A London, Ont., region Conservative MP wants to see a leadership review of Hockey Canada as hearings continue into how the governing body handled allegations of sexual assault.
Elgin—Middlesex—London MP Karen Vecchio, who sits on a parliamentary committee looking into the matter, says the organization needs to be “more transparent” about its handling of the allegations.
“Within Hockey Canada, when they knew there was a problem, why did they just stop looking?” Vecchio said.
London, Ont. MP pushing for priority on alleged Hockey Canada sexual assault
The question comes as Tuesday marked the first day of hearings held by the House of Commons heritage committee, which were prompted after Sports Minister Pascale St-Onge ordered a financial audit of an out-of-court settlement involving a woman who alleged she was sexually assaulted by junior hockey players following a Hockey Canada event in London in 2018.
Police did not lay charges, but the woman at the centre of the allegations reportedly sued Hockey Canada, the Canadian Hockey League and several players this spring. The lawsuit was later settled.
According to London police Chief Steve Williams, the criminal investigation into the 2018 incident has since been reopened.
On Tuesday, a senior director of Sport Canada said the federal organization was made aware of the incident in late June of that year but did not follow up with Hockey Canada over the next four years.
Vecchio, one of two Conservative MPs from southwestern Ontario sitting on the committee, criticized the organization’s approach in previous hearings, displeased with “their lack of preparedness.”
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“I think the ill-preparedness, I think that shows how they really weren’t taking this seriously,” she said.
Additionally, Sheldon Kennedy, former NHL player and victims’ rights advocate, called for the resignation of Hockey Canada president and chief executive officer Scott Smith in a statement posted to Twitter, responding to the organization’s “action plan” released Monday to combat further toxic culture.
“The same people with a new plan expecting different results is the definition of insanity,” Kennedy wrote, ending with “enough is enough already.”
“I saw Sheldon put that forward and I have great respect for him,” Vecchio said.
However, Vecchio said the complete disbandment of Hockey Canada would “not necessarily be the case,” reiterating her hope for a leadership review.
Hockey Canada at committee — MPs continue probe of sexual assault allegations
“This has been going on not just for two or three years, this has been going on for decades and we’re looking at the people that for decades have been sweeping this under the rug, they need to be held accountable,” Vecchio said.
“I want to ensure that these individuals or all people that have been caught in this type of thing, that they are not leading our next generation of hockey players,” Vecchio said. “It’s not just about the quality of hockey, it’s also about the quality of people.
“These are our mentors for our next generations, and we should be calling on them to do better.”
Smith and recently retired CEO Tom Renney are expected to face another round of testimony Wednesday before the heritage committee in the House of Commons.
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