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The Canadian Heritage Committee adjourned on Wednesday without reaching a consensus to initiate an investigation into the 2018 sexual assault allegations connected to Hockey Canada.
The committee will next meet on Monday, which is the earliest a vote to move ahead with an investigation can now take place.
At issue was whether the committee would work simultaneously on Bill C-11, aimed at amendments to the Broadcast Act, and the Hockey Canada study. All parties spoke passionately about the importance of investigating Hockey Canada and delving into what the organization knew about the incident and whether taxpayers’ money was used to settle the ensuing lawsuit.
“If we are the leaders of this country, what are we saying to victims if we’re not prioritizing this? And I think there’s an opportunity for all parties to work together, because I think everybody wants to solve this,” Michelle Ferreri, Conservative MP for Peterborough-Kawartha and associate committee member, said during Wednesday’s proceedings.
Ferreri is also a member of the Standing Committee on the Status of Women, and urged the Heritage Committee to prioritize the Hockey Canada inquiry. She later added that, “Without accountability, there is no change.”
Representatives from three of the committee’s four parties spoke in favor of addressing both Bill C-11 and Hockey Canada at the same time, dedicating different sessions to both matters in an effort to address both before a Parliamentary recess for the summer. Conservative representatives, however, reluctant to pass C-11 and facing accusations of filibustering, expressed concerns that prevented a vote from taking place prior to the conclusion of the meeting.
In order for an investigation to move forward, all parties must be in agreement with how and when to proceed.
In a lawsuit filed in Ontario Superior Court in London, Ont., on April 20, a woman alleged she was sexually assaulted in June 2018 by eight Canadian Hockey League players, including some members of the 2017-18 Canadian world junior championship team. The alleged incident occurred in a London hotel room after a Hockey Canada Foundation event at which the world junior team was being honoured. The woman, who wishes not to reveal her identity, did not name the players involved – they are referred to as John Does 1-8 in the official statement of claim.
The allegations, which have not been heard in a court of law, first came to light publicly last month when TSN reported the settlement involving Hockey Canada, the CHL, and the eight players. Terms of the settlement were not disclosed.
Hockey Canada released a statement after news of the settlement, saying it contacted local police authorities upon learning about the alleged assaults in 2018 and retained Henein Hutchison LLP to “undertake a thorough independent internal investigation and make recommendations on areas for improvement which we have been implementing and will continue to pursue.” The organization also stated that the woman making the allegations chose not to speak with police or Hockey Canada’s independent investigator. Details of the internal investigation have not been made public.
Last week, Canada’s minister of sport, Pascale St-Onge, said she is ordering a forensic audit into whether public funds were used in the Hockey Canada settlement of a lawsuit by a person alleging sexual assault by some of the organization’s players.
“The financial audit is to ensure that Hockey Canada has complied with its funding agreement with Sports Canada and to ensure that there are no public funds that have been used to settle that agreement,” St-Onge said in French.