Hockey Manitoba withdraws support for Hockey Canada leadership amid sexual assault scandal

Hockey Manitoba has withdrawn its defence of Hockey Canada over a sexual assault scandal that’s been simmering for months, but stopped short of cutting ties with the organization, as has been done by several sponsors and at least one other provincial affiliate.

The board of directors of Hockey Manitoba issued a statement Thursday supporting the call by members of Parliament for change in the leadership of Hockey Canada. 

The organization also called for “a review of the Hockey Canada Action Plan to include consultation from experts or organizations working in education, awareness and prevention of sexual violence, abuse, bullying, and discrimination.”

Hockey Manitoba joins the chorus of voices — including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau — who have spoken out or taken a position regarding Hockey Canada this week, following new new allegations against the governing body. 

On Wednesday, Trudeau said the actions and attitude of Hockey Canada “boggles the mind.”

Sharp turnaround 

In August, after the details of the sexual assault controversy were exposed at the national level, with Canada’s minister of sport chastising Hockey Canada for keeping her out of the loop, Hockey Manitoba’s executive director Peter Woods defended the national body’s leadership in a conversation with CBC Manitoba Information Radio host Mary Markusa. 

“I believe they have the right people that are leading this organization, that have a great deal of experience in the hockey world, and I’m certainly comfortable with the direction that they’re going in right now,” Woods said. 

“I think Hockey Canada has recognized that they’ve made some errors, they’ve acknowledged some mistakes that have been made throughout this process, and they’re trying to correct those. They’ve put together a very strong action plan.”.

Not as far as Quebec 

Thursday’s statement from Hockey Manitoba stops short of cutting ties with the organization as was done by Hockey Quebec on Tuesday.   

The Quebec organization says it will stop monetary contributions to the national organization — a move that was commended by Canada’s federal minister of sport, Pascale St-Onge. 

Minister of Sport Pascale St-Onge rises during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa. St-Onge is once again calling for change in Hockey Canada’s leadership in the wake of new allegations against the troubled sporting body. (Patrick Doyle/The Canadian Press)

 “I think the decision that Hockey Quebec took shows that reform [is] being engaged. It also sends the message to the leaders at the organization that are holding on to their jobs that Hockey Canada doesn’t belong to them, it also belongs to their members and they want change,” St-Onge said Wednesday.

No reason and no comment

The statement from Hockey Manitoba did not provide a reason for the change in position. 

It also failed to outline whether the organization considered cutting ties with the organization and why it decided against the move. 

The organization said they will provide no additional comments until after “further developments unfold on the national scene, namely the thorough review of the upcoming report from the Honourable Thomas Cromwell C.C., along with further attention to the situation being addressed around Hockey Canada leadership and the Hockey Canada Action Plan.”

Also on Thursday, Skip The Dishes, which is headquartered in Winnipeg, said it will also end its partnership with Hockey Canada, saying it’s “deeply troubled” by recent allegations.

Skip was the official food delivery app for Hockey Canada. 

Scotiabank and Pepsi paused their sponsorship of Hockey Canada in June. Other major sponsors who’ve since cut support include Tim Hortons, Telus, Canadian Tire, and Sobeys.

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