The Legacy Standing Committee held another day of hearings related to Hockey Canada’s ongoing sexual abuse and hockey culture scandals. Standing before the committee on Tuesday were former Hockey Canada chairman Michael Brind’Amour and current chairman Andrea Skinner.
At the latest hearing, which took place in late July, MPs and Sports Canada Minister Pascal Saint-Onge called for new Hockey Canada leadership and learned details about the National Equity Fund used to pay off sexual harassment claims. On Monday, Globe & Mail announces second fundThe Member Legacy Trust, which was also created “to address issues including, but not limited to, sexual abuse.”
On Monday in the media, St. Onge pointed to a lack of transparency in Hockey Canada, criticism that continued Tuesday from MPs.
“There has been no transparency and I believe that Hockey Canada can do better,” NDP MP Peter Julian said during the hearing. Standing Committee Chair Hedy Fry supported Julian. “I heard questions being asked, but I didn’t hear many answers,” Fry said.
At times, in testimony, Skinner pointed outside of Hockey Canada and hockey in general to what she saw as a broader societal issue.
“Assuming that toxic behavior is a specific hockey problem, or scapegoating hockey as the centerpiece of a toxic culture, is counterproductive in my opinion compared to finding solutions and risking overlooking the changes that need to be made more broadly to preventing and addressing toxic behavior, especially against women, Skinner said. Skinner also condemned the media’s portrayal of messages related to the Members’ Legacy Trust. “I believe that the reports circulated in the media do not accurately reflect the situation regarding the Members’ Trust Fund.”
It was reported at the hearing that Hockey Canada moved $7.1 million in 1999 from an existing National Equity Fund, which was used to pay historic sexual harassment claims, to the Members’ Legacy Trust, although Skinner stated that the fund is still not used to resolve the claim.
A common theme throughout the hearing was the “controversy”, as several members of the Standing Committee called it, between the views and testimony of Hockey Canada and those of MPs, the media and the public. This was largely due to what MPs saw as Hockey Canada’s attempts to divert attention from issues through their recent poll, ads and messaging.
“I am deeply concerned that the organization is more concerned with changing the narrative than actually delivering meaningful change,” said Conservative MP John Neiter, referring to board minutes directing the organization to “get the message out to the public, get ahead of the communication and change the narrative.” associated with the National Equity Fund. “We are a family and we need to fight back, we need to start defending ourselves and stop sitting in the neutral zone,” read another reading of the Hockey Canada minutes.
Referring to the report, Bloc Quebecois MP Sebastian Lemire called Skinner’s redirection “ironic”, pointing to a Hockey Canada survey circulated to members asking respondents to rate how much they agree with the statement: “the level of media criticism of Hockey Canada exaggerated.” “.
“I find it ironic that you are saying that the media has distorted things because that was also said in the poll that you used, perhaps to try to change public opinion,” Lemire said.
The “inconsistency” in perception was further highlighted in Brind’Amour and Skinner’s adamant defense of Hockey Canada CEO Scott Smith, who was given an A-by Skinner for his handling of the scandal. Skinner also stated, “Our board frankly does not share the view that senior management should be replaced on the basis of what we consider to be substantial misinformation and unduly cynical attacks.”
Liberal MP Anthony Housefather responded to Skinner’s comments by saying, “There is a clear discrepancy between how Hockey Canada’s leadership views Hockey Canada’s leadership and how this all-party committee and the Canadian public views Hockey Canada’s leadership and what I think diagnoses the real problem we face today.”
MPs continued to express their dissatisfaction with transparency. At one point, Conservative MP John Nather had to remind Brind’Amour that he was under oath and had to answer his yes or no question about Brind’Amour’s trust in CEO Scott Smith.
“You are a subpoena witness and I know there is no judge in front of you, but I think this is shocking and it really speaks to how Hockey Canada and its management feel about this process and how he was involved. in past actions, it really bothers you firing us and firing us, we have the same powers as the court, we brought you here on a call, and it’s really disappointing.
The hearing itself ended on a similar note, with little new information uncovered and perhaps more questions in the future. In her closing remarks, Legacy Standing Committee Chairman Hedy Fry chided Skinner, Brind’Amour and Smith, stating: “I am indeed very saddened to learn that the current leadership, which has been at the helm since all of this has been going on, must be retained, because it’s an A class team. I don’t think we came to any conclusions from that because we didn’t have any sense of responsibility, blaming everyone else doesn’t mean there is a sense of responsibility.”
As questions remain unanswered, the Canadian Heritage Standing Committee is likely to schedule another hearing in the coming weeks.
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