CHAUDHRI: Is Hockey Canada skating on its culture problem?

The organization has a systemic problem that it used money and secrecy to sweep under the rug

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Hockey Canada is on thin ice.

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Tangled in an ever-escalating sexual assault scandal, CEO Scott Smith and the board resigned last week.

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The organization has also launched a governance review, led by former Supreme Court Justice Thomas Cromwell, as part of its commitment to turn the organization around.

But is it enough?

Hockey Canada has a systemic problem that it has used money and secrecy to sweep under the rug. The organization has paid more than $8.9 million to settle sexual assault cases since 1989. A significant portion of those funds went to settle claims by junior hockey players who alleged sexual assault by their coach Graham James.

More recently, an unspecified amount was paid to settle a case launched in 2018 by a woman who alleged she was the subject of a gang sexual assault involving champion junior hockey players.

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An interim management committee will be put in place until the election of a new board of directors next December. Optically, this may seem like what an organization should be doing.

But the facade could be all that. What is the organization doing to address coach education and player protection? When players misbehave, how will Hockey Canada respond in the future? When coaches are the source of the rot, how quickly will they be removed from their positions of power and influence?

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Changing the board and CEO may sound good, but frankly, changing management doesn’t answer those heavy questions. Board members rarely intervene in the day-to-day operations of an organization. His job is to support and oversee the conduct of the CEO. CEOs are often out of touch with what’s happening on the field, or in this case, on the rink and in the locker room.

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Hockey Canada’s settlement of numerous assault cases over the past three decades only suggests that other cases exist but remain unsolved. How Hockey Canada handles outstanding claims is key to shaping its future.

Hockey is a Canadian treasure that has been tarnished by this scandal. In order to leverage this campaign to improve, Hockey Canada should do the following:

– Create a support forum for victims;

– Become rich in resources for players and employees who have suffered assaults or harassment;

– Provide safe communication tools to report abuse;

– Create a truly diverse board that includes an equal number of women. The most recent council had only one female director;

– If you want to change leadership, seek the opinions of different people;

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– Supervision of the review of coaches. Most of us don’t know how, or if, coaches have even a basic level of oversight to manage performance and problem behaviors. When entrusted with the maintenance of junior players, many of whom are underage, it is the responsibility of the organization to ensure that faults are identified and removed early and often;

– He must have a zero tolerance policy for harassment and assault, obviously.


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On to this week’s questions:

Q. The company I work for is downsizing and will be offering voluntary buyouts to some employees. How does a voluntary buyout work and can I ask a lawyer to help me before deciding what to do?

A. A voluntary buyout is a separation agreement that is offered to employees during a downsizing period. Employees usually have the option of accepting the terms of the severance package or are free to continue working. Voluntary buyouts are conventional and offer employees a package based on their seniority and seniority. Because the package is voluntary, employers may be reluctant to negotiate terms. Still, talking to a lawyer about a voluntary exit package is always prudent.

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Q. I work in the tech industry and have read about a lot of layoffs in the industry. How long can a layoff last?

A. Sometimes the term “layoff” is used interchangeably with “termination”. Many of the “layoffs” we hear about in the media are actually permanent layoffs. However, if your company does a temporary layoff, employees may often be legally able to resist the layoff and seek damages for wrongful dismissal. While employers are allowed to lay off employees, they can only lay off employees for up to 13 weeks without continuation of benefits or up to 35 weeks with continuation of benefits. Have your employment contract reviewed to understand your rights in the event of a temporary layoff.

Do you have a problem at work? Maybe I can help! Email me at and your question may be featured in a future column.

The content of this article is for general information only and does not constitute legal advice.

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