A Quebec legislature committee wants to see governance changes at the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League to prevent hazing.
In a report on sports hazing released Tuesday, the national assembly’s culture and education committee said they’d like the league to be run by an independent board of directors, instead of a board that consists of team owners.
The report, adopted unanimously by the committee, said players also need to be involved in the senior management of the league.
“With an independent board, it’s like a watchdog,” Enrico Ciccone, the Liberal sports critic and a former NHL player, told reporters at a joint press conference with members of other parties who sat on the committee.
Ciccone said that boards made of entirely of insiders tend to want to protect their brand and may be more inclined to cover things up — as was the case with Hockey Canada. The sport’s national governing body came under fire last year for its handling of sexual assault allegations against players on its 2018 and 2003 world junior teams.
The recommendation is one of 23 made by the committee.
“There are thousands of young people in Quebec who practice sports, we want it to be positive experience … in an environment that is stimulating, but above all, safe, without any form of violence,” said Suzanne Tremblay, the Coalition Avenir Québec member for Hull.
Among the other recommendations are that the QMJHL establish what activities are acceptable during initiations and what constitutes hazing.
The committee is also recommending that all junior hockey and other sports organizations ban hazing, including specific activities during initiations such as tattooing players, sex acts, physical violence and drinking games.
“It’s to make it uniform,” said Ciccone, adding that different people will have different definitions of abuse and some players may see abusive hazing rituals as normal
“It’s important to put it in black and white, what you’re not allowed to do,” he said.
The committee also said the QMJHL needs to take steps to educate players about hazing and establish an independent mechanism for receiving and investigating hazing complaints.
Vincent Marissal, Québec solidaire’s sports critic, said he hopes to see political action from the province’s sports minister on several of the recommendations, while others will have to come voluntarily from sports organizations, such as the QMJHL.
Ciccone said the committee won’t hesitate to follow-up with the QMJHL to see if its recommendations are being adopted.
“The message we’re sending today is govern yourself, because if not, we’ll move to another step,” he said.
The QMJHL said it is aware of the report.
“The commissioner’s office will take the next few weeks to thoroughly analyze its content and recommendations to provide an adequate response to the members of the commission,” the league said in an emailed statement. “We wish to thank them for their work throughout this initiative in addressing revelations of violence during initiations in junior hockey and its existence in other sports.”
The committee, which heard from witnesses in February, began studying the issue after Ontario Superior Court Justice Paul Perell accepted evidence that former players in Canada’s three major junior hockey leagues suffered “horrific and despicable and unquestionably criminal acts” at the hands of teammates and staff during initiations.