Hockey Canada governance review calls for more oversight and accountability

Hockey Canada is at a “crossroads” that requires revamped leadership coupled with more oversight and transparency, a third-party governance review found.

Hockey Canada is at a “crossroads” that requires revamped leadership coupled with more oversight and transparency, a third-party governance review found.

The 221-page document released on Friday following an independent investigation by former Supreme Court Justice Thomas Cromwell comes at a crucial time for the scandal-ridden organization after a disastrous spring, summer and fall. .

“Trust takes time to build, but can be quickly lost,” Cromwell wrote in his introduction.

“Hockey Canada’s recent experience is proof of that.

The report recommends new parameters for the board nomination process, increasing its size from nine to 13 and ensuring that no more than 60% of directors are of the same sex. A new election is scheduled for next month.

It also outlines how Hockey Canada’s National Equity Fund, which is funded by registration fees and used to pay for uninsured liabilities, including assault and sexual abuse claims, should be managed at the ‘coming.

“This report demonstrates what we already knew: Hockey Canada has not been transparent for years,” said Pascale St-Onge, federal sports minister, in a statement. “It shows serious governance failures that fostered a culture of silence. They treated the allegation of sexual violence as an insurance issue.

“Now I expect the new council to make the necessary changes to create a healthy environment.”

The sport’s national federation has been under intense pressure since May, when it was revealed the federation had quietly settled a lawsuit after a woman claimed she was sexually assaulted by eight players, including members of the world team junior in the country, following a gala in 2018 in London, Ontario. .

The federal government and corporate sponsors quickly cut off their financial support, but the ugly headlines continued with the revelation of the National Equity Fund and how it was being used.

A Hockey Canada official told parliamentarians in July that it had doled out $7.6 million in nine settlements related to sexual assault and abuse complaints since 1989, not including this year.

London police later said the force would reopen the investigation into the 2018 incident. The NHL is also investigating as several players from the 2018 World Junior Team are now in the league.

Hockey Canada then announced that members of the 2003 World Junior Men’s roster were being investigated for gang sexual assault amid growing calls for change at the top.

None of the allegations have been proven in court.

Hockey Canada President and CEO Scott Smith resisted calls for his resignation before finally leaving the organization on Oct. 11.

It was the same day the board resigned following a stunning parliamentary hearing – the third time officials had been called to Ottawa since June – and the release of the interim governance review of Cromwell.

“The complexity of the organization’s leadership challenges have exceeded the responsiveness of current board recruitment and election processes,” Cromwell wrote in his final report. “The current Board appointment process has not provided Hockey Canada with the breadth, depth and diversity of experience, both professional and personal, that the Board collectively needs to govern this organization. complex and to lead significant cultural change.”

Cromwell, who recommended that minutes be taken of all Hockey Canada meetings in the future, added that the roles of senior management and the board “are not clearly defined or distinguished.”

“This, at times, leads the board to become too deeply involved in day-to-day operations,” the report read. “The reporting relationship, particularly with respect to the transfer of key information, is informal and unstructured.”

Cromwell, who interviewed more than 80 people, said Hockey Canada was right to have reserve funds, including the National Equity Fund.

“Creating reserve funds to deal with the risk of uninsured and underinsured claims is not only sound, but not doing so would be a serious oversight.”

There was, however, not an appropriate level of oversight or transparency, he wrote.

“Hockey Canada does not have a written policy governing the (National Equity Fund).”

Cromwell recommended that Hockey Canada “disclose publicly available information to its members in a timely manner regarding pending and potential claims.”

Hockey Canada said it has already taken steps to implement the recommendations set out in last month’s interim report.

Cromwell also painted a murky picture of how organizations, associations, leagues, teams and participants with different resources in different regions operate.

“A lack of clarity around organizational structure and authority can lead to uncertainty,” the report said.

While the scope of the review focused on governance, Cromwell noted a number of issues raised throughout the process, including hockey’s “toxic culture” and additional support for women’s hockey and para hockey.

He added that it was time for these same stakeholders to “think about their own roles and responsibilities”.

“Some who have been quick to announce their loss of confidence in Hockey Canada have been slow to acknowledge their own past contributions to its problems,” Cromwell wrote. “The underlying causes of the current crisis are not of recent origin. Members controlled who sits on the board. Sport Canada, as recently as June 2022, gave Hockey Canada top marks for certain aspects of governance.

“It’s not my role to point fingers or assign blame. I’ll just observe that a lot more could have been done to resolve the issues sooner.”

Cromwell said he hopes the governance recommendations will give Hockey Canada the ability to play its part in the “urgently needed” changes.

“All stakeholders will need to work together to bring about these changes,” he wrote.

“Hockey Canada is at a crossroads.

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on November 4, 2022.

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Follow @JClipperton_CP on Twitter.

Joshua Clipperton, The Canadian Press


Carol N. Valencia