No government funds used to settle Hockey Canada sexual assault lawsuit: CEO

A Hockey Canada executive has told a House of Commons committee under oath that the organization did not use any government money to settle a lawsuit with an alleged victim of sexual assault.

CBC News reported Monday that financial records show Hockey Canada received $14 million in federal government support in 2020 and 2021, including $3.4 million in emergency COVID-19 subsidies.

But in testimony before the House of Commons standing committee on Canadian Heritage on Monday, Hockey Canada CEO Tom Renney said none of that money was used to settle a $3.55 million lawsuit filed in April by a woman who alleges she was sexually assaulted by eight former Canadian Hockey League (CHL) players following a Hockey Canada Foundation event in London, Ont. in June 2018.

The allegations have not been proven in court.

“I can assure that no government funds were used in this settlement,” Renney said in his opening statement to the committee.

The terms of the settlement, and the identity of the parties to the lawsuit, are not known.

Earlier this month, Minister of Sport Pascale St-Onge ordered a financial audit of the out-of-court settlement, saying the move was meant to ensure taxpayer money wasn’t used to settle the case.

Renney said the organization would cooperate fully with the audit.

Minister of Sport Pascale St-Onge ordered an audit of the settlement. (Justin Tang/The Canadian Press)

When questioned by the committee, Hockey Canada chief operating officer Scott Smith said the organization liquidated some of its investments to pay the settlement. Government funding is kept in a separate account, Smith testified.

Renney said the organization moved to settle the matter quickly because it felt it had a moral obligation to do so.

He said that although Hockey Canada’s independent investigation into the matter was inconclusive, the alleged incident was “unacceptable and incompatible with Hockey Canada’s values and expectations, and it clearly caused harm.”

He added that the organization is hoping to address behavioural issues through changes to its code of conduct and improved education programs.

Renney is set to retire from his position as CEO at the end of this month. He testified that his decision to step aside is not related to the alleged events or the settlement.

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