“O (No) Canada”: Hockey Canada in Crisis Over Poor Handling of Sexual Assault Allegations

            In the last 24 hours, Hockey Canada has lost multiple major sponsors, at least one of which is permanent, ahead of the 2022-2023 season due to continued concerns from the companies regarding the federations handling of recent sexual assault allegations.

            In May 2022, it was reported that Hockey Canada, the governing body of the sport of ice hockey in Canada, had paid a settlement to a woman who had claimed she was the victim of a sexual assault in 2018 which was committed by members of Canada’s men’s junior national team [1].

            In the following month, the Minister for Sport Pascale St-Onge froze the federal government’s funding of Hockey Canada and launched an investigation into whether public funds were being used to fund sexual assault settlements [2]. In addition, the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage launched an investigation on Hockey Canada’s handling of sexual assault allegations and found that there have been several sexual assault cases against the organization and that the organization has paid over $7.6 million out of a National Equity Fund which is partially funding by player registration fees. The organization has used this fund to help pay out settlements in 21 sexual misconduct cases since 1989 [3].

            In October 2022, it was reported that Hockey Canada had created a “Participants Legacy Trust Fund” in 1999 with money from the National Equity Fund, and this was distributed to its members for matters including but not limited to sexual abuse [4]. Instead of trying to end the repeated sexual assault allegations against them over a long period, Hockey Canada has seemed to think that just throwing money at these issues would make everything okay. Like almost anything else, that is not the case here.

            Due to Hockey Canada’s resistance to committing to making a necessary cultural change in their program, Telus, Tim Hortons, Scotiabank, Chevrolet Canada, Hockey Quebec, Ontario Hockey Federation, Hockey Nova Scotia, and Canadian Tire have all cut ties with the organization. A spokesman for Canadian Tire stated, “In our view, Hocket Canada continues to resist meaningful change and we can no longer confidently move forward together. CTC is proud of our commitment to sport and will continue to invest in our beloved national game by re-directing support to hockey-related organizations that better align with our values [5].”

            As there continues to be more backlash, Prime Minister Trudeau and other Canadian leaders have echoed the same basic sentiment, that there need to be profound changes made before anyone trusts this organization ever again. “Hockey Canada has completely lost the confidence of Canadians,” Trudeau said [6]. He added, “There needs to be wholesale change … They need to realize that if we have to create an organization, get rid of Hockey Canada and create an organization called Canada Hockey instead, people will look at doing that. There is a lack of understanding that they’ve lost the confidence of Canadians, and the sooner they get to that, the better it’ll be for everyone [7].”

            Amidst all this chaos, there is still yet to be any meaningful change from Hockey Canada aside from them saying they will no longer use the National Equity Fund for sexual abuse claims. That’s a pretty weak start if you ask me. It will be interesting to see what unwraps over the coming weeks regarding Hockey Canada and if they can somehow get the train back on the tracks. For now, there is some serious work to do. Sponsors pulling their money is a good start, and it has proven to start the process of cultural change in the past. For example, FedEx, a sponsor for the Washington Commanders (previously the Washington Redskins), said they were going to pull their sponsorship unless the team changed their name, which they eventually did [8]. Until a change is made and leadership steps up and makes a stand, expect continued backlash and turmoil for Hockey Canada.

  1. https://www.sportsnet.ca/nhl/article/nhls-investigation-into-alleged-hockey-canada-sexual-assault-closer-to-the-end/
  2. https://www.espn.com/olympics/story/_/id/34131657/hockey-canada-federal-funding-being-frozen-wake-national-organization-handling-alleged-sexual-assault-settlement
  3. https://www.sportsnet.ca/juniors/article/hockey-canada-told-ottawa-of-its-national-equity-fund-in-2019/
  4. https://theathletic.com/3652366/2022/10/03/hockey-canada-second-fund-sexual-assault-claims/
  5. https://thehockeynews.com/news/hockey-canada-continues-to-lose-sponsors
  6. https://globalnews.ca/news/9180732/hockey-canada-sponsorship-telus-sexual-assault-allegations/
  7. Id.
  8. https://www.washingtonpost.com/sports/2020/07/10/private-letter-redskins-fedex-said-it-will-remove-signage-if-name-isnt-changed/
  9. Photo: https://bostonhockeynow.com/2022/10/07/boston-bruins-daily-mclaughlin-to-ahl-hall-erase-hockey-canada/
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I am a third year law student at the University at Buffalo. I wish to pursue either personal injury or sports law in my career after law school.

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