Scotiabank says it is suspending its sponsorship of Hockey Canada amid a firestorm over how the sport’s governing body recently handled an investigation into allegations of sexual assault.
The longtime sponsor says the break will last until the bench is confident the right steps are being taken to improve the culture within the sport.
The development comes after the federal government last week froze public funding for the national sports body in response to handling an alleged sexual assault and an out-of-court settlement.
Hockey Canada non-disclosure agreement in the crosshairs of the parliamentary committee
Hockey Canada last month quietly settled a lawsuit after a woman claimed she was assaulted by members of the country’s gold-medal-winning junior ice hockey team at a gala and golf event in London, Ontario four years ago.
None of the allegations were proven in court.
Hockey Canada executives were grilled by lawmakers on Parliament Hill last week during a meeting of the Canadian Heritage Standing Committee.
Sports Secretary Says Government Freezes Hockey Canada Funds Pending Trial
“Like so many of you, I have been appalled by the recent reports of alleged attacks on junior Canadian football ambassadors,” Scotiabank President and CEO Brian J. Porter wrote in an open letter. “We believe that as hockey lovers and sponsors we have a responsibility to contribute to positive change in the sport.
“We are committed to making hockey safe, inclusive and accessible.”
Porter added that planned Scotiabank marketing and events at the pandemic-delayed World Juniors 2022 in August will be canceled, with investment being diverted to other programs including one aimed at addressing financial barriers for young people at play and eliminate the Women’s World Cup.
Business development and partnerships previously accounted for 43 percent of Hockey Canada’s coffers, according to the organization, ahead of funding agencies (14 percent), insurance premiums (13 percent), interest income (10 percent) and taxpayer funds (6 percent).
Scotiabank announced that it is making a donation to the Canadian Women’s Foundation, which supports victims of gender-based violence. It also expects Hockey Canada to fully cooperate in the federal government’s review and ensure that the company’s funding has been used as intended.
Hockey Canada “evaluates” relationship with Scotiabank
Hockey Canada said in a statement Tuesday it “appreciates” its relationship with Scotiabank, adding “we respect and understand their decision.”
What causes long COVID? Canadian researchers think they’ve found a key clue
‘We’re suffocating’: Details emerge as 21 teenagers found dead at South African nightclub
“Hockey Canada is on a journey to transform the culture of our sport and make it safer and more inclusive, both on the rink and in our communities,” the statement read. “We’ve been on this journey for some time, but we agree that more needs to be done, and faster.”
Hockey Canada said last week it must “do more” to “do more” to build a safer culture after a turbulent week that saw President Scott Smith and outgoing CEO Tom Renney have their say from parliamentarians.
“We were expecting all the answers to all the questions, the many questions that we have about how they handled the whole situation when they testified,” Pascale St-Onge, the federal government’s sports minister, told reporters last Wednesday in Ottawa.
“Unfortunately, we didn’t get many replies.”
Trudeau calls Hockey Canada’s behavior “unacceptable” amid investigation into allegations of sexual assault.
St-Onge said at the time Hockey Canada would not get its public funds back until officials produced an incomplete report from an independent law firm hired to investigate the 2018 incident, which allegedly involved eight players.
She added that Hockey Canada must also become a signatory to the Office of the Integrity Commissioner, a new government agency with the power to independently investigate and impose sanctions on abuse complaints.
The woman who made the assault allegation, now 24, is seeking $3.55 million in damages from Hockey Canada, the Canadian Hockey League and the unnamed players.
Details of the settlement were not released, but Smith testified that Hockey Canada raised the funds, adding that no government funds were used. St-Onge has ordered the audit to ensure this is the case.
The Canadian Heritage Standing Committee will meet on July 26-27 to hear more witnesses. It has also asked to see a redacted copy of the non-disclosure agreement related to the out-of-court settlement and a long list of communications from Hockey Canada.
St-Onge said she only found out about the situation during a phone call with Renney days before TSN broke the story last month. Hockey Canada said it notified Sport Canada of the situation in June 2018.
The House of Commons unanimously approved a motion by the Bloc Quebecois to conduct an independent inquiry into how Hockey Canada dealt with the allegations.
The organization hired Toronto law firm Henein Hutchison LLP to conduct their investigation, but Smith and Renney told MPs that while players present at the London event were “strongly encouraged” to attend, it was not mandatory.
Renney initially testified that between four and six of the 19 players in question had spoken to investigators, before Smith later stated it was as many as 12 or 13.
“Their mechanism (to investigate) is not working well,” St-Onge said last week.
Hockey Canada has repeatedly said the woman declined to speak to police or her investigators.
According to Hockey Canada, players were not required to cooperate in the 2018 sexual assault investigation
Smith and Renney reiterated to the committee that the woman also chose not to identify the players. Executives added Hockey Canada still does not know the identities of the eight players in question.
Smith said London Police informed Hockey Canada that his criminal investigation was closed in February 2019. The independent investigation ended in September 2020, but Renney testified that the report was incomplete and should not be released despite the recommendations it made.
The NHL, which says it also only recently learned of the allegations, is conducting an investigation as some of the players in question are now in the league.
Hockey Canada received $14 million from Ottawa in 2020 and 2021, including $3.4 million in COVID-19 subsidies, government filings from the CBC and TSN show.
Smith testified that Hockey Canada had reported three sexual assault complaints in recent years, including the London incident, but declined to discuss the other two before the committee.
© 2022 The Canadian Press
https://globalnews.ca/news/8952617/scotiabank-hockey-canada-sponsorship-sexual-assault/ Scotiabank suspends sponsorship of Hockey Canada amid outcry over alleged sexual assault – National