Warning: This story contains sexually graphic details that may disturb readers.
As calls mount for the leaders of Canada’s national hockey organization to resign over sexual misconduct scandals, Federal Sports Minister Pascale St-Onge is calling for “change” within the organization.
St-Onge told CBC Radio Home that she was horrified by the details of a video a man said he saw of an alleged 2003 group sexual assault involving that year’s World Junior hockey players.
Asked if news of the video and other misconduct scandals that have come to light recently should lead to the resignation of Hockey Canada leaders, St-Onge said the organization has lost “the trust of Canadians.” “.
“I am as concerned as all Canadians,” she said. “Also my parliamentary colleagues… have called for the resignation of the board of directors and the resignation of the directors.
“I feel the same way, that there needs to be a change within the organization.”
CBC News: The House11:35Sports Minister responds to Hockey Canada crisis
“I’m using every tool I have… to create and enforce that change on Hockey Canada. But at some point they also need to look at themselves… Are they the right people to implement the change that Canadians are asking for? They need take responsibility for what happens within your own organization and so far it has not been enough.
The comment is one of the strongest St-Onge has made about Hockey Canada’s leadership. He previously said more diversity was needed in the top positions of the hockey organization and on its board of directors.
‘Extremely disturbing and horrible’
A man who said he saw the video told CBC News that he recently shared with police the names of two players he recognized from the footage who went on to have NHL careers.
The man said the video showed the two players entering a hotel room where six other players were standing naked and masturbating around a highly intoxicated woman while a person penetrated her.
“This is extremely disturbing and horrific,” St-Onge said. “I think it’s pretty clear there are problems within this sport.”
St-Onge said it is a “big problem for society” that players who are alleged to have committed assaults “have not been held accountable.”
Police are investigating three suspected group sexual assaults by former junior hockey players. The indictments cover the period from 2003 to 2018.
They are all alleged to involve a group of gamers demeaning a single drunken woman. In two of the cases, police have reopened investigations over the last month in response to public outrage over the lack of charges.
None of the accusations have been proven in court.
‘Culture of silence’
Asked if these three cases might just be the tip of the iceberg, St-Onge said it’s hard to tell.
“It raises extremely troubling questions about what happens during those events, during the post-tournament celebration,” St-Onge said. “And how do you educate these players about sexual violence, consent and all those issues that we’re talking about? [about] now in society.
St-Onge said Hockey Canada “needs to recognize the depth of the problem.”
To date, only one member of Hockey Canada’s leadership, Chairman of the Board Michael Brind’Amour, has resigned ahead of schedule.
Olympic rowing champion Marnie McBean confirmed to CBC News that a crisis management firm hired by Hockey Canada recently revoked an offer to include her in an oversight group because it made it clear it wanted leadership members removed.
St-Onge said he can’t ask Hockey Canada’s leadership to resign because all government-funded sports organizations are independent. But he said the organization needs to take a close look at itself and take responsibility for what is happening.
Since becoming sports minister more than eight months ago, St-Onge has become aware of a significant number of allegations against at least eight different sports organizations, her office said.
The allegations include sexual violence, mistreatment and psychological abuse, St-Onge said. In some cases, he added, coaches have been accused of crossing the line and pushing athletes too far to perform at their best.
In April, St-Onge announced that Canada would open the first Office of the Sports Integrity Commissioner to oversee a process for receiving complaints, conducting preliminary investigations and maintaining a database of sanctions imposed.
That new office began accepting incident reports on June 20.
But Sports Integrity Commissioner Sarah-Eve Pelletier told CBC News that her office can only investigate incidents involving national sports organizations that have registered.
Negotiations to get more than 40 sports organizations to register with the commissioner’s office, on issues like insurance and liability, are underway, Pelletier said. So far only four organizations have joined the effort: the Canada Games Council, Canada Sport for Life, Volleyball Canada and Weightlifting Canada.
That means the office has to reject complaints involving other organizations.
“Right now, if people can’t get us to address their complaints, it may not be a good use of time if they file a complaint,” Pelletier told CBC News. “Because unfortunately you won’t be able to advance any further at this stage.”
Hotline under fire
Some cases may turn to Sport Canada, which has a sports helpline that launched in 2018.
That hotline recently came under fire for its handling of hockey complaints. CBC News reported this month that, until recent months, callers to that helpline who wanted to report bad hockey experiences were referred to either a law firm or an insurance claims adjuster, both chosen by Hockey Canada. .
The Law Firm, Henein Hutchinson, is a well-known criminal defense firm known for high-profile court cases, some involving the defense of individuals accused of sexual assault. St-Onge said she has heard from athletes that third-party organizations paid directly by sports organizations don’t feel “independent enough.”
Henein’s firm was retained by Hockey Canada to investigate allegations of group sexual assault by members of the 2018 World Junior team in London, Ontario.
Hockey Canada promised to join the Office of the Sports Integrity Commissioner last month as part of its plan to tackle what it called “toxic behavior” both on and off the ice. You still have to.
St-Onge said sports organizations like Hockey Canada will be required to file with the Office of the Sports Integrity Commissioner by April 2023. Asked why the office was opened before all sports organizations had registered, St-Onge He said the sports commissioner is independent. and responsible for its operation.
“What we did as a government is to provide $16 million in the last budget so that they have all the resources they need to start this new system,” he said.
“We are creating something new in Canada that has never existed before.”
Pelletier said his office is still in its infancy and is “working hard and fast” to start preventing and responding to reports of mistreatment and discrimination.
“There is simply no place for any form of abuse in sport,” Pelletier said. “We are going to work hard to fulfill our mandate and be part of the change that the sports system needs right now.”
A House of Commons committee holding public hearings into Hockey Canada’s handling of sexual assault allegations is expected to resume next month when Parliament returns.
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