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Hockey Canada still needs more culture change: sports minister

Carla Qualtrough says kids at risk and officials need to do better
Canada’s new sports minister says she’s not ready to laud Hockey Canada on its efforts to change its culture and the culture of the sport. Minister of Sport and Physical Activity, Carla Qualtrough speaks to the media at Canada’s practice session at the Women’s World Cup in Melbourne, Australia, Sunday, July 30, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Victoria Adkins

Canada’s new sports minister isn’t ready to laud Hockey Canada on its efforts to change the sport’s culture.

“Nobody’s going to hear me congratulate anybody on what’s been done so far because we’re not there yet,” Carla Qualtrough told The Canadian Press. “Kids are still at risk and we can do better.”

The Delta MP, who was re-appointed to the sports portfolio in July after serving in it from 2015 to 2017, was on the slate of Friday speakers at Hockey Canada’s “Beyond The Boards Summit” in Calgary.

The two-day summit, which Hockey Canada intends to be one in a series, will tackle toxic masculinity and the culture of elite men’s hockey.

Hockey Canada became a lightning rod in what Qualtrough’s predecessor Pascale St-Onge called Canada’s safe-sport crisis last year when it came to light that the organization settled a lawsuit with a woman alleging she was gang-raped by members of the 2018 world junior men’s hockey team at a gala event.

The allegations have not been proven in court. The furor was further fuelled by revelations that a portion of minor hockey registration fees were used to settle such lawsuits.

Hockey Canada’s leaders were called onto the carpet in Ottawa. The organization’s federal funding was suspended until it was determined no public funds were used to settle lawsuits.

The president and CEO left the organization and the entire board of directors replaced.

New board chair Hugh Fraser, new president and chief executive officer Katherine Henderson, abuse survivor Sheldon Kennedy, university researcher Teresa Fowler, Vancouver Canucks assistant general manager Emilie Castonguay, hockey expert Melody Davidson, agent Bayne Pettinger and White Men as Full Diversity Partners co-founder Bill Proudman join Qualtrough on the roster of summit speakers.

All of Hockey Canada’s provincial and territorial members, the Canadian Junior Hockey League, the Canadian Hockey League, the American Hockey League, the NHL, the International Ice Hockey Federation and the new Professional Women’s Hockey League indicated representatives would attend the summit, said Hockey Canada chief operating officer Pat McLaughlin.

“They’re the who’s who of hockey so step up and do the work is the high-level message,” Qualtrough said.

“You need to show bold leadership, restore confidence in the system, and everybody is watching and we have to get this right. Everyone deserves a safe, welcoming, inclusive sport experience, full stop.”

She also wants to convey the urgency that actions must back up words.

“If people don’t have confidence to file a complaint, that the complaint is going to be investigated quickly, that people are going to be safe in that process, that will undermine all the good work,” she said,

“The room needs to know that as quickly as you can take steps forward, it can be undermined by not doing the really important, but smaller things right.”

A Heritage standing committee unanimously passed a motion in March demanding that Hockey Canada provide the final report from an independent law firm hired to investigate the allegations involving the 2018 junior team.

A motion amendment required the report to first be seen by the committee’s law clerk, who would redact names for privacy purposes.

Qualtrough did not know the status of that report, but said she intended to discuss it with Hockey Canada’s board during the summit.

READ ALSO: B.C.’s Qualtrough handed tough portfolio as Canada’s new sports minister