This week, individuals from Hockey Canada, the Canadian Hockey League and connected organizations will appear before Parliament for two days of hearings as members of the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage continue their inquiry into the handling of 2018 sexual assault allegations and the settlement of the subsequent lawsuit this spring.
The hearings are a continuation of the inquiry opened by the committee on June 20, which saw Hockey Canada president Scott Smith, then-outgoing CEO Tom Renney (who retired on July 1) and Hockey Canada Foundation chair Dave Andrews testify in Ottawa. That session shed light on the events around the allegations as well as how the federation paid the lawsuit settlement, but it ultimately raised more questions, prompting officials to call for more hearings with more witnesses.
"I think that if anybody watched the first set of hearings, they will realize that the committee, without exception, every political party in that committee were concerned and felt that our questions had not been answered appropriately," Hedy Fry, Liberal member of Parliament for Vancouver Centre and chair of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage, told CityNews Parliament Hill bureau chief Cormac Mac Sweeney earlier this month. "That's why we're calling them back, and we're calling more people as well.”
The committee also subpoenaed documentation in an effort to fully understand what happened within Hockey Canada when allegations first emerged, as well as what has occurred in the four years since. It remains unclear whether any of those documents will be made available to the public.
What’s important to keep in mind as this next set of hearings takes place is that the Heritage Committee is not investigating the allegations themselves, but rather Hockey Canada's actions since they first emerged in June 2018, as well as the federation’s culture that has enabled alleged perpetrators to seemingly act without consequence.
"What our objective is, is not to find out who did what, allegedly, to whom -- who the perpetrators are, who the victim is. We want to find out how Hockey Canada in 2018 handled this issue," Fry said. "What are the steps they took? What is the conversations they had? We want to get to the bottom of that because we were not happy with our first answers from them."
Here’s what to know ahead of this week’s hearings:
In a lawsuit filed in April, a woman alleged she was sexually assaulted by eight unnamed CHL players, including members of the 2017-18 Canadian world junior team, in a London, Ont., hotel room in June 2018 after a Hockey Canada Foundation gala. News of the case broke in May when Hockey Canada settled the lawsuit on behalf of the CHL and the players – the identities of whom the organization says it does not know.
The case sparked national outrage over Hockey Canada's handling of the allegations and the lack of transparency and accountability around issues of sexual misconduct, as well as how Hockey Canada paid for the settlement. The revelation during testimony that there were other cases of sexual violence also caused concern.
SCHEDULE OF SESSIONS & ORDER OF WITNESSES
This week’s hearings take place over the course of two days, with sessions beginning at 11 a.m. ET on both days. The hearings are scheduled to end at 2 p.m. ET on Tuesday, July 26, and 3 p.m. ET on Wednesday, July 27. Like June’s testimony, these hearings will be televised. They will also be streamed, live and in full, on sportsnet.ca.
11 a.m. ET to noon ET: Danielle Robitaille, partner at Henein Hutchison LLP*
Noon ET to 1 p.m. ET: Isabelle Mondou, Deputy Minister; Michel Ruest, senior director of programs at the Sport Canada Branch of the Department of Canadian Heritage
1 p.m. ET to 2 p.m. ET: Pascale St-Onge, minister of sport; and Emmanuelle Sajous, assistant deputy minister, sport, major events and commemorations
*Henein Hutchison LLP is the law firm retained by Hockey Canada in June 2018, upon first learning of the allegations. The firm was responsible for conducting a third-party investigation into the alleged events, but that investigation was concluded without producing a final report in September 2020.
11 a.m. ET to 2 p.m. ET: Nine past and present officials from Hockey Canada and the Canadian Hockey League
Glen McCurdie, Former Hockey Canada vice-president of insurance and risk management**
Scott Smith, Hockey Canada president and chief operating officer**
Tom Renney, former Hockey Canada CEO**
Dave Andrews, Hockey Canada Foundation chair**
Brian Cairo, Hockey Canada chief financial officer***
Dan MacKenzie, Canadian Hockey League president
Gilles Courteau, QMJHL commissioner
David Branch, OHL commissioner
Ron Robison, WHL commissioner
2 p.m. ET to 3 p.m. ET: Barry F. Lorenzetti, BFL Canada founder, president and CEO****
**Smith, Renney and Andrews testified on June 20, and have been called back. McCurdie was among the officials invited to testify on June 20 but was excused because of the death of his father. McCurdie retired from Hockey Canada in December after 33 years with the organization. Renney's retirement from Hockey Canada became official on July 1.
***Cairo was not part of the initial list of witnesses for this hearing but has since been added.
****BFL Canada is the official insurance provider of Hockey Canada.
WHAT’S HAPPENED SINCE THE FIRST HEARING
Developments since the first Hockey Canada hearing:
On June 22, just two days after the hearing, minister of sport Pascale St-Onge announced the freezing of federal funds directed to Hockey Canada. (About six per cent of Hockey Canada’s yearly budget comes from government funding, amounting to about $7.8 million annually.) That decision came just hours before the House of Commons unanimously passed a motion to ask for an independent investigation into Hockey Canada. A few days later, several corporate partners – led by Scotiabank and including major sponsors TELUS, Canadian Tire and Tim Hortons – withdrew support ahead of August’s rescheduled world junior tournament in a call for systemic change.
On July 14, Hockey Canada released a “Letter to all Canadians” pledging to reopen its third-party investigation into the allegations, and said it will require full participation from all members of the 2018 Canadian world junior roster. (As we learned during the hearing on June 20, players were not mandated to partake in the investigation.) The lawyer representing the woman who filed the lawsuit has said his client will participate in the reopened inquiry.
Last week, The Canadian Press reported the existence of a Hockey Canada fund dedicated, at least partially, to covering claims of sexual assault, with the Globe and Mail investigation revealing the fund was created using registration fees. Hockey Canada confirmed the existence of what it called the “National Equity Fund,” and announced last Wednesday the fund will "no longer be used to settle sexual assault claims," effective immediately.
On Friday, after an internal inquiry of its own 2018 investigation, London Police Services announced it was relaunching its criminal investigation after determining “there are further investigative opportunities available.” The initial probe by police commenced shortly after the alleged incident in London and concluded in February 2019 without criminal charges.
As the story has continued to develop, more and more players from the 2018 Canadian world junior roster have come forward with statements declaring they were not involved. See the latest here.
On Monday, on the eve of the second set of hearings, Hockey Canada released information about an “action plan” it is launching to “shatter the code of silence and eliminate toxic behaviour in and around Canada’s game.” Another report by the Globe and Mail on Monday revealed details of a second fund that, according to court documents, was used to cover costs for liability insurance for Hockey Canada's directors and officers.
Monday also saw members of the Canadian Women’s national team come together to address their governing body, calling for a “thorough and transparent investigation of the incidents in question as well as the structure, governance and environment that exists within the organization.”
“We intend to be part of the fight for the truth,” the statement said.
LATEST ALLEGATIONS BRING MORE QUESTIONS
On Friday, Halifax Police announced it was opening an investigation into allegations of group sexual assault involving Canada’s 2002-03 world junior team that was said to have taken place during that year’s tournament in Halifax. Hockey Canada said it had first learned of the “disturbing” details of the allegations Thursday night upon being contacted by TSN’s Rick Westhead, and contacted Halifax police and Safe Sport upon learning of the alleged incident.
These allegations are expected to be addressed by politicians Wednesday. NDP MP Peter Julian told CityNews’ Cormac Mac Sweeney on Friday he intends to ask Hockey Canada officials about the incident, and expects other MPs to inquire about whether anyone inside Hockey Canada learned about the alleged incident in the last 19 years.