Hockey Canada is at a “crossroads” that requires revamped leadership coupled with more oversight and transparency, according to a third-party governance review released Friday.
The 221-page document follows an independent investigation by former Supreme Court Justice Thomas Cromwell, and comes at a crucial time for the scandal-ridden national sports organization after a disastrous year.
In May, Hockey Canada was revealed to have quietly settled a lawsuit after a woman said she was sexually assaulted by eight players, including members of the country’s World Junior Team, following a gala in 2018 in London, Ontario.
The federal government and corporate sponsors quickly cut off their financial support, but the ugly headlines continued with the revelation of a secret national equity fund – partly funded by registration fees – used to pay liabilities. uninsured, including sexual assault and abuse claims.
“Trust takes time to build, but can be quickly lost,” Cromwell wrote in his introduction to the report. “Hockey Canada’s recent experience is proof of that.
A Hockey Canada official told parliamentarians in July that the organization had distributed $7.6 million in nine settlements related to sexual assault and abuse complaints since 1989, not including this year’s payout.
London police later said the force would reopen the investigation into the 2018 incident. The NHL is also investigating as several players from the 2018 World Junior Team are now in the league.
Hockey Canada then announced that members of the 2003 World Junior Men’s roster were being investigated for gang sexual assault. None of the allegations from 2003 or 2018 have been proven in court.
Hockey Canada President and CEO Scott Smith resisted calls for his resignation, but left the organization Oct. 11, the same day the board resigned.
Cromwell’s full report recommends new parameters for the board nomination process, increasing its size from nine to 13 and ensuring that no more than 60% of directors are of the same gender. A new election is scheduled for next month.
“The complexity of the organization’s leadership challenges have exceeded the responsiveness of current board recruitment and election processes,” Cromwell wrote. “The current Board appointment process has not provided Hockey Canada with the breadth, depth and diversity of experience, both professional and personal, that the Board collectively needs to govern this organization. complex and to lead significant cultural change.”
Cromwell, who also recommended that minutes be taken of all Hockey Canada meetings in the future, added that the roles of senior management and the board “are not clearly defined or distinguished.”
“This, at times, leads the board to become too deeply involved in day-to-day operations,” the report read. “Furthermore, the reporting relationship, especially with regard to the transfer of key information, is informal and unstructured.”
Cromwell, who interviewed more than 80 people at more than 60 meetings for the report, said Hockey Canada was right to establish reserve funds, including the National Equity Fund (NEF). But he said there was no proper oversight or transparency over the fund.
Cromwell recommends that Hockey Canada “disclose publicly available information to its members in a timely manner regarding pending and potential claims.”
Hockey Canada says it has already taken steps to implement the recommendations set out in last month’s interim report.
Cromwell also painted a murky picture of how organizations, associations, leagues, teams and participants operate with different resources and different regions.
While the scope of the review focused on governance, Cromwell noted a number of issues raised by stakeholders throughout the process, including hockey’s “toxic culture.” Cromwell also said those same stakeholders should “consider their own roles and responsibilities.”
“Some who have been quick to announce their loss of confidence in Hockey Canada have been slow to acknowledge their own past contributions to its problems,” he wrote. “The underlying causes of the current crisis are not of recent origin.”
Cromwell concluded that he hoped the governance recommendations would help Hockey Canada make “urgently needed” changes.
“All stakeholders will need to work together to bring about these changes,” he wrote. “Hockey Canada is at a crossroads.