Peter Julian is pressing Canada’s sport minister, wanting answers to how the ministry handled sexual assault allegations against Hockey Canada once it was made aware.
Last month, in Ottawa, the New Westminster-Burnaby MP heard witness testimonies from Hockey Canada president Scott Smith and CEO Tom Renney, among others, as a member of the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage.
A woman has claimed she was sexually assaulted by eight members of the 2018 Canada world junior under-20 squad in June of the same year.
She alleged she was repeatedly assaulted while intoxicated in a London, Ont., hotel room after a Hockey Canada gala.
The now 24-year-old woman was seeking $3.55 million in damages from Hockey Canada, the Canadian Hockey League (CHL) and the players, who have not been named publicly.
None of the allegations have been proven in court. An out-of-court settlement was reached in May of this year.
On June 20, Smith, who was set to take over for the outgoing Renney as CEO on July 1, told the committee members of the country's gold medal-winning world junior team were "strongly encouraged" to speak with third-party investigators hired by Hockey Canada.
But it wasn’t made mandatory.
Renney said Hockey Canada found out about the alleged sexual assault the morning after the event when the woman’s stepfather contacted its HR department and police in London were informed that same evening.
A further statement released by the organization said, as soon as they were notified, they also retained the firm Henein Hutchison to undertake a thorough independent internal investigation and to make recommendations on areas for improvement which they had already been implementing.
The statement also says the individual who brought the allegations forward chose not to talk to police or with Hockey Canada’s private investigator and chose not to identify the players involved.
"This was her right and we fully respect her wishes."
Two days after officials appeared in front of the committee, Minister of Sport Pascale St-Onge said Hockey Canada’s testimony didn’t provide sufficient information.
As a result, St-Onge announced she was suspending federal funding to the organization until they met two conditions: disclose the recommendations of improvement provided by Henein and Hutchison and concrete details of the plan to implement change, and they must become signatories to the Office of the sports integrity commissioner.
"Hockey Canada said they would not share with the committee the advice they received from the independent firm [Henein and Hutchison], or how they plan to respond," she wrote in a June 22, 2022, statement.
"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."
On Tuesday (July 5), Julian wrote a letter to St-Onge asking for answers as to when she and the ministry were notified and why actions were not taken sooner.
"According to testimony, Sports Canada was informed about the allegations of sexual assault in June 2018," Julian wrote.
"Was that information passed on to the Minister of Sport? If not, why not? If the minister was informed, why didn’t the minister at the time act on that information? Parents who have kids in hockey have the right to know why Hockey Canada handled this case in such an irresponsible manner and how the government reacted.
"Canadians deserve to know what their government is doing concretely for a real culture change in the face of [alleged] sexual misconduct and assault at Hockey Canada and in other sports organizations across the country."
St-Onge has yet to issue a response to Julian’s letter.
Hockey Canada has also taken numerous hits from sponsors due to the alleged incident.
Scotiabank, Canadian Tire, TELUS and Tim Hortons all pulled sponsorship money for the upcoming world junior championships in August, which was cancelled and rescheduled from last winter due to several lab-confirmed COVID-19 cases.
"Hockey Canada has communicated that it is committed to changing the culture of hockey to make it safer and more inclusive for all, on and off the ice," Tim Hortons said in a statement.
"We have expressed strongly that we believe Canadians are urgently seeking concrete details from Hockey Canada about how it intends to do so.
"We will re-evaluate our sponsorship agreement once we have all the information we need to consider our options."
Canadian Tire said in its statement the company is "deeply disappointed in Hockey Canada's lack of transparency and accountability around the assault allegations."
In addition to withdrawing support from the world juniors, Canadian Tire said it is "re-evaluating its relationship with Hockey Canada."
Esso, also known as Imperial Oil, said it too would be pulling its support for the 2022 men’s world junior championship.
"Imperial will not be supporting the upcoming 2022 men’s world junior championship with the Esso brand," a statement said.
"This matter is deeply concerning, and we have communicated our expectations to Hockey Canada that concrete steps must be taken to address safety issues and ensure swift culture change."
More hearings were scheduled by the Canadian Heritage Standing Committee for July 26 to 27.
- with files from The Canadian Press