OTTAWA – The House of Commons Heritage Committee has ordered another round of hearings into Hockey’s handling of sexual assault allegations, with former and current CEOs and board chairs summoned to testify.
At a meeting on Tuesday, the Canadian Heritage Standing Committee agreed to order Interim Hockey Canada Chairman Andrea Skinner, former President Michael Brendamor and former President and CEO Bob Nicholson to appear at a hearing on October 4.
This is the first time a board member has been called to testify, and it will also be Nicholson’s first appearance. Scott Smith, the current president and CEO of Hockey Canada, has testified in two previous sessions, having preceded Smith and succeeded Nicholson in roles.
The committee held the first round of hearings on June 20 following reports of an alleged sexual assault of players on the Canada World Junior Team in 2018 after a Canada hockey party in London, Ont., and a silent settlement between the organization and the complainant.
The federal government froze its Hockey Canada funding two days later, and several corporate sponsors temporarily halted their support.
Canadian hockey came under increased scrutiny when The Canadian Press reported that it was using a reserve fund, created in part by hockey registration fees, to settle uninsurable claims including settling sexual assault cases.
Another allegation against the 2003 junior team members surfaced on July 22. Another round of parliamentary hearings was held July 26-27, with a multi-party group of MPs calling for a change in Hockey Canada’s leadership.
Skinner took over as chairman after Brendamore stepped down on August 6 before his term expired in November. Soon after, Hockey Canada issued a statement in support of Smith, who was the focus of many MPs questioned in the first two rounds of hearings.
Nicholson was the CEO of Hockey Canada from June 1, 1998 until June 1, 2014. He is now Chairman of the Edmonton Oilers Club of the NHL.
Hockey Canada’s leadership is currently under review headed by Canadian Supreme Court Justice Thomas Cromwell. Which is expected to make provisional recommendations before its annual general meeting in November.
Smith said he believed he deserved executive leadership of Hockey Canada, but said he was “willing to accept” the results of the review.
Sports Minister Pascal Saint Ong also criticized, on Wednesday, the wording of the poll that Hockey Canada sent to its members to ask questions regarding its handling of the allegations.
Questions included whether respondents agreed or disagreed with the statement: “The level of criticism by the media toward Hockey Canada is exaggerated.”
“When asked if it was the media that created this crisis when we talk about possible rape, I think they underestimate the problem,” Saint Ong told reporters in Ottawa.
The Canadian Hockey Organization said Wednesday that the survey was created to measure sentiment and awareness of issues facing Hockey Canada from members of the hockey community.
“Hockey Canada has not under any circumstances downplayed the challenges facing our organization, or the appalling allegations of sexual assault against former members of the national junior national team,” the federation said in a statement. “We have been very clear that we recognize that we need to do better and are committed to making the necessary changes to promote a safe and positive environment for all participants on and off the ice.”
– With files from Mia Rapson.
This report was first published by The Canadian Press on September 21, 2022.