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Hockey Canada’s response to scandal ‘boggles the mind,’ says Trudeau

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the posturing of Hockey Canada — accused of mishandling allegations of gang rapes — “boggles the mind,” while the federal sports minister says it’s time for members of the embattled organization to “clean the house.”

During a high-profile appearance before the House of Commons heritage committee on Tuesday, Hockey Canada’s interim board chair Andrea Skinner defended the organization, saying it has an “excellent reputation” and argued against scapegoating “hockey as a centrepiece for toxic culture.”

She went on to say Hockey Canada won’t be making any managerial changes, defying a request from federal Sport Minister Pascale St-Onge. 

The minister said on Monday that mass resignations at the governing body are needed to restore public trust in an organization that has made secret payments to sexual assault victims.

Andrea Skinner, interim chair of the board of directors at Hockey Canada, appears virtually as a witness before the heritage committee in Ottawa on Tuesday. She said the organization won’t be making any managerial changes. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

“I think that would be very impactful in a negative way to all of our boys and girls who are playing hockey,” Skinner said Tuesday. 

“Will the lights stay on at the rink? I don’t know. We can’t predict that. To me, it’s not a risk worth taking.”

The response seemed to mystify the prime minister.

“I think it — it boggles the mind that Hockey Canada is continuing to dig in its heels,” he said Wednesday before heading into a caucus meeting on Parliament Hill.”

“Parents across the country are losing faith or have lost faith in Hockey Canada. Certainly, politicians here in Ottawa have lost faith in Hockey Canada.”

Watch | Hockey Canada behaviour ‘boggles the mind,’ says Trudeau

Hockey Canada behaviour ‘boggles the mind,’ says Trudeau

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau weighs in on the ongoing scandal at Hockey Canada.

Hockey Québec cuts ties with Hockey Canada

At least one regional federation has heeded St-Onge’s call.

Hockey Québec voted Tuesday night to cut ties with Hockey Canada in the wake of new allegations against the sporting body. 

In a resolution first obtained by La Presse, Quebec’s provincial hockey federation states that it no longer has “confidence in the ability of Hockey Canada to act effectively to change the culture of hockey with the structure in place.

“I think the decision that Hockey Québec took shows that reform [is] being engaged. It also sends the message to the leaders at the organization that are holding onto their jobs that Hockey Canada doesn’t belong to them, it also belongs to their members and they want change,” St-Onge said.

WATCH | The Fifth Estate investigates sexual assault in hockey: 

Hockey Canada is on the defensive over allegations that some members of its gold-medal winning World Junior team in 2018 took part in a group sexual assault, and the organization didn’t do enough to hold players accountable. The Fifth Estate examines the national shame inside Canada’s game, and the disturbing history that suggests this was not an isolated incident.

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

The governing body has faced a torrent of criticism over its secretive use of player registration fees and other investments to compensate sexual assault complainants.

This summer, after a number of news outlets broke stories about the existence of these funds, Hockey Canada revealed it had paid out $8.9 million in settlements to 21 complainants with sexual misconduct claims since 1989.

Through a review of public records, CBC’s The Fifth Estate has identified at least 15 cases of alleged group sexual assault involving junior hockey players that have been investigated by police since 1989 — half of which surfaced in the past decade.

MP calls Skinner’s comments ‘Trump-like’

Skinner’s appearance before the heritage committee on Tuesday triggered bewilderment, sometimes even laughter, among the assembled MPs — who, despite their partisan differences, were universally critical of Hockey Canada at the meeting.

Bloc Québécois MP Sébastien Lemire said Hockey Canada is “living in a bubble” and is “disconnected” from public opinion.

Conservative MP John Nater read aloud excerpts from Hockey Canada board meeting minutes that showed the organization was intent on “shifting the narrative” around the scandal.

“Settlement payments must be viewed in a positive manner, not a negative manner. Repetition required to state the narrative,” Nater read from the minutes.

Pascale St-Onge, the federal minister of sport, speaks with reporters before question period in the foyer of the House of Commons on Tuesday. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

The Ontario MP told the committee he found “it deeply troubling that the organization is more concerned with shifting the narrative than actually meaningfully implementing change within this organization.”

Skinner, a lawyer by training, said the media was trying to turn the public against Hockey Canada and its leadership team by publishing stories critical of its handling of violent sexual assault in the sport.

Liberal MP Anthony Housefather described Skinner’s efforts to blame the media and MPs for her organization’s woes as “Trump-like.”

WATCH | Canadian MPs across party lines demand new leadership at Hockey Canada 

Canadian MPs across party lines demand new leadership at Hockey Canada

Today, all parties grilled the interim chair of Hockey Canada’s board of directors, Andrea Skinner. Federal MPs, as well as Minister for Sport Pascale St-Onge are demanding change in the leadership of the organization, something Skinner said she has no plans to do.

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