Hockey Canada’s board chairs to answer to feds, Nicholson deferred to later date

OTTAWA –

Hockey Canada’s board chairs, past and present, will answer to the federal government today on the hockey body’s handling of alleged sexual assaults and how money was paid out in lawsuits.

Former chair Michael Brind’Amour and interim chair Andrea Skinner will appear before a Canadian Heritage standing committee in Ottawa.

Edmonton Oilers chair Bob Nicholson, who was Hockey Canada’s president and CEO from 1998 to 2014, will not be present, but has been asked by the committee to appear at a future hearing.

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, Ont., 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 froze Hockey Canada’s funding and called its executives on the standing committee carpet June 20 and July 26-27.

Former president Tom Renney, current president and chief executive officer Scott Smith, chief financial officer Brian Cairo and former vice-president of insurance and risk management Glen McCurdie were among those grilled.

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.

The board chairs will be questioned by the feds for the first time.

Skinner’s appointment followed Brind’Amour’s resignation Aug. 6.

Former NHL player and victims rights advocate Sheldon Kennedy, a Graham James survivor, has called for the resignation of Smith, Hockey Canada’s leadership team and the board of directors.

In the face of lost corporate sponsorships and public outcry, Hockey Canada laid out an action plan to address safe sport issues and says it will no longer use the “National Equity Fund” to settle sexual assault claims.

Hockey Canada also appointed former Supreme Court justice Thomas Cromwell to conduct a review of its governance.

An interim report of recommendations is expected before the board’s annual general meeting in November.

Liberal MP Kirsty Duncan, who tackled safe sport issues during her tenure as Canada’s sports minister from 2014 to 2019, has called for a national inquiry into safe sport similar to the 1988 Dubin inquiry into doping.

“We had an inquiry decades ago on doping,” Duncan said during a recent speech at the University of Saskatchewan.

“Now we need one to build a safer sport system for all.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 4, 2022.

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