Hockey Canada Board backs President Scott Smith despite calls for change


Hockey Canada’s Board of Directors says it stands with President and CEO Scott Smith and his executive team amid calls for leadership change within the organization.

Acting Board Chair Andrea Skinner announced the organization’s executive support in a statement posted on her website Monday.

The statement did not specify the reason for the show of support, but said the board was undertaking “ongoing efforts to restore the confidence of Canadians in hockey and Hockey Canada,” which includes a governance review.

Canada’s hockey governing body is under intense scrutiny for its handling of sexual assault allegations against members of former junior men’s teams.

A fervent advocate for victims of sexual abuse and retired NHL player, Sheldon Kennedy reiterated Tuesday his calls for the resignation of Hockey Canada management.

“For the sake of the game and the children, the Hockey Canada leadership group must step down as they have lost the confidence of Canadians in their ability to lead. It’s crystal clear,” he told The Canadian Press.

The federal government has frozen funding for Hockey Canada after it was revealed the organization quietly settled a lawsuit with a woman who alleged she was sexually assaulted by members of the 2018 Junior Men’s Team at the Hockey Canada Gala. Hockey Canada in London, Ontario that year.

Several Hockey Canada corporate partners have suspended their support of Hockey Canada after leaders were challenged by MPs at a meeting of the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage about the organization’s response to the alleged assault. The results were evident at the world junior championships earlier this month in Edmonton, where the ice and boards at Rogers Place were almost entirely devoid of advertising.

Hockey Canada later said members of the 2003 junior team were being investigated for alleged sexual assault in Nova Scotia.

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Sheldon Kennedy, an advocate for survivors of sexual abuse and one of the victims of serial abuser Graham James, has called on Hockey Canada management to resign. There was cross-party support for that sentiment from MPs on the heritage committee, which twice heard testimony from Smith and other leaders about their handling of the allegations.

The only change at the top so far has been the resignation of former board chairman Michael Brind’Amour, who stepped down on August 6 before his term ends in November.

“Sport cannot self-regulate”

Rob Koehler, chief executive of Global Athlete, an international athlete-led movement founded to balance power between athletes and administrators, said he was not surprised the board publicly supported Smith.

“Everyone in Canadian sport knows that the well-paid CEOs of national sport organizations hold the majority of power on volunteer boards. Ms. Skinner’s statement is akin to the fox guarding the henhouse,” Koehler said. .

“Sport cannot self-regulate. Sport, like any industry, needs oversight, accountability and transparency. Sport has none of these. Until the Canadian government demands these principles, sport will continue to be a breeding ground for abuse.”

Hockey Canada’s scrutiny deepened when it was revealed that the organization was using its multimillion-dollar national equity fund, which comes from player fees, for uninsured payments, including the settlement of sexual abuse claims.

Hockey Canada told a heritage committee hearing on July 27 that it had paid out $7.6 million in nine settlements over sexual assault and abuse claims since 1989, including $6.8 million related to serial abuser Graham James.

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Sports Minister Pascale St-Onge speaks with guest host Ashley Burke about her reaction to the latest allegations of sexual assault by junior hockey players and growing calls for the resignation of Hockey Canada leaders.

The organization has since said the fund will no longer be used to settle sexual assault settlements.

Conservative John Nater, Liberal Anthony Housefather and New Democrat Peter Julian were among MPs calling for a change in the leadership of Hockey Canada.

“I think it’s fair to say that Hockey Canada just didn’t step up. … The Canadians were disappointed,” Julian said at the July 27 committee hearing.

“There needs to be a bigger cultural shift at Hockey Canada than what you’re currently promising,” Housefather said.

Smith said he believed he was “the right person” to lead Hockey Canada, but said he would respect the findings of the governance review.

The review, led by former Supreme Court Justice Thomas Cromwell, is expected to provide draft recommendations before Hockey Canada’s annual general meeting in November.


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