World Junior Hockey Championship on thin ice over Hockey Canada scandal

There’s growing concern the International Ice Hockey Federation’s World Junior Championship set for Halifax and Moncton later this year could be on thin ice.

Hockey Canada, the sport’s national governing body, is under pressure to make leadership changes amid its handling of sexual abuse allegations. Hockey Canada plays a major role in organizing the world juniors.

In a joint statement from Halifax Mayor Mike Savage and Moncton Mayor Dawn Arnold on Friday, the mayors said while they’re excited for the tournament “… we are deeply concerned about Hockey Canada’s lack of judgment and professionalism.”

The statement goes on to say they are looking for “meaningful changes within Hockey Canada prior to the World Junior Championship taking place in our cities.” The mayors said “accountability is paramount” and that the future of the tournament would be discussed with “council colleagues and provincial hosting partners.”

Earlier Friday, New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs said his province is considering cutting ties with the event. Nova Scotia Premier Tim Houston said Thursday before the championships go forward “we need to see some meaningful changes that respect the concerns of Nova Scotians and Canadians.”

Both Hockey New Brunswick and Hockey Nova Scotia announced this week they will not pay Hockey Canada its usual $3 per player assessment fee.

Hockey Nova Scotia said it “lost confidence in Hockey Canada’s senior leadership.” No one from Hockey Nova Scotia was available for an interview Friday.

The Halifax Hawks Minor Hockey Association supported the move.

“We’re really, really grateful and we think it’s hugely positive Hockey Nova Scotia have stepped up and taken the action,” said Hawks president Craig Robinson.

Fundamental change needed

Robinson said he hopes cutting funds to Hockey Canada won’t have an impact on games and tournaments in Nova Scotia.

“As far as we’re aware, the insurance payments are being made so everyone is covered on the ice. It’s a $3 assessment fee which goes toward the operations of Hockey Canada that’s not being paid,” Robinson said. 

Craig Robinson is president of the Halifax Hawks Minor Hockey Association. (Paul Palmeter/CBC)

Robinson said whatever the outcome is with Hockey Canada, there has to be fundamental change. 

“The people that have taken Hockey Canada to where they are now cannot be the people that take Hockey Canada forward,” Robinson said.

Liz LeClair is a volunteer with Can’t Buy My Silence, a group that believes non-disclosure agreements shouldn’t be used to silence victims of abuse. When someone signs a non-disclosure agreement, they’re only allowed to talk to their lawyer or accountant about the situation, LeClair said.

Non-disclosure agreement use

She said non-disclosure agreements are used by organizations like Hockey Canada to silence victims of abuse and harassment while allowing perpetrators to move on to the next place.

“Like most organizations, they don’t realize these stories get out regardless of using these tools to keep victims silent,” LeClair said.

Liz LeClair is a volunteer with the organization, Can’t Buy My Silence. She said Nova Scotia should have legislation that prevents groups from using non-disclosure agreements to silence abuse victims. (Paul Palmeter/CBC)

LeClair said her group was pleased to see Houston’s comments on Hockey Canada, but said Nova Scotia needs legislation against the use of non-disclosure agreements. Prince Edward Island is the only province that has legislation limiting the use of non-disclosure agreements.

“It’s something that we need to address,” she said.

Nova Scotia’s Department of Justice said there’s no plan to bring any non-disclosure agreement legislation this sitting. In a statement, it said it “continues to monitor, and watch with interest, what is happening in other jurisdictions.”

At a rink in Halifax on Friday, local hockey players weighed in on what should happen with the world championship.

Speaking at a Halifax rink on Friday, player Mike Mansfield said Hockey Canada’s senior management needs to change. (Paul Palmeter/CBC)

Mike Mansfield said the tournament should only be pulled as a last resort. He said the tournament and those who benefit from its economic spinoff shouldn’t have to suffer because of Hockey Canada.

“Something has to be done about that senior management,” Mansfield said. “It’s despicable.”

Gary Geddes said he thinks the tournament should go ahead because Hockey Canada has made some changes. But he said a decision should wait until November when the board could have its own internal shakeup.

“I really think [the world juniors] needs to happen for the kids especially. They’re going to take the brunt of all this,” Geddes said.

World Junior Hockey Championship on thin ice over Hockey Canada scandal

There’s growing concern the IIHF World Junior Champions scheduled to begin in Halifax and Moncton later this year could be in jeopardy as calls for action grow louder for Hockey Canada to act amid sexual abuse allegations.

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