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Federal audit finds Hockey Canada did not use public funds for legal settlements

Audit launched after reports that Hockey Canada had settled a $3.55 million sexual assault lawsuit
A Hockey Canada logo is seen in Calgary, Alta., Sunday, Nov. 6, 2022. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

An audit commissioned by the federal government has found that Hockey Canada did not use public funds to settle sexual assault cases or pay for related legal fees.

Sport Minister Pascale St-Onge called for the audit in June after media reported that Hockey Canada had settled a $3.55 million sexual assault lawsuit. She requested the investigation to ensure that public funds had only been used to support amateur hockey.

A summary of the audit made several conclusions, including that funds disbursed by the federal government to Hockey Canada have been used for that intended purpose.

“We are satisfied that no federal money was used to settle lawsuits or out-of-court settlements and thus, there has been no breach of contract,” said St-Onge. “That being said, the Heritage Committee testimonies and Cromwell Report brought forward concerns regarding Hockey Canada’s past financial management.

“We expect that the new Board of Directors will implement the necessary changes to ensure the financial transparency that we all expect from the organization, especially when it comes to the registration fees paid by parents across Canada.”

The audit also found that Hockey Canada had an adequate internal control framework and a budgeting process in place.

Some improvements were suggested, such as aligning the financial coding to the contribution agreements funded categories, reviewing the salaries recorded, and documenting financial processes.

“The Government of Canada is an integral partner in promoting Canada’s game and ensuring communities across the country have access to safe and accessible hockey programming,” said Hugh Fraser, chair of Hockey Canada’s board of directors, in a statement Wednesday. “We have made significant progress in addressing the government’s concerns to date, and are grateful for the auditor’s review, which serves as another important step in repairing our partnership.”

The settlement was paid out to a woman in London, Ont., who alleged that she was sexually assaulted by eight hockey players, including members of the 2018 Canadian world junior team, following a Hockey Canada Foundation event.

The victim’s allegations and the settlement sparked national outrage and months of controversy as more details of the incident came out. During the ensuing government and media investigations it was found that Hockey Canada’s National Equity Fund, which was partially funded by children’s registration fees, had been the source of the legal settlement.

Hockey Canada also announced in July that members of its 2003 world junior hockey championship team were being investigated for a group sexual assault. Hockey Canada said it contacted Halifax Regional Police about the allegations because Halifax was the co-host city of the 2003 world junior hockey championship.

Police investigations into the 2003 and 2018 allegations are still ongoing. Neither case has been proven in court.

After months of public outcry, Hockey Canada’s board of directors resigned on Oct. 11 and president and CEO Scott Smith was ousted from his role. A new board of directors was elected on Dec. 17.

RELATED: Hockey Canada has paid $7.6M in sex abuse settlements since 1989