NDP MP Peter Julian is seeking further accountability and transparency from Hockey Canada by way of a letter issued to the organization’s president and CEO, Scott Smith.
The letter, provided to The Canadian Press, comes following new information Julian had been informed of by a former board member — who opted to remain anonymous — regarding perks and luxurious accommodations provided to board members.
“Thousands of dollars that are being spent on board meetings, on luxury suites, on the rings that come with championship teams that are given to board members,” he said. “And I have asked these questions in the hearings that we’ve had so far and have been stonewalled by Hockey Canada.
“The accountability is fundamental here. And I expect Hockey Canada to provide answers to Canadians. There have been a lot of expenditures that I don’t think pass the nod test when it comes to hockey parents that are registering their daughter or their son in hockey programs. And they’re not seeing the accountability for those funds that Hockey Canada should be exercising.”
In the letter, Julian follows up on Smith’s testimony from a parliamentary hearing on July 27 where he said, “the board of directors and our members from time to time have received a version of championship rings and there are some staff members who do have bonuses that relate to medal performance.”
Presenting information of dinners costing north of $5,000 for the board of directors, as well as accommodations of over $3,000 per night “such as the presidential suite at the [Westin] Harbour Castle in Downtown Toronto,” Julian questions how many times such payments have been made.
Julian also notes allegations of the championship rings received by board members reportedly worth more than $3,000 apiece and seeks confirmation of their cost.
In a statement provided to The Canadian Press, Hockey Canada says the expenses for the board members are “regularly reviewed to ensure they are appropriate.”
Organization covers ‘range of expenses’
“Given the volunteer nature of their role, Hockey Canada covers a range of expenses related to the board’s duties, including meetings, food, and travel costs. Our board of director’s travel and expense policy strictly dictates which expenses are appropriate, including a requirement that directors book the most economical travel available.
“Allowable expenses include airfare, accommodation, meals, and ground travel. Hockey Canada does not cover hotel stays longer than required for board business, incidental costs, or airfare to locations other than the meeting location and home.”
With parliament set to resume Sept. 19, Julian continues to voice his desire to have Hockey Canada back in front of the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage.
“It’s up to a majority of the committee [to decide on future hearings],” said Julian. “I’ve expressed a few weeks ago that I thought that we need to continue these important hearings and broaden them to include other national sports organizations, because we’ve become aware of other sports organizations where there has been a similar lack of accountability.
“Sport Canada, and the minister of sport, needs to be accountable for the decisions that have been made over the last two years. And so, I hope, and I feel, that members of the committee understand the importance of it. I certainly hope that we will be continuing these hearings, and that will be a decision that I believe the committee will be making [in] its next meetings.”
With the whistleblower now in the fold, Julian is hopeful that, if possible, they would be willing to testify. However, the MP is aware of a need for protecting said person.
“I certainly believe that it’s important for whistleblowers to be protected. And so that is something that we need to ensure as well,” said Julian. “Whether or not that board member testifies in camera or testifies in public hearing, I think will be up to that board member, but I would certainly like to see that board member testify before the committee.”
Hockey Canada has been under immense pressure to be publicly transparent with its finances and handling of sexual assault allegations since TSN first reported an undisclosed settlement with a woman who alleged she was sexually assaulted by eight players, including members of the 2018 world junior team.
The complainant was seeking $3.55 million dollars.
Funding frozen to sporting body
Since then, the organization has admitted to using its National Equity Fund to pay out $7.6 million across nine settlements related to sexual assault or abuse since 1989. The fund drew on minor hockey membership fees to pay for uninsured liabilities, including such claims.
Hockey Canada also revealed an alleged sexual assault investigation involving members of the 2003 world junior team on July 22.
Amid the revelations, sport minister Pascale St. Onge has frozen funding to the sporting body, in addition to Scotiabank, TELUS, Imperial Oil, Canadian Tire and Tim Hortons pulling sponsorship money.
Former Hockey Canada CEO Tom Renney retired at the end of June, leaving Smith to be his successor while continuing to be president of the organization. Michael Brind’Amour, the former chair of board of directors, resigned from his post Aug. 6 with Andrea Skinner taking over as the interim chair on Aug. 9.
Despite the moving parts, and an action plan that includes, among other measures, the implementation of a centralized tracking and reporting system for abuse complaints by the end of September, Julian believes a change of the current leadership is still required within the organization.
“As I mentioned last month in the hearing, I have lost confidence in the current leadership,” he said. “There needs to be a change in leadership at Hockey Canada, I think, to restore that public trust.”
“The fact that these questions are now being asked in terms of these quite staggering expenses, for the board of directors is something that, I think indicates that there are folks within Hockey Canada, that are concerned about the lack of accountability around sexual violence and sexual harassment, and concerned about where Hockey Canada’s current leadership [and] where their priorities seem to be.”