The Current19:26New Hockey Canada chair Hugh Fraser on addressing allegations and restoring trust
WARNING: This article may affect those who have experienced sexual violence or know someone affected by it.
The new chair of Hockey Canada has promised that the organization will “be as open and as transparent as possible,” but says the sports body will not release the findings of an investigation in allegations of group sexual assault involving World Junior players in 2018.
“There are certain legal parameters that would prevent that from taking place,” said Hugh Fraser, who was elected chair Saturday, along with a new board of directors.
He told The Current’s Matt Galloway that he wouldn’t comment further, in light of the ongoing investigation of the London Police Service.
Hockey Canada announced the investigation was complete Tuesday. It centred on allegations that a group of World Junior hockey players sexually assaulted a woman in a London, Ont., hotel room in 2018.
The sports organization hired law firm Henein Hutchison LLP to investigate shortly after the alleged assault, but the initial investigation stalled. It was reopened this summer, after it emerged that Hockey Canada settled a $3.5-million lawsuit filed in April by the complainant.
The London police began their investigation into the alleged assault in July 2018, and closed it without charges in February 2019. The case was reopened in July. On Sunday it emerged through unsealed court documents that London police believe they have reasonable grounds to accuse five World Junior hockey players of the alleged assault.
The allegations have not been proven in court. The identities of the players allegedly involved and the alleged victim are not publicly known.
Announcing the completed investigation on Tuesday, Fraser wrote in a statement that Hockey Canada will now determine “what sanction, if any, to impose” on the players allegedly involved.
“As this proceeds, all information concerning the contents of the investigator’s report, the adjudication, and any appeal are held in the strictest confidence,” the statement said.
Investigative reporter Robyn Doolittle said it’s understandable that some parts of the report might remain confidential, but she is very surprised that overall findings will not be made public.
Hockey Canada has been “pinning a lot of the public goodwill on this investigation, and the outcome of the investigation,” said Doolittle, who has covered the story for the Globe and Mail.
“To have nothing public, I think, is just not the right foot maybe to start off on, if we’re talking about an agenda of transparency going forward.”
Doolittle added that she thinks the information will come out eventually, whether Hockey Canada wants it to or not.
“We’re going to find out what’s in this report, so they might as well give us some indication of what’s in it,” she said.
Hockey cannot be ‘safe haven’ for abusers
Hockey Canada’s former CEO and board of directors stepped down in October, after widespread criticism of how they handled allegations of sexual assault.
Federal funding had been frozen, high-profile sponsors cut ties, and public anger flared about the use of membership fees to maintain a fund to pay for uninsured liabilities, including sexual abuse claims.
Fraser said he sought the job of chair because he had “been watching on the sidelines” with concern, and believes “that in some small way I could make a contribution to getting things fixed.”
He and the new board “are committed to doing things differently — we’re going to be as open and as transparent as possible,” he said.
He said the problems within hockey reflect wider societal issues that make their way into sports, but added that these problems persist due to a “culture of entitlement.”
“Perhaps there are certain individuals who believe that they’ve reached a point where they’re not going to be held accountable for their conduct, or they’re either too important or no one’s going to find out,” he said.
“I think we have to make sure that hockey does not become a safe haven for people who want to engage in that kind of behaviour.”
Support is available for anyone who has been sexually assaulted. You can access crisis lines and local support services through this Government of Canada website or the Ending Violence Association of Canada database. If you’re in immediate danger or fear for your safety or that of others around you, please call 911.
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