I call this meeting to order.
Good afternoon, everyone.
Welcome to meeting number 38 of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage.
I would like to acknowledge that this meeting is taking place on the unceded traditional territory of the Algonquin Anishinaabe people.
Pursuant to the order of reference adopted by the House on Thursday, June 2, 2022, and the motion adopted by the committee on Monday, June 13, 2022, the committee is meeting on the study of Hockey Canada’s involvement in alleged sexual assaults committed in 2018.
Today’s meeting is taking place in a hybrid format. By now most of you know the rules. Pursuant to the House order of November 25, 2021, members who are attending in person in the room should be masked at all times.
As per the directive of the Board of Internal Economy on March 10, 2022, all those attending the meeting in person must wear a mask. For those remotely using the Zoom application, please remember to mute yourself when you are not speaking, and when I call your name you may unmute so that you can speak.
I would like to remind you, for those who are joining us remotely, that at the bottom of your screen there is a little round globe, which is an interpretation button. You can press that to hear it in the language of your choice. Those on the floor, you know the usual rule. Plug it in and you will be able to get interpretation.
I remind you that all comments should be addressed through the chair.
I need to ask the committee’s consent if they will accept Mr. Tom Renney, Mr. Scott Smith, and Mr. David Andrews of Hockey Canada being advised, or assisted, by counsel, Mr. Andrew Winton, when they appear in front of the committee. Do I have committee approval for this?
That was already told to Mr. Winton, that he is there as counsel and adviser only, and that he's not to speak or answer questions.
Thank you very much for reminding us of that, John.
I think today the committee will begin on the study on Hockey Canada’s involvement in alleged sexual assaults committed in 2018.
Participants present are here for two hours, and they are as follows: Andrew Winton, legal counsel, and the witnesses Scott Smith, president and chief operating officer, Hockey Canada; Dave Andrews, chair, Hockey Canada Foundation; and Tom Renney, chief executive officer.
I shall begin. I wanted the witnesses to know that they each have five minutes to present at the committee. At the end of that time there will be a question and answer period.
Thank you, Madam Chair and members of the committee, for inviting Hockey Canada to appear today.
My name is Tom Renney, and I am Hockey Canada's chief executive officer. I'm joined today by Scott Smith, Hockey Canada's president and chief operating officer, and David Andrews, chair of the board of directors of the Hockey Canada Foundation.
Our former colleague, Glen McCurdie, who retired as senior vice-president of insurance and risk management in December, is not here today due to the recent passing of his father. We appreciate the committee's compassion in not compelling his attendance today.
We welcome the opportunity to respond to the members' questions regarding the allegations involving members of the 2017-18 national junior hockey team and the recent settlement Hockey Canada reached with the plaintiff in that matter. Before we do that, I want to make one thing clear: Hockey Canada is on a journey to change the culture of our sport and to make it safer and more inclusive. We acknowledge that issues of maltreatment, including bullying, harassment, racism, homophobia and sexual abuse, exist in hockey as they do in other sports and in our society. We have been working on this since well before the London incident, but we recognize that as leaders we need to do more, and we are committed to doing just that.
Before we get to your questions, I would like to provide some context for the discussion. Given that some of the public commentary on this very serious issue has been speculative, I would like to ensure that we are starting with a common set of facts. Hockey Canada is aware of reports suggesting that we failed to investigate this incident, attempted to cover it up and generally swept this matter under the rug. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Hockey Canada learned of this incident the day after it was alleged to have taken place. We immediately initiated a process to investigate, beginning by contacting police. We commissioned an independent investigation and appointed an independent adjudication panel of judges to review the findings of that investigation. We also notified Sport Canada, as is our obligation as a federally funded national sport organization.
Our organization, leadership and staff have co-operated fully with law enforcement and the investigator throughout their processes, providing access to all information requested. We cannot speak to the investigation undertaken by the London police. For our part, the independent investigation we commissioned could not ultimately be completed, because the young woman chose not to speak to the investigator. That was her right, and we respected her wishes, just as we continue to respect her clear and repeated wishes not to identify her or the players involved. While we understand the public's frustration that the players involved have never been identified or disciplined, the young woman has agency in this matter, and we encourage everyone to give appropriate consideration and deference to her fundamental desire for privacy above all else.
With regard to the legal action that was filed in April of this year, we settled the claim quickly because we felt a moral obligation to respond to the alleged behaviour that occurred at one of our events by players who attended at our invitation. While we don't know exactly what occurred that night or the identities of those involved, we recognize that the conduct was unacceptable and incompatible with Hockey Canada's values and expectations, and that it clearly caused harm. We felt that the right response to the woman's legal request was one that did not require her to participate in a prolonged court proceeding. The settlement enables her to seek whatever support she might require as she tries to move past this incident.
Although the investigation could not come to a conclusion regarding the role that any player may have played in the incident, the investigator provided advice on areas for improvement, which we have been implementing and will continue to pursue in the line of our work to improve the culture of our sport. This work includes enhancing our code of conduct and improving our education programs. We are happy to discuss these efforts in more detail today.
As I said at the outset, pushing this behavioural change is a priority for our organization.
Thank you, Madam Chair, and thank you to the witnesses for joining us today.
My questions will be relatively brief, and I hope I can have relatively brief answers as well on this matter.
I'm going to use the term “alleged assault”, because these allegations haven't been proven in court. We do respect the privacy of the complainant or the individual in question, and none of our questions will be directed in a way that would reveal any identifiable information about the individual in question, as I think is appropriate in this context.
I'd like to know, first of all, when exactly Hockey Canada became aware of the alleged incident that occurred in London on June 19.
Thank you so much, Madam Chair.
Thank you, gentlemen, for being here today.
I want to start by saying that I recognize all of the good work that is done by the staff and volunteers at Hockey Canada and all of the different sports federations in the country. I don't view this as an adversarial proceeding. We're here to get information on behalf of Canadians. Hopefully we'll all treat this process in such a way.
You said that on May 3 you were served. There was a claim filed on April 20, 2022, against Hockey Canada, the Canadian Hockey League and the eight John Doe defendants who were alleged to have been involved in the incident. All of the John Doe defendants were served at the Hockey Canada address. How did you transmit that claim to the John Doe defendants?
Thank you very much, Madam Chair.
I would tell you that we seem to have forgotten about one individual in our conversation at this point in time, and that's the young woman. By her request, we have not, obviously, identified her, because she wishes not to be, and she also wishes not to identify any of the players.
With that being said, your questions are good ones. Don't get me wrong: I believe they're good and I think they're solid. They give us room to think. We are here to learn. We are here to understand what your constituents are looking for with respect to responses and guidance and a path forward that keeps everyone safe, healthy and enjoying sport, never mind just hockey. I certainly understand that.
I can tell you that what we've done since 2018 is recognize the value of a robust interrogation, if you will, of coaches who might in fact be interested in any of our high-performance programs. Those are programs from an under-16 level all the way up to and including under 20, and on the women's side, the women's national team. We are working hard to try to do the right thing here, recognizing that your feedback is important and recognizing that what you've addressed with us is really quite significant. We will contemplate that and integrate those thoughts, should they become necessary and relevant to us, which they are today, into what we need to do moving forward.
As Mr. Smith has identified, we are on a journey here. We take full responsibility for where we are today, and we wish to take full responsibility for where we go tomorrow. We owe that, and have an obligation to every Canadian to do as much.
I really appreciate that.
I appreciate your incredible sensitivity to the wishes of the alleged victim here. I think what I would say, though, is that of course her wishes have to be respected, certainly, with respect to her own identity. Often, though, you will have victims, and then the same people will do the same thing to somebody else. By not trying to identify the gentlemen allegedly involved here, we may have other women who are potentially attacked in the future. I don't think it's enough to simply rely on the desire of the victim not to disclose the identity of the potential perpetrators. I would ask you to think about that.
I want to come back to Mr. Julian's question. Has Hockey Canada received other allegations of sexual misconduct by players in the last, say, 10 years?
Thank you, Madam Chair.
We believe that we can improve on the scope and skill of what we do in our code of conduct right now. Our code of conduct, as it sits with our high-performance programs and in competition, has zero tolerance for any type of a breach of the code. Where I think we have an issue internally is that the lines are blurred when it comes outside of the code of conduct for events such as our Order of Hockey in Canada and gala, but also symposium seminars, clinics or whatever the case may be.
Again, I look forward to the work of our director of safe sport to help us along the lines of making sure that we identify ways and means with which to mitigate any issues we may have for women in our country.
We don't know that we have all the answers at this point in time. We certainly don't profess to. As Mr. Smith stated earlier, we are far from perfect, but we are not at all—
I didn't comment on the investigation. I think I told you that I couldn't. I shared with you that we have reported three to Sport Canada. This is one of them.
If I could just step back for a second to the incidents from 2018, we weren't able to confirm through our third party investigator what happened that evening, so although the code of conduct has been strengthened, it's not as though we're condoning the behaviour that potentially happened that evening. We were not able to confirm who was involved and what happened that evening.
I think a lot of people are taking the allegations and the statement of claim as fact. I'm not in a position to debate many of those allegations because I'm not aware, but I do know that three of them are clearly not true. There's an allegation that we didn't report it to the London Police Service. We did. There's an allegation that we didn't have a third party investigation. We did. There's also an allegation that we didn't offer support to the young woman, but we did.
The challenge we have is that despite extensive efforts over, I believe, a 26-month period, we were not able to confirm what happened that evening.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
Again, I can tell you that during competition we have very strict measures with which to provide oversight to the players, staff in general, and obviously the volunteers who help us at these events. I can tell you it's my belief that at an event such as the gala, for example, as was suggested by the independent report, we needed to strengthen our supervision over the event of that evening and certainly our players. I cannot hide and duck from that. I would tell you that I agree with that. That is a fault of ours for sure, and it would certainly be represented in the code of conduct as it is now, moving forward.
I appreciate your concern. I don't disagree with it. I take responsibility for where that sits today, as I did then. I think we've improved upon that, but there's no question: Your concerns are legitimate. We shared them and we are working hard, as I mentioned earlier, with respect to the independent report to rectify the problem of supervision at non-hockey or non-competitive events. I think, as I mentioned earlier as well, that the line was blurred there, and we fell short.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
First of all, I'll speak to what we did in the fall of 2018 with respect to our code of conduct. I've made reference to it, but I'll touch on it briefly. I think we strengthened our code of conduct. We furthered our education and our requirements. We have also been in a process of adding to our education initiatives training with respect to sexual assault and references to our code of conduct, as well as morality clauses.
We're in the process right now.... We've engaged a third party consultant to review all of our education initiatives. That's everything from abuse to bullying, harassment, sexual misconduct, compliance, etc. I really believe that we need to have a thorough assessment of our education initiatives to make sure that we are comfortable—not just we in this room, but all Canadians—that our education initiatives are driving the change that we desire in hockey.
I would tell you, quite frankly, that we probably are behind, because of the two years of stop-and-start in sport due to the pandemic. We're not unique in sport in having that situation, but we are driven to make sure that every Canadian understands that we want to further our education.
I've said publicly that I don't want education to be a box-checking exercise. I don't want to check the box and say, “Yes, I took that education initiative.” I want people to invest their time in education that is going to drive the change in behaviour that we all desire and that Canadians can be really proud of.
We're reviewing all of our education initiatives, and we'll do that over the next, I believe, eight to 10 months. These include initiatives around abuse, bullying and harassment, where we have been leaders in sport through our work with Respect Group since back in the early 2000s, I want to say.
Madam Chair, I will be taking the floor.
We're discussing sexual assault allegations here. In light of the answers that you've given today, my sense is that the Hockey Canada Foundation hasn't been all that proactive. It has conducted investigations and prepared reports, but those reports are incomplete. It's responsible for the out-of-court settlement. You're quick to pay and cover up the affair, even though you didn't know what had happened.
The Hockey Canada Foundation demonstrated a form of complicity in covering up this affair. There was talk of an independent investigation, which was conducted without speaking in particular to the persons responsible for organizing the Hockey Canada Foundation gala where the incidents occurred. I sincerely hope you didn't put pressure on the victim to secure that out-of-court settlement.
I'd like you to release the minutes of the board meeting and those of the Hockey Canada Foundation from June 2018 to the present. In addition, I'd like to know how many times these sexual assault allegations appeared on the agendas of those meetings.
I'd also like to give you some food for thought. The Kyle Beach affair was settled, and the name of the person responsible for the sexual assault was removed from the Stanley Cup. Ten years later, the trainers and executive directors who decided to cover up the affair were fired.
The Victoriaville Tigres players who behaved so scandalously, including Logan Mailloux, were suspended for a year.
What's key in national and international sport is the team logo. It seems that's how it works. When the Russian players were involved in a doping scandal, they were stripped of their team logo but were still able to participate in the Olympic Games. They weren't penalized for their federation's lack of action or, in that case, its complicity. They played as Olympic Athletes from Russia.
It seems to me that the only acceptable penalty for your sloppiness is to demand that you not play under the Hockey Canada logo for the next year. The idea is to force you to consider the culture that Hockey Canada conveys and to make you accept your responsibility. I think you've acted as a John Doe 9 in this matter.
What do you think of that?
Thank you very much, Madam Chair.
What happened to the victim was horrible. Nothing in your testimony today suggests that there has been a change of course as a result of these serious allegations.
I'm struck by one fact. When you discussed the code of conduct, you mentioned that most players on the team weren't required to take part in the investigation.
Have you made any changes in that regard?
If another horrible crime were committed, like the one alleged in 2018, would all the players now be required to take part and cooperate in the internal investigation conducted by Hockey Canada or in the police investigations?
Investigations lead to truth and justice.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
First of all, we share the view that these allegations are troubling. As we've said from the outset, we take them very seriously. If there's any Canadian watching today who thinks that Hockey Canada doesn't take these seriously, we do.
We've shared with you on a few occasions and in the answers here that we've improved and enhanced our code of conduct. We've strengthened the education. Because these players are registered members of other teams, we will be working with our partners to make sure we can compel people to participate in an investigation when it takes place under our care and under our responsibility. That is a work in progress as we speak today. It's not something, as you asked, sir, that has concluded, but it's certainly a priority for us and a work in progress.
We've focused our efforts on education.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
I've been concerned by some of the comments I've been hearing today. I say that honestly as a parliamentarian, as a parent and as a parent with kids in hockey, ringette and organized sport. I come back to the phrase “accountability versus responsibility”.
I acknowledge that Hockey Canada has tried to take responsibility for this incident, but I'm quite concerned that you're not taking accountability for this situation. I've heard comments about education, about improving education around the code of conduct, but my God, sexual assault is wrong, and it's always been wrong, and there ought not to have been a need for education that sexual assault is wrong. I say that as a comment because I find it troubling. I find it troubling that in the past four years no one has been held accountable.
I recognize that some changes have been made, and I think that's important, but I recognize that no one has been held accountable. No one lost the privilege of wearing the maple leaf on their jersey. No one was disciplined by the organization. No one lost their employment at the organization. No one was truly held accountable by the organization. I recognize that no one wants to reveal the identity of the victim, but individuals who wore the maple leaf—individuals who were on the national team—were alleged to have participated in very serious sexual assaults. We know that the NHL is now conducting its investigation, and I think it will be a black mark on the organization of Hockey Canada if the NHL holds individuals accountable and Hockey Canada fails to do so.
I'm going to share my time with Mr. Waugh afterwards, and I'm going to give you an opportunity to make a comment in just a second.
I've heard “zero tolerance” mentioned today. I wish that were true, but if there were truly a zero tolerance situation, there should have been more than six or eight players or 10 players who participated in that third party review. Every single player who was in London that weekend should have been mandated to participate in that review or lose the opportunity and the privilege of being associated with Hockey Canada. The club organization could be its own situation, but Hockey Canada should have said, “Those who do not participate in this third party review are no longer affiliated with this organization.” That could have been one way that Hockey Canada could have taken accountability four years ago, but that didn't happen, and now, four years later, we're only just finding out about what happened four years ago.
I'll give you an opportunity to comment on that. Then Mr. Waugh has a question.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
Gentlemen, the only code of conduct that should be acceptable is one of zero-tolerance. I really want to give you a chance, but I'd like to know if you've planned to conduct a full audit of current practices in the players' dressing room, in particular, and at evening events held in bars, for example.
Will you take into account the fact that a local or national star may occupy a position of authority over a young woman?
Above all, would you be prepared to commit to reappearing before the committee over the next three years to report on measures you've put in place with respect to your code of conduct and the results you've achieved?
I'll let Mr. Smith take a breather here.
We certainly have every desire, through our maltreatment initiative and policy, to identify, with our 13 members across the country and 650,000 players in 2,500 minor hockey associations, and commit to what the code of conduct looks like, what it feels like and how it is supposed to be implemented.
There's no question that we have no problem with any kind of audit and reporting as we move forward with respect to this issue. It's very, very clear that we've all struggled with this very much. Accountability lives there, and I think that's fine. We own that. I also think that by the nature of the constituents across the country and other NSOs, as we have collaborated in the meantime, we'll continue to collaborate as NSOs to make all Canadians of all athletic denominations proud of what we do. That's not to mention the fact that public servants have an opportunity to speak from something they know, not something that's hypothetical.
We would definitely agree with anything that would require us to perform any kind of audit on an annual basis and perform, as we do through Sport Canada, the delivery of that information.
As others have said, representing our country is an honour. It's a privilege. When someone is involved in alleged sexual assaults, they are dishonouring their country as well as creating what we see, which is the victim going through a horrific, horrific experience.
I hear words like “zero tolerance” and “strongly encourage” being thrown around today, but I don't see any specific measures that end what are allegations of horrific sexual assault. The reality is that today there is still no mandatory participation in investigations, criminal investigations. When I see the pattern of most players on that team not co-operating with an investigation, when this should be absolutely fundamental to any participation on a hockey team, and when I see that today you didn't come prepared to speak to two other investigations that apparently are ongoing, I don't see the transparency either.
To do justice to the victim, we need to change practices so that there are no longer any victims. I don't see that yet. I don't see zero tolerance when in a code of conduct you can simply refuse, and the majority of the team can refuse, to participate in an investigation.
We have finished this round. I want to thank the witnesses for coming and answering our questions, but I am surprised, as Mr. Julian and others have noted, that you did not come prepared to answer other questions that pertain, in general, to this issue of conduct.
As chair, listening to all of this, I am surprised that this happened, that even though the victim was paid a sum of money, and even though we have all agreed we don't want to find out who the perpetrators were, there was no internal investigation that would have identified the perpetrators, or all the people, at that event.
I think there was impunity here, and it's not good enough to say what you're going to do. I wonder why it took you four years to find a person who would deal with this kind of conduct. This is something that should have happened almost immediately. This should have been an internal thing that Hockey Canada wanted to do, again, to be transparent and accountable.
However, I thank you for coming, and for answering the questions.
I would like to suspend this meeting for our next witness.
Thank you very much.
Colleagues, are we ready to begin?
An hon. member: Yes, Madam Chair.
The Chair: Thank you.
As you know, this is hour three of our hearings. We have present with us today the Minister of Sport, the Honourable Pascale St-Onge, and her deputy minister, Isabelle Mondou.
Without any further ado, I will welcome the minister.
Welcome, Minister. You have five minutes to present. Then there will be a question and answer period. Thank you very much.
Please begin, Minister.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
Good afternoon, members of the committee.
This is the first time I have appeared before your committee in my capacity as minister, although I would have preferred to do so in different circumstances. I would nevertheless like to thank you for the opportunity to give you my perspective on this situation.
I must say at the outset that I was deeply shocked by this affair. I wholly share the indignation Canadians feel as a result of it, and my thoughts are first and foremost with the alleged victim.
What we learned on Thursday, May 26, rightly shook the entire country. Apart from the indignation we feel, we have some serious questions about the significance of that incident.
This is a sadly troubling example of sexual violence based on gender and a culture of silence. That culture shields individuals who face allegations of appalling behaviour from accountability for their actions. In the meantime, the victims bear a heavy burden for the rest of their lives. This culture of silence hasn't emerged on its own; it is fostered by the choices made by officials and individuals in leadership positions in sports organizations.
Madam Chair, after everything we have lived through in recent years, particularly with the #MeToo Movement, this type of culture must no longer be tolerated. Given the facts reported by the media, we may well wonder why this organization chose not to send out a clear message of zero tolerance of sexual misconduct.
There is no question that the right of the victim to privacy in this case is absolutely paramount and must be protected. Too often, those who come forward with their experiences of sexual abuse are revictimized in the very system that is there to protect them. This is a powerful reason why so many remain silent.
It is the responsibility of our leaders in sport and society to condemn this type of behaviour. They must also make every possible effort to prevent sexual violence in the clubs, teams and events that they run and for which they set the code of conduct and rules of engagement. Abusers and those who are complicit must be held accountable for their actions—or lack thereof. Zero tolerance for maltreatment and abuse in sport is the only option.
All those in positions of leadership and authority must help put an end to the trivialization of sexual violence. I hope that everyone listening to us today hears that message and that they will join in our collective effort to put an end to this type of violence.
Since 2018, under the contribution agreements with Sport Canada, the sport organizations that we fund have had a responsibility to report assault and maltreatment cases to us. This enables Sport Canada to perform two tasks: first, to ensure that the organization in question has established and enforces policies on maltreatment and, second, to verify that complainants have access to an independent third party to review complaints and conduct investigations or that they are directed to the competent authorities. Under this protocol, Hockey Canada reported the incident to Sport Canada, which ensured that both of those tasks had been completed. You will therefore understand our consternation when, four years later, we learned the actual turn of events.
On May 24 of this year, two days after the article on the incident was published, I received a call from Tom Renney, the president of Hockey Canada, informing me that the media would be reporting a story about sexual assault allegations involving hockey players dating back to 2018. Mr. Renney told me that an out‑of‑court settlement had been reached and concluded by telling me that he was prevented by a confidentiality agreement from providing me with any further information. I therefore learned the details of this sordid affair at the same time as other Canadians.
I would also like to note that, as Minister of Sport, my connection with sport organizations is mainly financial. I have therefore requested that an audit be conducted to ensure that no public funds were used in this sad affair. I have read Hockey Canada's statement on the matter but nevertheless feel we must work together to get to the bottom of it. I want to assure you of my full and wholehearted cooperation.
It's not unreasonable now to imagine that many of the eight players subject to these gang rape allegations enjoy lucrative professional careers. What message does that send to our young men, daughters, parents and sports fans?
I think the professional sport community has some soul-searching to do. Amateur and professional leagues alike must conduct themselves as responsible corporate citizens. The officials in those leagues, who have an enormous audience and considerable social influence, must send a clear message about responsibility and zero tolerance for sexual violence.
I would also like to add that this sport gradually occupies a larger part of players' lives as they move on to careers in the professional ranks. In my view, the people supporting these young players and the organizations themselves have a responsibility to supervise the players adequately, particularly with regard to issues of consent and toxic sexual behaviour.
Members of the committee, this is why your work today is so important. This is a key moment for sport, in all respects. Major efforts are now being made to effect a cultural change in which toxic behaviour and assault have no place.
I recently announced measures to increase accountability and promote better governance in the sport organizations that we fund. In our last budget, we allocated $16 million to establish the Office of the Sport Integrity Commissioner, an independent mechanism that athletes and organizations have called for to handle complaints.
We will continue to work hard to make our sports safe, but those efforts must also be supported by those in leadership positions in all aspects of sport. We can no longer tolerate incidents like the one that shocked us on May 26. It can't happen again.
I'm now ready to answer your questions.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
Thank you, Minister St-Onge, for being here and thank you, Madame Mondou, for this very important conversation.
To claim that these serious allegations are disturbing is probably an understatement, from the testimony we've heard. Some may feel that this matter is settled, but that's not the case. There are questions about players' accountability, about systematic abusive behaviour and about what happens moving forward, which is why I appreciate your being here today.
I think we all agree that this abusive behaviour should not be tolerated or accepted. I want to give you, as the Minister of Sport, a chance to expand on what your reaction was when you learned about the Hockey Canada situation.
Canadian Heritage, and more specifically Sport Canada, will be auditing funding recipients to ensure that Hockey Canada complied with the terms of its existing contribution agreements with the department for the April 1, 2018 to March 31, 2023 period. It will apply to future commitments as well. Samson, the firm hired to conduct the audit, is currently examining the documentation in order to plan the audit.
Samson will be visiting Hockey Canada, on‑site, between June 27 and July 7, 2022, for its auditors to conduct a financial review of expenditures reported to Sport Canada. They will accordingly be able to verify the eligibility of these expenditures, and Hockey Canada's governance structure. They will also check Hockey Canada's internal controls and implementation policies in the administration of the department's funding.
The auditors may also examine current policies and processes for dealing with requirements pertaining to harassment and assault, dispute resolution, anti-doping measures and any other requirements in the policies, as set out in the contribution agreements.
Following the on‑site visit, and between now and the end of July 2022, the auditors will wrap up their review and prepare the preliminary findings for validation purposes. A draft of the report is expected by the end of August 2022. This report will be sent to Hockey Canada for validation and to obtain responses to the recommendations made by the firm.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
Minister, as you know, in April 2021, my Bloc Québécois colleague, Denis Trudel, the member for Longueuil—Saint-Hubert, put forward a motion requesting that the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage undertake a study pertaining to the establishment of an independent agency to deal with complaints in sports. The motion was adopted unanimously.
In January 2022, my colleague Martin Champoux and I wrote in response to theGlobe and Mail article to support the establishment of this agency. You created it, and I wanted to congratulate you and thank you for your interest in making sports safer for athletes. In the current incident being dealt with, the athletes are not the victims, but rather the assailants.
I'd like to hear what you think about the testimony we heard a little earlier from Hockey Canada management.
My understanding was that, under your authority or the authority of your predecessors, Ms. Mulligan was to report on the information she received on January 26, 2018.
You also said that you had never before been informed of the fact that obscene incidents had occurred at events organized under the aegis of Hockey Canada. Your policy advisor, Mr. Raphael Yacobi-Harris, met Hockey Canada representatives on two occasions, on November 30, 2020 and January 26, 2021.
What was the purpose of the meeting, and did Hockey Canada tell you about the obscene incidents that occurred at the time or at any other time?
Could you also send the committee all communications via email or text message between your office and Hockey Canada since June 8, 2018? That would of course include those from Mr. Yacobi-Harris or any other member of your office.
Could you provide us with all communications from the day you were informed to the present, as well as the briefing notes that your office prepared?
We'd be very grateful, because we need an overview of the situation, which is a matter of concern to Canadians. It's not just this horrible incident, but also the possibility of others. The fact that Hockey Canada was unable to answer or provide information is also worrisome.
For the contribution agreements, are all sports associations funded by the federal government required to adopt a code of conduct?
Should such a code be mandatory?
When there is an investigation, like the one launched in the horrible Hockey Canada incident, do the contribution agreements make the participation of players, trainers and everyone involved compulsory?
The contribution agreements require that sports organizations adopt a policy on harassment, assault and abuse in their sport, in other words, a sport safety policy. The organizations must also adopt an independent mechanism for receiving and dealing with complaints. For the time being, the contribution agreements are limited to that.
The athletes also told us that when they availed themselves of the independent mechanisms offered by the sports organizations themselves, they had the impression that they were not independent enough. They didn't always trust them.
That's why my predecessors and I established the Office of the Sport Integrity Commissioner, which is independent from the sports organizations and will be able to receive complaints from athletes and deal with them transparently, professionally and independently.
Given that I, as the minister, have only the contributions agreements for dealing with the sports organizations, I am going to make it mandatory over the coming months for them to adhere to this independent mechanism to give athletes a place they can turn to when they encounter problems in their sport.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
Minister, I'd like to get back to what I said earlier.
In 2018, the then minister of sports had mentioned that organizations were required to report allegations of assault or harassment or be subject to having their funding requests denied. Earlier, you told me that Hockey Canada had received its funding because the incident had been reported to the police.
Is that right?
Why should just reporting the case to the police mean that the funding is granted anyway? There are, after all, serious allegations involved.
In 2018, the sports minister mentioned cutting off funding immediately. I think that would be most appropriate.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
Thank you, Minister, for being here with us today to discuss this very difficult but very important matter.
As the previous minister 's work has been mentioned a couple of times, I would like to at least make the committee aware of the fact that she convened a working group to combat gender-based violence in Canada a full year prior to this incident. Minister Duncan was and continues to be a strong advocate for this. As a former gymnast, she has lots of lived experience, and she continues to be a wonderful advocate. I say that because I was a member of that working group prior to my time in politics.
We came to Ottawa a number of times. At that time, we established four things. We said there needed to be a universal code of conduct. There needs to be an independent organization to investigate, adjudicate and deal with all of the issues in safe sport. That needs to be mandatory for all national sport organizations, and that system needs to be fully vetted by the federal government.
As a result of the $16 million that you made sure was in this last budget, all four of those things are true.
I wrote my first letter to Sport Canada in 1999. I've urged action from and worked at arm's length with sports ministers in Canada for over 20 years, and I've been parliamentary secretary for sport for almost three.
It's my objective opinion that no previous minister of sport has ever worked harder or responded so swiftly or with more concrete action than you have, Minister. I want to acknowledge that. Obviously, this is my objective opinion as your parliamentary secretary, but I'm so tremendously proud of the work you have done and the work that your team has done. I want to thank you on behalf of the Canadian sports system. This is something that has been asked of this government, and previous governments too, for a really long time.
We are doing a good job, and I would love to provide you with an opportunity to talk about some of the work we've done so recently that it might not even be in the news. It was even just last weekend.
Please, the floor is yours.
Thank you very much, Madam Chair.
Thank you, Mr. van Koeverden.
As a former athlete who had some wonderful experiences in sports, whether in swimming or volleyball, I know just how important sport is in people's lives, particularly for young people. I know how formative it is, and just how it shapes human beings and makes us the adults we are today. That's why sexual assaults in sport horrify me so such, and that's what motivates me to make changes. I want to work with key players in the Canadian sports system to break down the culture of silence and ensure that situations like these will no longer occur.
We established a committee of athletes to make sure that theirs is the predominant voice. We announced that as of today, the Office of the Sport Integrity Commissioner will be able to receive complaints, in keeping with the four objectives you mentioned. We also said that we would…
I'll be speaking, Madam Chair, rather than Mr. Lemire.
As the status of women spokesperson, I am pleased that you spoke about the culture of silence, because it is clearly related to this incident.
In the incident involving Hockey Canada, it was reported that the victim did not make a complaint. This toxic male culture also exists in many other public spheres. Indeed, cases have come up in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the Canadian Armed Forces. Generally, victims have trouble making a complaint. You've been talking at length about the Office of the Sport Integrity Commissioner, whose mandate is to help victims make a complaint against their assailants in the world of sports.
However, given that there will likely be an increase in the number of cases reported in future, will you be making sure that this office has all the resources needed to deal with the growing number of complaints?
I am the mother of a four-month-old daughter named Naomie. I would really like this little girl to be able to engage in whatever sports she chooses in total safety and to associate with people involved in sports without fear.