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Hockey Canada funding suspended over rape allegations

(AFP)

Hockey Canada’s federal funding was halted on Wednesday over its handling of an alleged 2018 gang rape by eight players and accusations of an attempted cover-up.

Sports Minister Pascale St-Onge made the announcement, telling reporters in Ottawa the sexual assault allegations are “horrible,” and Hockey Canada’s response to them has been “totally inappropriate.”

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A lawsuit filed by a 24-year-old woman in April against Hockey Canada, the Canadian Hockey League and the players had been settled without attracting attention until local reports began circulating at the beginning of June about the alleged rape.

According to sports broadcaster TSN, the woman, identified only as “E.M.” in court documents, claimed to have been sexually assaulted at a London, Ontario hotel after a Hockey Canada gala in June 2018.

Hockey Canada received about Can$14 million (US $10.8 million) from the federal government over the past two years.

St-Onge said “any future public funding” of Hockey Canada would be frozen until several criteria are met.

These include releasing an incomplete report that the sport’s governing body ordered in relation to the alleged assault and the implementation of its recommendations, as well as signing on with a new federal agency that has the power to investigate and sanction abuses in sports.

St-Onge said she expects Hockey Canada to work closely with the new Office of the Sport Integrity Commissioner “to improve the culture in the organization and end the culture of silence and sexual violence.”

In testimony before a parliamentary committee on Monday, Hockey Canada executives denied trying to hide the rape claim, saying police were informed the same day they learned of the alleged attack.

They also told the committee they hired a law firm to conduct an independent probe, but noted that few players cooperated with the investigation.

According to the alleged victim, her assailants were all Canadian Hockey League players, some who played in the 2017-2018 World Junior Ice Hockey Championships and some who went on to compete in the National Hockey League.

St-Onge said the Hockey Canada executives’ testimony failed to clarify their response to the incident, except to show that the body’s internal processes for dealing with sexual misconduct were “not well functioning.”

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