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Sport minister says Hockey Canada leadership still must change after chair resigns

Pascale St-Onge issued the statement on Sunday, a day after Andrea Skinner resigned as the interim chair
Minister of Sport Pascale St-Onge speaks during question period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Thursday, Oct. 6, 2022. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Canada’s minister of sport says Hockey Canada must continue to transition to a new leadership team.

Pascale St-Onge issued the statement on Sunday, a day after Andrea Skinner resigned as the interim chair of Hockey Canada’s board of directors. The national sport organization continues to draw widespread criticism for its handling of an alleged group sexual assault involving members of the 2018 men’s national junior team, and how it has paid out settlements in lawsuits.

Skinner, who took on the role in August after Michael Brind’Amour resigned from the post, stepped down after she testified before Parliament’s standing committee on Canadian Heritage on Tuesday.

St-Onge said that Skinner and Brind’Amour’s resignations are “steps in the right direction.”

“It must now be followed by a process of meaningful change in Hockey Canada’s values and culture,” said St-Onge in a statement. “We hope that the remaining members work actively toward the transition to a new leadership and governance team, one that can put in place the training and support that players require, and create an environment free of sexual violence, maltreatment and discrimination.”

Skinner and Brind’Amour were grilled by the committee on Tuesday. Members of Parliament demanded in committee hearings to know why Hockey Canada president Scott Smith has not yet been fired.

Skinner vigorously defended the national sports organization’s leadership group at the Parliamentary hearing. She insisted hockey shouldn’t be made a “scapegoat” or “centrepiece” for toxic culture that exists elsewhere in society, and referred to politicians who have been accused of sexual misconduct.

St-Onge said in her statement that Hockey Canada’s mission statement goes beyond on-ice performance.

“We expect Hockey Canada to develop not only exceptional athletes, but also to educate and develop citizens who respect women, the public and Canadian law,” said St-Onge.

Sébastien Lemire, a Bloc-Québécois MP who sits on the standing committee on Canadian Heritage, tweeted in French on Sunday that “for the good of all” Hockey Canada must continue to clean house.

Fallout from Skinner and Brind’Amour’s testimony came quickly.

Nike suspended corporate sponsorship of Hockey Canada on Friday to join three other premier partners — Tim Hortons, Esso and Telus — in pausing support for hockey’s governing body.

More provincial hockey associations began withholding player fees from Hockey Canada.

Hockey N.L. and Hockey New Brunswick both withdrew their $3-per-player fees Friday following Quebec, Ontario and Nova Scotia.

“Upon reflection, it is clear to me from recent events that it no longer makes sense for me to continue to volunteer my time as Interim Chair or as a Director of the organization,” wrote Skinner in Saturday’s statement.

The Toronto lawyer said she has been “gratified” for the opportunity to work with people in the organization, “despite recent challenges.”

“I sincerely appreciate the support I have received from many Canadians, particularly women, who also seek to positively influence the game and sport,” Skinner wrote.

John Chidley-Hill, The Canadian Press

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