Hockey Quebec has ‘lost confidence’ in Hockey Canada; withholding funds

Canadian PM Justin Trudeau reacts to the news that Hockey Quebec has lost confidence in Hockey Canada, and will not transfer any more funds to the organization.

Hockey Quebec says it has lost confidence in Hockey Canada and will not transfer funds to the national organization.

The provincial federation confirmed to The Canadian Press that its board of directors adopted a motion Tuesday night saying it does not believe Hockey Canada’s current structure can change hockey culture. The resolution was first reported by La Presse. 

Hockey Quebec has also decided to keep the portion of registration fees normally handed over to the national organization, which amounts to $3 per sign-up.

Hockey Canada continues to vigorously defend its leadership amid criticism over the handling of alleged sexual assaults and the way money was paid out in lawsuits.

The revelations include an admission by Hockey Canada that it drew on minor hockey registration fees to pay for uninsured liabilities, including sexual abuse claims.

Hockey Quebec blamed the national federation for its handling of two of the most recent cases, which allegedly involve players from the 2003 and 2018 Canadian world junior teams.

Hockey Canada’s interim chair Andrea Skinner and former chair Michael Brind’Amour appeared before MPs in Ottawa on Tuesday to testify about alleged sexual assaults in the sport and how money was paid out in lawsuits.

Skinner defended the national federation’ and said hockey shouldn’t be made a “scapegoat” for a toxic culture that exists elsewhere in society.

Hockey Quebec’s move received support from Sport Minister Pascale St-Onge, who has called for a leadership change at Hockey Canada.

“It also sends the message to the leaders at the organization that are holding on to their jobs that Hockey Canada doesn’t belong to them. It also belongs to their members, and they want change. They want a change of culture and they want to fight against sexual violence,” St-Onge told reporters in Ottawa.

“Since the leaders of Hockey Canada are holding on to their jobs, the voting members need to clean the house.”

Hockey Canada has been under fire since May when it was revealed the organization settled a lawsuit with a woman who alleged she was sexually assaulted by eight players from the 2018 junior men’s hockey team at a June gala event in London, Ont., that year.

The allegation is the subject of three active investigations being conducted by London police, the National Hockey League and Hockey Canada. 

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says it “boggles the mind that Hockey Canada is continuing to dig in its heels” as more Canadians lose faith in the national sports body.

“It’s no surprise that provincial organizations are questioning whether or not they want to continue supporting an organization that doesn’t understand how serious a situation it has contributed to causing,” Trudeau said Wednesday.

Ontario Conservative MP John Nater, a member of the Heritage committee which has been probing the issue, says to see meaningful change at Hockey Canada its CEO and other upper management needs to go. 

“Right now, we need to put pressure on the organization,” Nater said before entering his party’s weekly caucus meeting.

“Put pressure on the 13 voting members to ensure that there’s a board in place that’s going to make those meaningful changes at the top.”

Kevin Waugh, another Conservative MP on the same committee, added that Hockey Canada as an organization has the money to weather the current scandal for years to come. 

“It will be up to the sponsors, I believe now.”

Sports marketing expert Tom Mayenknecht said the national body’s defensive posture has raised the level of difficulty for Hockey Canada to assert itself as worthy of both public and corporate trust.

“This is such a series of bad decisions and bad handling, in my view, that I’m not sure if Hockey Canada hasn’t already crossed that line, again, given some of the public sentiment and even membership sentiment that I’m hearing at the grassroots level,” Mayenknecht told The Canadian Press. “I’m not so sure that they can fully regain the trust without doing a lot more than they already have.”

It was revealed in July that Hockey Canada paid out $7.6 million in nine settlements related to sexual assault and sexual abuse claims since 1989.

The figure didn’t include this year’s payout of an undisclosed sum to the London plaintiff, who had sued for more than $3.5 million. None of the allegations were tested in court. 

Since Hockey Canada’s settlement became public in the spring, Halifax police were asked to investigate an alleged sexual assault by members of the 2003 junior men’s team.

Between June 22-29, the organization had its federal funding frozen, in addition to losing sponsorship money from a number of corporations.

In spite of calls for change in leadership, Brind’Amour stated that president and CEO Scott Smith has “the necessary qualities to do something positive for the organization.” Skinner, meanwhile, stated that Hockey Canada could turn things around while maintaining its leadership group.

While acknowledging more needs to be done outside of new leadership, director and professor of Western University’s school of kinesiology Laura Misener said Hockey Canada’s reluctance to alter its organizational structure displays a lack of understanding for what’s needed while attempting to shield the sport.

“I think there’s two things going on there: one, there is a level of protectionism. Wanting to protect the sport that they believe in, that they really strongly, truly value that there is something important about protecting that sport. And so, I think that that’s happening on one hand and why they want to stay in their positions,” she said. 

“Two, I think there’s a real misunderstanding of what culture shifting (and) culture change requires. And so often leaders think that they can be part of that change and we hear that lingo, that rhetoric used often, ‘Be part of the change,’ without really understanding the meaning behind that requires them to give up their levels of power, their positions of power, and the culture and understanding that they have had for so long within the sport. So, I think that’s part of what the secrecy is about. It’s just an uncertainty of what the future will look like if they’re not involved.”

— With files from Frederic Daigle in Montreal and Abdulhamid Ibrahim in Toronto.

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