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Sheldon Kennedy Chimes In

Hockey Canada’s resistance to outside intervention and insistence it can regulate itself in the wake of ongoing sexual assault investigations continues to draw fire, as it should. More came Tuesday from retired NHLer Sheldon Kennedy, a sexual assault survivor and advocate.

Interim board chair Andrea Skinner announced Monday the intention to support president and CEO Scott Smith and his board on Hockey Canada’s website despite growing calls for change from right across the country. “Scott Smith and the executive team have the support of the board of Hockey Canada,” she wrote.

“Our board is focused on facilitating the implementation of programs for girls and boys and men and women across the country. We are committed to improve our game, including through our governance review, the implementation of our action plan and other programs . . .” For context, the full comment is here.

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Skinner’s comments prompted Kennedy to respond and repeat calls for Hockey Canada’s executive to resign in an interview with the Canadian Press. “For the betterment of the game and kids, the leadership group at Hockey Canada must resign as they have lost the trust of Canadians in their ability to lead. That is crystal clear,” Kennedy said.

STARTS AT THE TOP

Added Kennedy: “If we care about the game like we say we care about the game, I think that’s the best thing to do right now. Canadians are asking for the leadership group to step down. I don’t know how they’re not hearing that.”

Despite investigations into alleged sexual assaults by junior players in 2003 and 2018, the withdrawal of support by advertisers, questioning from MP’s during a Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage and a governance review being led by former Supreme Court judge Thomas Cromwell, change has been slow to come.

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The only change in Hockey Canada’s executive, even with all the above — plus the loss of government funding when it was discovered a settlement payment had been made to a woman over an incident in 2018 — has been the resignation of board chair Michael Brind’Amour, who stepped down Aug. 6.

“Anyone in Canadian sport knows that the well-paid national sport organization CEOs wield the majority of the power over volunteer boards,” said Rob Koehler, director general of Global Athlete, an international athlete-led movement founded to address the balance of power between athletes and administrators.

“Ms. Skinner’s statement is akin to the fox guarding the henhouse. Sport cannot self-regulate. Sport, like every industry, needs oversight, accountability and transparency. Sport has none of these. Until the Canadian government demands these principles, sports will continue to be a breeding ground for abuse.”

Previously by Robin Brownlee