The office of the Minister of Sport confirmed to Sportsnet on Wednesday that it is freezing government funding directed to Hockey Canada, effective immediately.
The news, which was first reported by TSN, comes just two days after two of the organization’s highest-ranking officials, outgoing CEO Tom Renney and president Scott Smith, testified before the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage Monday about their actions around June 2018 sexual assault allegations that recently came to light.
The focus of the hearing included questions around whether or not public funds were used by Hockey Canada in its settlement of the ensuing lawsuit last month. Canada’s minister of sport, Pascale St-Onge, earlier this month called for a forensic audit of Hockey Canada’s finances.
When reached by Sportsnet for further comment on the decision to freeze funding, St-Onge provided the following statement, which includes:
“On Monday, Hockey Canada’s testimony did not provide us with sufficient information. We did not learn much, and what we did learn is deeply troubling.
“Hockey Canada said they would not share with the committee the advice they received from the independent firm (Henein & Hutchison), or how they plan to respond. We also heard that the independent investigation was not completed, nor were the 8 John Doe players identified. This is unacceptable.
“Hockey Canada’s testimony also revealed they had another case of alleged sexual misconduct by players within the last five to six years. I cannot accept this standard as business as usual in our national sport organizations, and Canadians should not either.
“Considering their testimony, and effective immediately, I am suspending any further federal funding to Hockey Canada until they meet two conditions:
“• They must disclose the recommendations of improvement provided by Henein and Hutchison and concrete details of their plan to implement change.
“• They must become signatories to the office of the sports integrity commissioner.
“What this means is that Hockey Canada will receive no more payments or new funding from Sport Canada until they comply with these conditions.”
Six per cent of Hockey’s Canada’s annual budget – amounting to about $7.8 million – comes from government funding each year.
Hockey Canada, its finances, and the organization’s internal reporting structure has been in the spotlight since the June 2018 allegations first became public last month with the settlement of a lawsuit brought forth by a woman who says she was sexually assaulted in a London, Ont. hotel room by eight Canadian Hockey League players. She has not named the players, some of whom were on the 2017-18 Canadian Junior men’s national team, and has also made clear her wishes to keep her own identity private.
The lawsuit, in which the woman was seeking $3.55 million in damages, was filed in Ontario Superior Court on April 20. Terms of the settlement were not released.
Hockey Canada said during Monday’s hearing that a third-party investigation into the allegations was initiated in 2018 but ultimately remains incomplete.
— With files from Sportsnet’s Paul D. Grant