Former Supreme Court judge to oversee Hockey Canada review

A former judge on the Supreme Court of Canada will lead an independent review of Hockey Canada’s governance amid calls for a change of leadership of the governing body for its handling of recent allegations of sexual assault against players.

Hockey Canada said in a statement Thursday that the review will begin immediately and is expected to provide interim recommendations before its annual general meeting in November.

The review will “examine the organization and make recommendations to ensure its governance structure, systems, personnel and processes are geared to the requirements and best practices of a national sport organization of similar size, scope and influence in Canada,” according to Hockey Canada.

It will also review Hockey Canada’s use of its “National Equity Fund,” which is maintained by membership fees and used against uninsured liabilities. Until recently, that included settlements of sexual assault claims.

The judge, Thomas Cromwell, was on the Supreme Court of Canada from December 2008 to September 2016.

Daryl Fowler, president of Hockey Winnipeg, says the review is long overdue, and that parents deserve to know where their registration fees go.

“An independent review so parents know where their money is being spent is better than what we have been seeing in the past,” he said. “The money goes from the associations to the provinces to Hockey Canada … and the grassroots players see very little in return.”

The governance review was announced by Hockey Canada in an open letter last month after news broke in May that members of the 2018 world junior team were accused of a group sexual assault after a Hockey Canada gala event in London, Ontario, and that Hockey Canada reached a settlement.

The woman who made the complaint was seeking more than $3.5 million in damages from Hockey Canada, the Canadian Hockey League and the unnamed players. Details of the settlement have not been made public and none of the allegations have been proven in court.

Another allegation of group sexual assault involving the 2003 world junior team surfaced last month.

During last week’s parliamentary hearing looking into Hockey Canada’s handling of the 2018 allegations, chief financial officer Brian Cairo testified that the organization has paid out $7.6 million in nine settlements concerning sexual assault and sexual abuse claims since 1989, with $6.8 million of that related to serial abuser Graham James.

The figure does not include the undisclosed amount of the settlement from the 2018 complaint.

Hockey Canada has since said it no longer uses the National Equity Fund to settle sexual assault claims.

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