Hockey Canada clarifies incidents reported to Sport Canada after discrepancy at committee

During committee hearings in July, Sport Canada said they received eight reports of alleged abuse from Hockey Canada since 2018. Hockey Canada told the committee that number was only four. (@HockeyCanada/Twitter - image credit)
During committee hearings in July, Sport Canada said they received eight reports of alleged abuse from Hockey Canada since 2018. Hockey Canada told the committee that number was only four. (@HockeyCanada/Twitter - image credit)

Hockey Canada has clarified the number of incidents of alleged abuse, harassment or discrimination it has reported to Sport Canada since 2018, after the testimony of Hockey Canada's president before the Commons heritage committee in late July mentioned fewer reported incidents than the figure Sport Canada officials had given MPs the day before.

Sport Canada has also since told CBC News that another incident was reported by Hockey Canada the day after its officials appeared as witnesses, bringing the total number of incidents disclosed over the last four years to nine.

As a condition of their funding agreements with the federal government, national sport organizations like Hockey Canada have been required since 2018 to immediately disclose any incident of harassment, abuse or discrimination "that could compromise the project of programming."

The incidents must also be reported to the proper authorities, which could include the police if a criminal investigation is warranted. Sport organizations are required to have formal policies in place to prevent harassment and abuse and address any cases that emerge, including providing access to an independent third party to investigate and make recommendations.

Sport Canada can't investigate cases

During his testimony at committee on July 26, Michel Ruest, a senior director in charge of programs at Sport Canada, was asked by Bloc MP Andréanne Larouche for the exact number of incidents reported by Hockey Canada in each of the years since its funding agreement required these disclosures (2018-2022).

Ruest said there were eight cases reported to its confidential database.

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Ruest said the confidential details of the allegations contained in these reports had on certain occasions been communicated internally, but only the overall statistics were shared with the minister's office, not specific details. Sport Canada does not have the mandated authority to conduct investigations into these cases, he told MPs, and the disclosures to the government include "minimal information" — in accordance with the Privacy Act, Ruest said names are not shared unless they are already in the public domain.

In response to a follow-up question by email from CBC News, Sport Canada broke down the reports in its database by year:

  • Two reports in 2018.

  • One in 2019.

  • Three in 2020.

  • One in 2021.

  • Two in 2022.

The year of a report to Sport Canada doesn't necessarily line up with the year an alleged incident took place.

Based on Hockey Canada's committee testimony, the first incident reported in 2022 was the alleged group sexual assault by members of Canada's 2003 national junior hockey team that occurred in Halifax, N.S., and is now the subject of a police investigation. It only became known to the public — and, hockey officials said in their testimony, Hockey Canada itself — in a TSN report earlier this summer.

Officials said they had only heard "rumours" about it a couple weeks before TSN published the results of its investigation, but reported it to Sport Canada immediately once the media report was out.

Discrepancy in number of cases

When he first appeared before the committee on June 20, Hockey Canada president Scott Smith told the committee he was not prepared to speak about specific incidents. During his testimony before the committee on July 27, Smith was asked by New Democrat MP Peter Julian whether he was now prepared to speak about the specifics of ongoing investigations.

Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press
Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press

This time, Smith was prepared to confirm that one of the incidents reported to Hockey Canada in 2018 was the alleged group sexual assault of a young woman in London, Ont., by members of the 2018 national junior team. This incident also only became public because last spring, TSN reported on a cash settlement paid to the young woman by Hockey Canada.

Smith told the committee that in addition to the two investigations involving members of the national junior teams from 2003 and 2018, there were two other reports that do not relate to sexual misconduct, bringing the total number of reports to Sport Canada by Hockey Canada to four, he told MPs.

The other two reports, Smith said, date to 2018 and 2021 and are related to a family that alleges abusive behaviour because their son and daughter have been prevented from registering for youth hockey because of the conduct of the father in arenas.

CBC News asked Hockey Canada why Sport Canada's testimony mentioned receiving eight incident reports from its organization, and yet the next day Smith told MPs there had been four reports made to Sport Canada.

Hockey Canada spokesperson Jeremy Knight replied that Smith believed that Julian's question was about open investigations only, not the total number of reports.

"Mr. Smith's response refers to four open investigations which, as required, were reported to Sport Canada. Not all reports to Sport Canada since 2018 have open investigations," Knight said.

Knight's response suggests that the investigations into the four incidents reported in 2019 and 2020 are now closed or concluded.

No details on the results of those investigations or even the nature of these incidents — including whether they involved alleged assault or abuse, harassment or discrimination — have been made public by either Hockey Canada or Sport Canada.

New incident reported day after testimony

The incident reported by Hockey Canada on July 28, the day following its testimony at committee, was "not a formal case," a spokesperson for the minister of sport's office told CBC News.

Ariane Joazard-Bélizaire said last week a person had contacted Hockey Canada "to request information about the process for reporting possible mistreatment of an athlete from the Northwest Territories."

On Tuesday evening, she contacted CBC News to say this was incorrect, and that the contact was actually related to a member of the national women's team (which also uses the acronym NWT, the apparent source of the confusion).

On Wednesday, in response to a further inquiry from CBC News, Hockey Canada spokesperson Jeremy Knight clarified that it was a national women's team member who had received the complaint. Knight said the team member was referred to an independent third-party complaint process and Sport Canada was notified. The nature of the complaint was not known, Knight said.

Sport Canada confirmed later Wednesday that a national women's team player sought information regarding a potential complaint on behalf of someone else. No complaint has yet been submitted, the department said.

The number of incidents reported to Sport Canada by hockey officials wasn't the only confusing aspect of their July 27 testimony.

MPs also asked Hockey Canada officials exactly how much money had been paid to complainants of sexual abuse. The figure provided during the committee meeting — $8.9 million in total, from the organization's national equity fund as well as insurance payments — did not, in fact, include the cash settlement paid to the complainant in the 2018 group assault involving junior team members.

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This omission was only revealed after the committee when journalists were questioning Smith in the hallway after his testimony. The president said an audited financial statement that includes the settlement to the young woman in the London, Ont., incident would not be completed until Hockey Canada's annual meeting, so the total given to MPs did not include this most recent payout by the organization.

The exact amount paid to that young woman has not been confirmed, but her statement of claim was seeking $3.55 million and Smith told the committee that Hockey Canada's board had endorsed "up to the maximum settlement number."

"We didn't know all of the details of the night [in question], but we did believe harm was caused," Hockey Canada chief financial officer Brian Cairo told MPs.