Two Hockey Canada executives say they do not know the identities of the Canadian Hockey League players who are alleged to have sexually assaulted a young woman in 2018.
Testifying before a House of Commons committee on Monday, the executives also said they do not know how many CHL players co-operated with an internal investigation into the incident by a law firm. One of them guessed it could be four to six, and the other said it was more, but also did not know specifics.
Hockey Canada officials were invited to testify before the Commons heritage committee about their organization’s response to allegations that eight CHL players sexually assaulted a woman after a Hockey Canada Foundation gala and golf event in London in June, 2018.
Tom Renney, chief executive officer of Hockey Canada since 2014, said the organization knows it must change.
“Hockey Canada is on a journey to change the culture of our sport and to make it safer and more inclusive,” he said. “We have been working on this since well before the London incident, but we recognize that as leaders we need to do more.”
In April, the woman filed a $3.55-million lawsuit against Hockey Canada, the CHL and the eight CHL players, who included members of Canada’s under-20 men’s junior hockey team. None of the players were named. The parties settled the case, TSN reported.
The NHL announced earlier this month that it is conducting its own investigation into what transpired as a number of those players may be in the NHL.
Earlier this month, Minister of Sport Pascale St-Onge called for a financial audit of the settlement to confirm that Hockey Canada did not use taxpayer dollars.
In his testimony, Scott Smith, Hockey Canada’s president and chief operating officer, said no public money was used and that the organization liquidated a portion of its investments.
According to her statement of claim, the woman, who has not been named, met “John Doe #1″ at a bar, and after he and his teammates bought drinks for her, she became intoxicated and “engaged in sexual acts” with Doe #1 in his hotel room. Without her consent, Doe #1 then invited the seven other players into the room, the claim reads, where they participated in “some or all” of a list of acts, including slapping her, spitting on her, ejaculating on and inside of her, and engaging in vaginal and oral sex with her.
The claim states that the plaintiff was crying and attempted to leave, but was intimidated into staying. It also says the defendants pressed her not to contact police and later not to participate in a criminal investigation.
Her claim alleged that Hockey Canada “condoned a culture and environment that glorified the degradation and sexual exploitation of young women;” failed to report the defendants to police; and failed to remove the defendants from their teams or “impose any sanction,” once it learned of their conduct.
The claims were not proven in court.
Hockey Canada said in a statement that as soon as the organization became aware of the allegations in 2018, it contacted local police and retained a law firm to conduct an independent internal investigation. Renney said the organization told players it was their choice whether to participate in the investigation, but encouraged them to do so.
He said the young woman chose not to speak with the investigator. “That was her right and we respected her wishes,” he said, adding that the law firm provided recommendations for changes. The investigation did not uncover the identities of the alleged perpetrators, though did provide recommendations for changes.
“We were not able to confirm who was involved and what happened that evening,” Smith said.
Asked whether Hockey Canada would share the law firm’s recommendations with the committee, Smith said that based on advice from counsel, it would not.
Renney estimated that four to six players may have co-operated with the investigation, although Smith said he thought the number was definitely higher.
Conservative MP Kevin Waugh said Hockey Canada should have demanded all players participate. “That is unacceptable,” he said. “Does it concern any of you in front of me today that these alleged, so-called rapists have ongoing careers in amateur and professional hockey today and some day could be coaching?”
Smith responded that the organization has made changes over the past four years to improve its culture. He and Renney noted that Hockey Canada has enhanced its code of conduct and improved education programs.
“I’m a bit at a loss as to how that path doesn’t include trying to get to the bottom of which were the eight players involved in this incident, when there was a very limited number of players that could have been involved on this team at that event,” Liberal MP Anthony Housefather said.
Dave Andrews, chair of the Hockey Canada Foundation, also appeared before the committee.