LILLEY: Hockey Canada, federal bureaucracy both guilty in what looks like a cover-up

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Scott Smith, the president of Hockey Canada, found out that he had no friends on Parliament Hill on Wednesday. Smith, summoned to appear before Commons Heritage committee for the second time on allegations of sexual assault by members of the 2018 junior national hockey team, faced tough questions from all sides.

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To say he took a beating, a rightfully deserved one, would be an understatement.

One of the headline numbers that is out there is the $7.6 million paid out in nine different settlements dating back to 1989. That settlement money came from something dubiously called the National Equity Fund bankrolled in large part by a portion of the hockey registration fee from kids in leagues across the country.

Most of that $7.6 million was paid out to victims of the monster known as Graham James. It’s not what was paid out to the young woman who alleged that a group of players assaulted her in June 2018 while she was intoxicated after attending a gala event in London, Ont.

That such a fund, paid for by minor hockey fees, exists and has been used for what amounts to hush money for victims has revolted many Canadians.

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What is bothering me more right now is what appears to be the complete lack of adult supervision on an incredibly serious issue.

This alleged incident occurred, a confidential report is done for Hockey Canada, the incident is reported by Hockey Canada to Sport Canada — the federal funding body — but nothing happens and no one from the government follows up. Then in April of this year a lawsuit is filed against Hockey Canada, the Canadian Hockey League and eight unnamed players.

Hockey Canada settled the lawsuit in a matter of weeks. They apparently didn’t reach out to the players said to be involved in the incident, they just settled everything. They paid the settlement out of that equity fund instead of using the insurance that they pay for to cover sexual misconduct allegations.

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The whole thing smells of cover-up from Hockey Canada but also from the government department that funds and is responsible for national sports groups. Where was the oversight from either side?

On June 19, 2018, Kirsty Duncan, then the minster of sport, announced new measures to combat harassment in federally funded sports bodies.

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“Harassment of any kind is completely unacceptable, and the safety and security of athletes, coaches and officials is always our top priority,” Duncan said at the time.

One of the new measures stated plainly that federally funded groups, “must immediately disclose any incident of harassment, abuse or discrimination that could compromise the project or programming to the Minister of Sport,” something that apparently didn’t happen here. A week later, the London incident was reported to the federal government but not the minister.

Michel Ruest, Senior Director of Programs at Sport Canada, said he and others were made aware of the allegation on June 26, 2018 but that no one told the minister who had just made a major new policy announcement about reporting such incidents.

“The information that goes up the ladder involves statistics about cases so that we can have a general idea of what’s happening,” Ruest told the committee on Tuesday.

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I can believe that Duncan wasn’t told but I find it hard to believe that this issue was not raised with her chief of staff or someone dealing with issues management. At the least, this would have gone higher up the chain of command on the bureaucrat side inside the Heritage department which Sport Canada is just a small part of.

It seems someone higher up would have known of this allegation and decided not to do anything beyond cutting cheques worth millions to Hockey Canada.

The bureaucracy is complicit in what looks like a cover up as well, they and Hockey Canada still have a lot of questions to answer.

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