Federal officials are throwing their support behind Quebec’s provincial hockey federation for its decision to cut ties with Hockey Canada in the wake of new allegations against the sporting body.
In a resolution voted on Tuesday night and first obtained by La Presse, Hockey Québec stated that it no longer has “confidence in the ability of Hockey Canada to act effectively to change the culture of hockey with the structure in place.”
It said it will no longer transfer funds to the national organization.
The vote came hours after federal Minister of Sport Pascale St-Onge called on regional federations under Hockey Canada to put pressure on the organization to change.
On Wednesday, St-Onge told reporters in Ottawa that Hockey Québec’s decision shows that the move to reform Hockey Canada is underway.
“It also sends the message to the leaders at the organization that are holding onto their jobs that Hockey Canada doesn’t belong to them, it also belongs to their members, and they want change. They want a change of culture and they want a fight against sexual violence,” she said.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he understands Hockey Québec’s decision “fully,” saying it’s no surprise that provincial organizations are questioning whether they want to continue supporting an organization “that doesn’t understand how serious a situation it has contributed to causing.”
“I can’t understand how Hockey Canada refuses to accept the reality that they no longer have the trust of parents and Canadians,” he told reporters on Wednesday.
“If they are truly concerned about young people and about hockey in Canada, they should understand that it takes an absolute transformation,” Trudeau said.
The Globe and Mail reported on Monday that Hockey Canada put player registration fees toward a second fund “for matters including but not limited to sexual abuse,” according to documents obtained by the newspaper.
The news follows revelations in July that another fund, known as the National Equity Fund, was used to settle sexual misconduct claims.
On Tuesday, Hockey Canada’s interim board chair, Andrea Skinner, defended the organization’s leadership when faced with pointed questions from MPs before the House of Commons heritage committee about the alleged sexual assaults in the sport and how money was paid out in lawsuits.
Skinner said hockey shouldn’t be made a “scapegoat” for a toxic culture that exists elsewhere in society. Her comments prompted new calls for Hockey Canada officials to resign.
St-Onge said if executives won’t step down willingly, “the voting members need to clean the house.”
All 13 provincial hockey federations will get a vote when Hockey Canada selects a new board of directors next month.
Criticism of national body’s action plan
The Quebec federation criticized Hockey Canada’s action plan to deal with the numerous sex scandals that have surfaced recently — namely an allegation of a gang rape that allegedly took place in 2018 involving junior hockey players.
“We [sent] a series of questions to Hockey Canada, some of which were not answered. We asked to do things that we thought were fair and smart. We are not necessarily satisfied with the way they are proceeding with the implementation of the action plan,” Claude Fortin, who chairs the board of directors of Hockey Québec, said in an interview with Radio-Canada’s Tout un matin.
Hockey Québec said it also takes issue with the way the action plan was drafted, saying it was conceived internally and with the help of a private crisis management firm.
It said it found it “troubling” that no experts or organizations specializing in sexual abuse, intimidation, discrimination or education were ever consulted.
“We asked that following the mistreatment and everything that happened that external firms and experts in the field be involved to be able to carry out consultations and seek out tools, both for the victims and for the accused, so that we have good expertise, and not only in-house expertise,” Fortin said.
The provincial federation said it will be suspending all transfers of registration fees, which are $3 per player, usually paid to the national organization.
For the time being, only the amounts used to cover insurance costs will continue to be paid, but Hockey Québec said it is looking for solutions to insure its members outside of the national body’s insurance framework.
Since the summer, Hockey Canada has seen several major sponsors withdraw funding and pause their sponsorships in response to the organization’s handling of the 2018 case.
Hockey Québec said it will release an official statement later on Wednesday about its decision.