Hockey Canada has been under scrutiny over the last couple of months after information emerged that the national hockey body was involved in an out-of-court settlement for a sexual assault case involving hockey players from the 2018 junior hockey team.
After coming to light, Pascale St-Onge, Minister of Sports and Member of Parliament for Brome-Missisquoi, immediately cut federal funding to Hockey Canada. She demanded a financial audit to ensure that no public funding was used in the out-of-court settlement, demanded that it file with the Office of the Sport Integrity Commissioner, that it submit a report of the recommendations put forward by the company it hires to investigate, and a plan as to how they will implement those recommendations.
Now she is seeking other ways to ensure the safety of athletes and community members at the local, provincial, and national level.
“Even in Brome-Missisquoi, our office is receiving a lot of phone calls from concerned players, coaches, and hockey players. I think that what we’re witnessing right now is a big change in hockey and the perception that people have about the hockey culture,” said St-Onge.
Wanting to hold Hockey Canada accountable for its actions, St-Onge cut federal funding until it fulfilled the conditions detailed above in hopes of creating a real “culture change in hockey.”
She mentioned that the government is waiting to see how the board of Hockey Canada will move forward and that the ball is now in their court.
“One of the things that people in Brome-Missisquoi are asking me or telling me, and I think people all across Canada, is that they don’t trust the current leadership,” explained St-Onge. “A lot of people are wondering how the same people that were there in 2018, in the past decade, that have created this culture of silence around sexual violence, how are the same people capable of implementing real change in hockey all across Canada.”
St-Onge said that if anything positive comes out of the situation, it’s the conversations that are taking place across all communities surrounding toxic masculinity.
“Now, I think that people are realizing that not only can we help these young men and boys become tremendous hockey players, but how can we also make them responsible and great citizens?” emphasized St-Onge. “That’s the big question. The education that we provide those young boys and men, the surroundings, the entourage, and how we talk about toxicity, consent, and proper sexual behaviours.”
Apart from proper education at all levels, St-Onge said that there are independent bodies at the provincial and national level for athletes and members of the community that are facing situations of abuse within the realm of sports to have their voices heard.
“One thing that’s really interesting in Quebec is that the government has already implemented an independent mechanism that athletes can turn to if they are facing situations of abuse or maltreatment,” she explained. “On my end, (…) we announced the creation of the Office of the Sport Integrity Commissioner on June 30. That means that all athletes, and members of the public, that are witnessing behaviours from athletes or that are going through situations of abuse or maltreatment in sports, they can call that office and get their case taken care of.”
St-Onge emphasized that as the MP of Brome-Missisquoi, her office is always open for questions.
“I want to hear people’s ideas and solutions as to how we improve, and we can also give the right coordinates where athletes and parents can turn to if they have questions about these issues,” she said.
Listen to the full interview below: