Members of Canadian women’s national teams join ‘fight for the truth’ in Hockey Canada investigation

Hockey Canada's logo pictured on a jersey. (Graham Hughes/CP)

Members of the Canadian women’s national teams issued a statement on Monday declaring they want to participate in the “fight for truth” and are “demanding a thorough and transparent investigation” into the alleged sexual assaults involving Hockey Canada.

In a letter posted on the verified account of four-time Canadian women’s hockey Olympic player Marie-Philip Poulin and addressed to Hockey Canada’s executives and board of directors, the members also expressed concern for what the freezing of funds by the federal government and the freezing and withdrawal of funds by sponsors means to the women’s program, which to date has not been involved in the alleged incidents.

The women’s national team members called on the organization to “ensure that all steps are taken and appropriate measures are put in place to ensure that this kind of behaviour is never again accepted and never repeated. Anything less would be a disservice to the common human decency we expect as a society and most certainly within the game of hockey, a sport that unites this country.”

The statement concludes that more work needs to be done in order for a “new Hockey Canada” to emerge from this crisis.

Hockey Canada has been under fire for its handling of sexual violence allegations after news broke in May that it settled a lawsuit with a woman who said she was sexually assaulted in June 2018 in London, Ont., by eight CHL players, including some members of the 2017-18 Canadian world junior team.

In the two months since those allegations came to light, multiple players from that team have released statements denying their involvement. The organization has had its government funding frozen while multiple major corporate partners have suspended sponsorship agreements amid calls for action and accountability.

Those calls prompted Hockey Canada to announce last week the reopening of its third-party investigation into the matter, with the lawyer of the woman who brought forth the lawsuit confirming his client will participate. London Police Service announced Friday it was reopening its criminal investigation into the incident after an internal review conducted this week.

Investigative reports from The Canadian Press and The Globe and Mail revealed earlier this week the existence of a fund — later acknowledged by Hockey Canada as its “National Equity Fund” — that is used, at least partially, to settle claims of sexual assault.

Details of another alleged group sexual assault, this one involving the 2003 Canadian team at the world juniors tournament in Halifax, emerged on Friday.

Hearings into the Hockey Canada investigation will be held Tuesday and Wednesday in Ottawa.

The full text of the statement:

“As members of the most recent women’s Canadian National, Olympic and World Championship teams, we felt it necessary to address this to you as our sports national governing body. Hockey Canada has been making global headlines these past weeks for all the wrong reasons. The allegations we are reading and hearing about are extremely disturbing and wholly unacceptable.

“While the name of Hockey Canada has been tarnished by these alleged incidents, hockey is the sport that we love and play. And Canada is the country that we proudly play for and are honored to represent. The value of these two words and what they represent to us and all Canadians is of immeasurable importance.

“We are writing to you today to declare first and above all else that we intend to be part of the fight for the truth. All of the facts related to this terrible situation must and will come to light. After all, the only way to treat an injury is to acknowledge it fully. We join all Canadians in demanding a thorough and transparent investigation of the incidents in question, as well as the structure, governance and environment that exists within the organization. Once the whole truth is out Hockey Canada and its elected board must ensure that all steps are taken and appropriate measures are put in place to ensure that this kind of behavior is never again accepted and never repeated. Anything less would be a disservice to the common human decency, we expect as a society and most certainly within the game of hockey, a sport that unites this country.

“We take our role as leaders on the national team seriously and with great pride, and as role models for young women, we will ensure that women’s rights whether they be players, fans or others, are protected and guaranteed. In addition, the announced federal funding cuts and investment withdrawal from major sponsors is deeply concerning, as this will surely impact a critical training and development funding that has allowed our women’s national teams to shine on the global hockey stage. Our women’s program – which has brought home five Olympic gold medals, 11 World Championship titles and six U18 world titles – intends to monitor this situation and all decisions connected to it closely.

“The women the Canadian Women’s legacy is unmatched in hockey. We will continue to be an equal and respected member of Hockey Canada, one that fights for equal rights, gender equitable treatment and opportunity in this sport, as well as a safe and protected environment for all of its participants and fans. This is imperative for the growth and long-term success of women’s sport in Canada and the safeguarding of women’s rights everywhere.

We understand that change is coming and we intend to act as vanguards of our great game and all of the programs associated with growing the women’s game across our country. We are encouraged by the Action Plan you announced earlier but this is only, as you acknowledge in your statement, a step towards addressing toxic behaviors. There is much more work and action needed to fully address the underlying issues in order to ensure that a new Hockey Canada emerges from this crisis. We feel it is important to have women sitting at the table at this process evolves and we urge you to include representatives from our group so that we can be informed and involved.”

–with files from Sportsnet’s Emily Sadler and Paul D. Grant

Support for survivors
If you or someone you know has experienced sexual violence and 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 can be found here.

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