations from the investigation by Toronto-based law firm Henein Hutchinson. A partial report was received by the minister of sport’s office in July, and the minister subsequently requested a more complete list of recommendations. The minister’s office confirmed that it has not yet received a full list of recommendations, although it’s unclear whether the investigation has been completed; a Hockey Canada spokesperson was not aware of a subsequent request for a full report.
“Hockey Canada shared the recommendations from the Henein Hutchison LLP interim report with Sport Canada and is fully cooperating with the federal government’s financial audit,” Hockey Canada said in an email to Sportsnet.
At the July 26 hearings in Ottawa, St-Onge testified, “What we requested were the recommendations made by the firm and the plan for implementing them. To date, I have simply received information about six points relating to recommendations that were made, but I have not received the report.”
–with files from Sportsnet’s Emily Sadler