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Hockey Québec, Ontario Hockey Federation withholding funds from Hockey Canada

In Ottawa, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says it “boggles the mind” that past and present board chairs are digging in their heels about replacing the entire leadership team at the sport’s governing body.

Hockey Québec 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 on Tuesday, Oct. 4 saying it does not believe Hockey Canada’s current structure can change hockey culture. The resolution was first reported by La Presse.

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

Meanwhile, the Ontario Hockey Federation (OHF), the largest of Canada’s 13 provincial and territorial hockey federations, has re-sent a formal request to Hockey Canada to not collect the $3 participant assessment fee from its members for the 2022-23 season.

Philip McKee, the OHF’s executive director, said his federation first made this request to Hockey Canada’s former chair Michael Brind’Amour in July.

“It is our understanding now that this request was never directed to the board before his departure,” the OHF statement said.

In Ottawa, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says it “boggles the mind” that past and present board chairs are digging in their heels about replacing the entire leadership team at the sport’s governing body.

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

“Hockey is a really important sport to a lot of Canadians and a lot of kids and right now this mess is doing no favours to kids.”

Trudeau and Sport Minister Pascale St-Onge have both called for Hockey Canada executives to step down after it was revealed the organization has paid out $7.6 million to settle nine sexual assault and abuse claims since 1989.

Conservative Member of Parliament (MP) John Nater says after yesterday’s committee hearing when the interim chief claimed they handled this well, he hopes other provincial associations follow suit.

“What we’ve seen over the past few months is a complete unwillingness to be transparent and a complete unwillingness to make the changes necessary,” he said.

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 membership 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.

Bad decisions and bad handling

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.”

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