The latest development in the Hockey Canada saga saw Michael Brind’Amour step down Friday night as chair of its board of directors, effective immediately.
“My final term ends in November 2022, and I know that there is no need to wait for a new era. Immediate action is essential to address the important challenges facing our organization and our sport,” Brind’Amour stated through a Hockey Canada news release.
Hockey Canada board of directors and members will meet in the coming days to determine next steps and to appoint an interim chair.
The next board election is scheduled for the annual meeting in November.
In June, the organization’s access to public funds was frozen by the federal government over its response to an alleged sexual assault and subsequent out-of-court settlement.
A woman filed a $3.5-million lawsuit in April that said in 2018, eight hockey players including members of Canada’s world junior team sexually assaulted her. Hockey Canada reached a settlement with a young woman the next month.
The complainant says she has always fully co-operated with a police investigation into her case, despite Hockey Canada originally saying she didn’t.
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Recently, retail giant Canadian Tire and telecommunications company Telus, among others, paused their Hockey Canada sponsorships.
And last month, Hockey Canada executives testified before a House of Commons committee Wednesday said they’ve paid $8.9 million for sexual abuse settlements to 21 complainants since 1989 from the “National Equity Fund,” which they said is generated by membership fees and investments.
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“I have listened carefully and intently to the comments of Canadians about the culture of our sport and our organization, and about our actions and leadership,” Brind’Amour said in a statement. “I understand that the actions we have taken in recent weeks are part of the solution.
“I am reassured that The Honourable Thomas Cromwell, C.C., has agreed to lead a governance review of our organization that will help us make the changes that are needed. I am confident the recommendations will guide the organization into a future of desired change.”
On Friday, Canada’s 13 regional hockey federations announced they are threatening to withhold dues payments from Hockey Canada considering the organization’s alleged mishandling of sexual assault allegations in 2018.
Led by Hockey Quebec, the organizations sent a letter Thursday asking for a detailed action plan and an “extraordinary” meeting by the end of November to address their concerns.
The statement of claim, which has not been proven in court, said the hockey players brought golf clubs to the hotel room to further intimidate her, directed the woman to shower after the sexual assault and told her to say she was sober while they videotaped a consent video.
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As first reported by the Globe and Mail earlier this week, the complainant’s lawyer Robert Talach released a statement saying that his client was clear to police in June 2018 that she wanted criminal charges pursued.
Talach provided a series of new details about the case including that his client spoke with a detective within days of the alleged sexual assault and had a physical exam done at a hospital.
His client also later gave her clothing to police to examine and met with officers on two other occasions that summer, Talach said. After seven months, she was told the investigation was closed and no charges would be laid.
Following an eruption of public outrage, London’s police chief announced recently it would conduct an internal review to “determine what, if any, additional investigative avenues exist.”
Talach said his law firm set up a polygraph test for the woman and that she passed. The results have since been provided to police and Hockey Canada’s investigators and the NHL, which in May launched its own investigation.
Talach confirmed his client will not be sitting down for an interview with Hockey Canada or the NHL’s investigators because she’s already provided an eight-page statement, five pages of photos and 4.5 pages of text messages.