Hockey Canada’s board chairs, past and present, played defence under House of Commons questioning of its handling of alleged sexual assaults and how money was paid out in lawsuits.
Former chair Michael Brind’Amour and interim chair Andrea Skinner appeared via video conference before a Canadian Heritage standing committee in Ottawa.
Skinner was appointed interim board chair after Brind’Amour resigned Aug. 6.
Canada’s sports minister Pascale St-Onge and victims rights advocate Sheldon Kennedy are among people telling Hockey Canada leadership to step down in order to change the organization’s culture.
Skinner says toxic behaviour exists throughout society and suggesting that it’s somehow a specific hockey problem, or to scapegoat hockey as a centrepiece for toxic culture is counterproductive to finding solutions.
She and Brind’Amour were grilled on why Hockey Canada president and chief executive officer Scott Smith had not been fired or why an expensive public relations firm was hired to conduct damage control.
Skinner says the board does not share the view that Hockey Canada should be making more leadership changes at this time.
She adds that as a board, “we continue to support the C-E-O and management.”
Hockey Canada has been under the national microscope since May when it was revealed it had settled a lawsuit with a woman who alleged she was sexually assaulted by eight players from the 2018 junior men’s hockey team during a June gala event in London, Ontario, that year.
Among other revelations that followed was Hockey Canada’s admission it drew on minor hockey membership fees to pay for uninsured liabilities, including sexual abuse claims.
Also, Halifax police were asked to investigate an alleged sexual assault by members of the 2003 junior men’s team.
The feds have frozen Hockey Canada’s funding and called its executives on the standing committee carpet June 20 and July 26-27.
It was revealed in the July hearings that Hockey Canada had paid out $7.6 million in nine settlements related to sexual assault and sexual abuse claims since 1989.
That figure didn’t include this year’s payout of an undisclosed sum to the London plaintiff.
The majority of that money went to those abused by junior hockey coach Graham James.