Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Friday October 7, 2022
Hockey Canada cannot dodge accountability
When it comes to wilful blindness and delusional self-importance, it’s no small accomplishment to leave a committee of politicians — themselves masters in the craft — slack-jawed and speechless.
But Andrea Skinner pulled it off.
The interim chair of Hockey Canada, testifying before a Commons committee on Tuesday, put on a master class of denial, deflection, whataboutism and arrogance.
Skinner suggested the problem of sexual assault was societal, rather than particularly prevalent in hockey.
“Toxic behaviour exists throughout society,” she told MPs via video link, and to crack down on hockey would be “counterproductive.”
She went on to say that the hockey world in this country could not possibly cope with a wholesale housecleaning at Hockey Canada.
“I think that will be very impactful in a negative way to our boys and girls who are playing hockey. Will the lights stay on in the rink? I don’t know. We can’t predict that. And to me, that’s not a risk worth taking.”
The defiant performance amounted to chutzpah on stilts, so out of touch with the reality of proceedings that MPs wanted to know if Skinner was perhaps being coached by someone off screen working from a script.
The last year at Hockey Canada has produced enough appalling news that most entities under similar duress would have cleaned house and agreed to whatever terms citizens, stakeholders and government demanded by way of renewal.
First came media reports of an alleged sexual assault following a 2018 gala in London, Ont., involving eight unidentified players — including members of that year’s world junior championship team.
A police investigation resulted in no charges, but a woman — 18 and intoxicated at the time of the alleged assault — later sued Hockey Canada, the Canadian Hockey League and unnamed players for more than $3.5 million and reached an out-of-court settlement. None of the allegations have been proven in court.
Then came news that Hockey Canada maintained a so-called National Equity Fund to pay for uninsured liabilities, including sexual-abuse claims.
Then, further allegations of sexual assault against players on Canada’s national junior team from 2003 in Halifax.
The federal government has frozen funding and corporate sponsors put a hold on their support, turning this summer’s World Junior Hockey championship in Alberta into the sporting equivalent of a tree falling in a forest with no one there to hear it.
This week, just days before the scheduled committee appearance, more news broke that Hockey Canada actually had a second fund to handle sexual assault claims.
While police continue to investigate the sexual assault allegations, federal Sport Minister Pascale St-Onge quite properly commissioned a full audit of Hockey Canada dating to 2016.
This week, the minister said on CBC News: “We’re witnessing an organization that seems to be more interested in protecting themselves and their jobs than protecting the public, the women and the players in their own organization.”
It goes without saying there must be accountability and consequences for any perpetrators of sexual assault.
There must also be accountability for the governance group that — whether Skinner recognizes it or not — contributed to the toxic culture of entitlement by helping make complaints disappear while allowing transgressors to skate merrily on with their charmed lives.
On Wednesday, Hockey Quebec declared that it had lost confidence in Hockey Canada and will not transfer funds to the national organization. And Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke for many, saying, “I think it boggles the mind that Hockey Canada is continuing to dig in its heels … Parents across the country are losing faith or have lost faith in Hockey Canada. Certainly, politicians here in Ottawa have lost faith in Hockey Canada.”
Skinner need have no fear that the lights will stay on in rinks across Canada. Just as the spotlight on Hockey Canada will keep shining until accountability is delivered. (Hamilton Spectator Editorial)