Hockey Canada is walking on thin ice when it comes to public confidence in its promises to fix the culture of sex abuse and harassment in sports, new poll data suggests.
Fifty-eight percent of respondents told the Angus Reid Institute in an online poll released Wednesday morning that they have no confidence in the struggling organization’s plan of action to improve culture in hockey, including the way people in the sport treat women and men treat girls.
Women were the most skeptical, with 62 percent of respondents saying they didn’t trust Hockey Canada’s plan. 53 percent of men said the same thing.
“That is a significant dose of skepticism. So, if anything, Hockey Canada doesn’t just sit at the forefront of a culture problem. It could also be at the forefront of a fairly significant trust issue,” said Shachi Kurl, president of the Angus Reid Institute, in an interview with Global News.
“This is profound.”
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The online survey, conducted August 8-10, asked a representative, randomized sample of 2,279 Canadian adults about their views on hockey culture and Hockey Canada’s response to allegations of sexual assault against some of its players.
While no precise margin of error can be assigned to online polls, the margin for a comparatively large poll would be plus or minus two percentage points, 19 out of 20, the Angus Reid Institute said.
The answers come as Hockey Canada remains embroiled in a national scandal for dealing with separate sexual assault allegations against some of its players, including members of the 2003 and 2018 World Junior Championship teams. In the latter matter, the organization has settled a civil lawsuit alleging eight players sexually assaulted a young woman in London, Ontario.
TSN first reported the settlement in May.
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In the months since then, Hockey Canada has come under scrutiny: three parliamentary committee meetings focused on the matter, a funding freeze ordered by the Secretary of State for Sport, a financial audit, a criminal re-investigation by the London, Ontario police force, and an NHL Probe.
The International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) is also among a growing number of official bodies investigating Hockey Canada’s handling of sexual assault allegations.
Hockey Canada has lost several major sponsors for the World Juniors tournament, including Tim Hortons, Telus, Canadian Tire and Scotiabank, and faced a revolt from provincial hockey organizations who vowed to withhold funding. The chairman of the board of directors is gone – although the president, Scott Smith, remains.
Former Supreme Court Justice Thomas Cromwell is leading a governance review due in November.
Whether Smith will remain in the role after this review remains uncertain.
Meanwhile, Canadian parents are furious, particularly over the revelations of a slush fund that was used to pay off sexual assault plaintiffs by using signup fees paid by parents for their children to play what is Stompin’ Tom Connors once called “the good old hockey game”.
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Fifty-six percent of respondents reported having a connection to youth hockey: for example, playing youth hockey themselves, having a family member who did, or seeing youth hockey as an extended family member, a player.
A clear majority of respondents inside and outside of the youth hockey world identified sexual harassment and assault in the sport as an “important issue – something that happens all the time”.
However, the extent to which respondents rated the prevalence of the issue revealed a range of views, including across the spectrum of political views, with 42 percent of those who said they voted Conservative in the last election identified it as an important issue , compared to 69 percent of Liberals, 72 percent of NDP voters and 70 percent of Bloc Quebecois supporters.
Sixty-one percent of respondents with no connection to youth hockey and fifty-six percent of respondents with a connection to youth hockey agreed that sexual harassment and assault in sports is a major problem.
Among those who have a connection to sport, 73 percent of women over the age of 55 agreed it is an important issue. 63 percent of women ages 35 to 54 and 53 percent of women ages 18 to 34 said the same. Forty-two percent of men ages 18-34 said sexual harassment and assault is a major problem in youth hockey, compared to 46 percent of men ages 35-54 and 59 percent of men over 55.
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According to Kurl, it is unusual that a majority of respondents, both with and without a personal connection to youth hockey, see sexual harassment and sexual abuse as serious problems.
“That’s something that really stands out, because sometimes there can be situations where people who are closer to this world have a very different perspective on it. It happens all the time,” she said.
“This is an issue that goes beyond the proximity to youth hockey.”
63 percent of all respondents said clearly that Hockey Canada needs new leadership.
At the same time, 84 percent of respondents said sexual harassment and assault is a broader issue that needs to be addressed in sports culture, not just hockey.
The last point appears to echo concerns expressed to Global News earlier this month by Brenda Andress, who served as Commissioner of the Canadian Women’s Hockey League for 12 years.
“As long as I’m in the sports world, there’s a code of silence. There’s a culture that we’ve created and I think most of us can’t handle the truth that’s out there – that’s really happening in our sports world,” Andress said.
“It’s about time we looked at this much more deeply than we are currently doing.”
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https://globalnews.ca/news/9063577/hockey-canada-sexual-abuse-action-plan-poll/ Nearly 60% of Canadians question Hockey Canada’s plan to tackle sexual abuse: Poll – National