Sheldon Kennedy calls for Hockey Canada leadership to step down

Iain MacIntyre speaks with Evanka Osmak about the developments from the first day of the House of Commons hearings on Hockey Canada's response to the 2018 sexual assault allegations, and the impact it could have on Hockey Canada and Sport Canada.

Sheldon Kennedy spoke out on Tuesday to call for a change in leadership at the top of Hockey Canada as the organization continues to deal with the fallout of sexual assault allegations that emerged this spring.

“The same people with a new plan expecting different results is the definition of insanity,” the Respect Group co-founder said in a short statement tweeted out Tuesday. “I call for the resignation of Hockey Canada CEO Scott Smith, his leadership team and the board of directors to resign and step down from their positions immediately. ENOUGH IS ENOUGH ALREADY.”

Kennedy’s statement came in the immediate aftermath of Tuesday’s Hockey Canada hearing, during which more details of the organization’s handling of allegations came to light.

Smith will be among five current and former Hockey Canada officials to appear before parliament in the second set of this week’s two days of hearings. Also present will be former CEO Tom Renney (he retired from the post effective July 1), former VP of insurance and risk management Glen McCurdie, chief financial officer Brian Cairo, and Hockey Canada Foundation chair Dave Andrews. Smith, Renney, and Andrews previously appeared before the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage to give testimony on June 20.

During a conversation with Sportsnet last week, Kennedy shared his thoughts on Hockey Canada’s “archaic” response to allegations of assault and shed light on their lack of mandatory training in issues of abuse and discrimination despite calls for exactly that.

Since coming forward with his own story surviving abuse, Kennedy has dedicated his post-playing career to educating individuals and companies on how to identify, prevent and eradicate abuse, bullying and harassment through training initiatives. He’s worked extensively with minor hockey associations to better equip parents and coaches to address issues of abuse and has seen a lack of leadership come down from Hockey Canada as the sport’s governing body in the nation.

“I think the most powerful thing that they can do is throw their hands up and say, ‘We need help. Can somebody help us? We are all ears,’” he said. (Sportsnet interviewed Kennedy prior to the release of Hockey Canada’s updated Action Plan, which was sent out last Friday detailing their intentions to eradicate toxic culture and break the code of silence.)

“I think strong leadership is about asking for help and bringing in the right people to help them, the right organizations to help them,” Kennedy continued. He said at the time he believed that rather than outsourcing help, Hockey Canada was trying to solve its problem internally – “and I think that might be their downfall.

Kennedy told Sportsnet he’s seen a societal shift in matters of addressing issues surrounding abuse, assault, bullying, and discrimination, but hasn’t seen that same progress reflected within Hockey Canada.

There’s a whole different understanding of these issues today than there ever has been, and expectation,” he said. “There’s been a societal shift, and I think that the game of hockey has not kept up with that societal shift.”

He added Hockey Canada has responded to present-day allegations “like they would have 20 years ago.”

“I think the backlash is because we have been growing as a country, we’ve been growing as a society, we expect better and we have better knowledge. And our young people aren’t scared to talk about these issues. We’re not petrified of it, but the people in charge are,” he said.

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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