Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says it’s time to think about starting a new organization to replace Hockey Canada, which continues to defend itself despite paying out nearly $9 million to 21 complainants of sexual misconduct since 1989.
“It is inconceivable that folks at Hockey Canada continue to dig in. It’s not like there’s something extraordinarily special about the people at Hockey Canada that means they are the only people in the country that can run an organization like this,” he said before heading into a cabinet meeting on Parliament Hill on Thursday.
“They need to realize that if we have to create an organization, get rid of Hockey Canada and create an organization called ‘Canada Hockey’ instead, people will look at doing that.”
Trudeau went on to say while the federal government “isn’t in the business” of starting new hockey organizations, he is sure “there will be a vacuum filled up.”
The prime minister’s comments are just the latest salvo aimed at the national ice hockey body amid frustrations about its handling of sexual assault allegations and its executives’ adamant defence of the organization.
WATCH | ‘Hockey Canada has lost the confidence of Canadians’: Trudeau
Earlier Thursday morning, Telus announced it will no longer be funding Hockey Canada’s men’s program for the upcoming season, making it the second major sponsor to pull funding in as many days.
“We are deeply disheartened by the lack of action and commitment from Hockey Canada to drive necessary cultural change,” the telecommunications company said in a statement released Thursday morning.
“Telus will not be sponsoring Hockey Canada’s men’s hockey programs for the 2022-23 season, including the upcoming world juniors tournament. We remain passionate fans and supporters of the sport of hockey and stand committed to enabling systemic change to make hockey safe for all.”
Hockey Canada is planning to host the 2023 World Junior Championship in Halifax and Moncton from Dec. 26 to Jan. 5, 2023.
Telus is considered a “premier” sponsor. The company has sponsored Hockey Canada since 2004, and in 2017 renewed that partnership until 2022.
Telus had previously withdrawn support from the 2022 world junior hockey championship held in Edmonton in August.
On Wednesday, Tim Hortons announced it would be pulling its sponsorship of all of Hockey Canada’s men’s hockey programming for the 2022-23 season, including the men’s world junior championships.
Hockey Canada has confirmed it paid out $8.9 million in settlements to 21 complainants with sexual misconduct claims against its players since 1989.
CBC’s The Fifth Estate identified at least 15 cases of alleged group sexual assault involving junior hockey players that have been investigated by police since 1989 — half of which surfaced in the past decade, through a review of public records.
Hockey Canada says no to management changes
The companies’ decisions add corporate pressure to mounting calls on ice hockey’s national governing body for a change in its leadership after a widely panned appearance by one of its executives in front of a parliamentary committee this week.
Interim board chair Andrea Skinner defended Hockey Canada, saying it has an “excellent reputation” and arguing against scapegoating “hockey as a centrepiece for toxic culture.”
Skinner has been adamant that Hockey Canada won’t be making any changes to its management despite a request from federal Sport Minister Pascale St-Onge, who has said she believes mass resignations at the governing body are necessary to restore public trust.
“I think it — it boggles the mind that Hockey Canada is continuing to dig in its heels,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Wednesday.
“Parents across the country are losing faith or have lost faith in Hockey Canada. Certainly, politicians here in Ottawa have lost faith in Hockey Canada.”
Imperial Oil hasn’t made a decision yet
In a statement Thursday morning, Chevrolet Canada reiterated its position from June, saying it has stepped back from its sponsorship activities with Hockey Canada “as we seek more clarity on what specific steps the organization has and will take following the alleged incidents of abuse.”
“We at GM have no tolerance for abuse of any kind and wish to see Hockey Canada return to setting a positive example for all Canadians in all it does,” said spokesperson Jennifer Wright in a statement.
Last summer, Scotiabank announced it was putting its sponsorship of Hockey Canada on pause until it was confident the right steps are taken to improve the culture within the sport.
In a statement, Imperial Oil, another major sponsor, said it hasn’t made a decision yet on supporting the 2023 men’s world junior championship through its Esso brand.
“As previously mentioned, we continue to find this matter deeply concerning and have regularly communicated our expectations to Hockey Canada that concrete steps must be taken to address safety issues and ensure swift culture change,” said spokesperson Keri Scobie on Thursday.
“Imperial remains committed to ongoing support to Canada’s hockey community and grassroots youth and women’s programs across the country, as we have done for more than 40 years.”
The federal government has also announced it would stop all funding until Hockey Canada can show signs of positive change.
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