Hockey Canada bragged about its ‘unparalleled’ management of safe sport in 2019
Hockey Canada asked the federal government in 2019 if it could handle its safe sport cases on its own, despite a “significant potential claim”.
In a three-page email to the sport minister’s office, Hockey Canada boasted that its handling of sport security was “second to none”, but expressed concerns both about any investigative mechanisms third parties and the new toll-free number for reporting abuse.
The email signed by Glen McCurdie, who was then Hockey Canada’s vice-president of insurance and risk management, also detailed Hockey Canada’s National Equity Fund used for uninsured liabilities, including sexual abuse claims. , which the organization has maintained since the “late 1990s”.
“It is no secret that Hockey Canada was forced to act on sexual misconduct specifically following the Graham James/Sheldon Kennedy revelations that shook not only our sport, but the nation as a whole at the late 1990s,” McCurdie wrote in the email obtained by The Canadian Press.
“We are very proud of what we have accomplished and continue to accomplish. When we first faced this situation, we had financial issues to deal with, in terms of unfunded claims from hockey players, professionals and others. We also had to deal with setting up a program that our members could access if they had similar concerns that were less public in nature.
“We addressed our ‘financial obligations’ by handling claims and reports of potential claims in an up-front manner.”
The national sports body has come under intense scrutiny since news broke of an alleged sexual assault following a 2018 gala in London, Ont., involving eight unidentified players – including members of that year’s World Junior Team – and the ensuing muffled settlement broke in May.
Gang sexual assault allegations involving the 2003 World Junior Team emerged in July.
None of the allegations have been proven in court.
Hockey Canada has had federal funding cut off due to its handling of the case and the settlement, while a number of companies have suspended sponsorship funds.
Kirsty Duncan, Minister of Science and Sport from 2015 to 2019, said she did not receive Hockey Canada’s email to Michael Paramathasan, a former senior policy adviser to the Minister of Sport, when he was sent on October 29, 2019.
“According to this letter, this is an organization that simply does not understand, and does not understand three decades after the horror of what Sheldon Kennedy went through, after Larry Nassar and American Gymnastics,” Duncan said. at The Canadian Press. “And I think what the letter shows is the real thought, the thought behind closed doors, and not when the eyes of the nation are watching and judging.”
Duncan had announced several safe sport initiatives in March 2019, including a national toll-free confidential hotline for victims and witnesses of abuse in sport. She also announced that National Sport Organizations (NSOs) must have a safe sport policy and arrange for access to a third-party investigator.
McCurdie wrote that what was unlikely to be known to most members of Hockey Canada, “or the Canadian sport system as a whole, is that we also purchased an insurance product to process claims for sexual abuse/misconduct on a retroactive basis”.
News of this ‘product’ exploded in July when Hockey Canada officials told the House of Commons Heritage Committee that it had used the organization’s National Equity Fund, which dips into the fees of minor hockey membership to pay $7.6 million in uninsured claims in nine sex-related settlements. assault or abuse since 1989. This figure did not include the alleged London incident.
McCurdie wrote that he couldn’t “go into specifics” about the large potential claim, but said the ability to access a lawyer, crisis communications, etc., helped us in a “way immeasurable”.
“If we were to be embarrassed by a ‘sporting process’ where we had to go through a reporting and approval mechanism by a third-party organization, as yet unknown, we strongly believe that irreparable harm could have been inflicted on us,” said he continued. .
McCurdie noted in the potential claim referenced that the athlete(s) are the alleged perpetrator(s), not the victim.
“The concept of a third-party investigative firm would have eliminated our ability to actually protect athletes in this situation, there’s no doubt about that,” he wrote, adding that Hockey Canada believes in tailored solutions to specific issues, and that a uniform process for each sport would impair an NSO’s ability to deal with certain situations.
McCurdie’s arguments with the toll-free hotline pilot project, he said, largely centered on the sheer volume of complaints, many of which “are not necessarily valid… We have many parents who use complaints of this nature as a basis on which to change teams/associations.
Neither Hockey Canada nor Paramathasan immediately responded to requests for comment.
Prime Ministers Justin Trudeau and Kennedy recently condemned Hockey Canada’s leadership, saying it had lost the trust of Canadians. Their comments came after the federation’s board of directors announced it was backing chairman and chief executive Scott Smith and his management team despite calls for a change in the organization’s leadership.
“Hockey Canada does not wish to be encumbered by a system or process that ties our hands and does not allow us to manage a situation as we deem necessary,” McCurdie wrote. “We just ask that you keep that in mind as you continue to lead us in a collective safe sport strategy.”
Duncan said Hockey Canada’s values and priorities are wrong.
“The number one priority for any sports organization is safe sport. This is an organization that has pushed back against safe sport with selfish arguments – that’s what this letter says. They didn’t want rules, because they didn’t want to be exposed,” she said.
“I would like to know if they are still proud of their success in this area.”
NDP MP Peter Julian, meanwhile, is calling on the federal government to conduct a thorough audit of Hockey Canada’s finances since 2016.
The request, made in a letter to Sports Minister Pascale St-Onge on September 6, refers to thousands of dollars in spending attributed to the sport’s national governing body, including high-end dinners, hotel suites luxury hotels and championship rings for board members.
—Lori Ewing, The Canadian Press
hockey sexual abuse