Parents face difficult conversations and decisions following Hockey Canada controversies

Sylvain Perrier was having lunch with his wife and daughter when he heard the news that Hockey Canada was involved in another gang sexual assault investigation, this time involving the 2003 World Junior Team.

Sylvain Perrier was having lunch with his wife and daughter when he heard the news that Hockey Canada was involved in another gang sexual assault investigation, this time involving the 2003 World Junior Team.

Turning to his wife, he began speaking to her in French about the allegations when his daughter chimed in, asking what they were talking about.

“For a second my brain froze and I was like, ‘Oh man, she’s only 11,'” Perrier said. “I tried to explain it, but there’s no good way to explain it, is there?”

Perrier and his family had stopped at a restaurant while driving from their home in Gatineau, Que., to Sudbury, Ont., for a hockey tournament his daughter was playing. Because her daughter is familiar with the Hockey Canada brand, she could understand that her parents were talking about the sport she loves.

“So I said ‘those guys, they did bad things to that girl. And the person who was supposed to help that girl, well, they just gave her money and told her to shut up’ “, said Perrier. “That’s kind of how I explained it. I mean, I don’t know if I did a good job. But I don’t know the best way to explain a situation like that. “

Hockey Canada has had its funding from the federal government and corporate sponsors suspended following allegations of sexual assault involving eight members of the 2018 men’s junior hockey team.

These allegations came to light after it was reported that Hockey Canada paid an undisclosed settlement to the plaintiff after she sued the organization, the Canadian Hockey League, and the eight Anonymous Players. The woman was looking for $3.55 million.

Hockey Canada later confirmed that it maintains a fund that draws from minor hockey membership fees to pay for uninsured liabilities, including sexual misconduct claims. the organization has since said the fund will no longer be used to pay claims over the sexual assault allegations.

Hockey Canada announced on July 22 that another sexual assault investigation was underway involving members of the 2003 junior team.

Erin Dixon, who has a 14-year-old daughter and a 10-year-old son, said she was angry to learn her children’s tuition fees had partly been donated to a fund used to pay claims for sexual misconduct.

“I just don’t think that’s where kids’ sports fees should go and, of course, this behavior should in no way be condoned or supported,” said Dixon of Kingston, Ont. “It’s a bit of a hit and it’s no surprise to hear about the second situation (allegations from 2003) coming out now.

“With the amount of money they have set aside, I’m going to expect us to hear more, there will be more of this.”

Perrier said he felt “disgusted” that his daughter’s tuition went to the fund.

“It’s hard to get used to it,” Perrier said as his daughter took to the ice during her tournament. “How can this happen? How can Hockey Canada, which is supposed to be almost a church for every girl and boy who plays hockey, go and protect rapists and abusers? With our money?”

Dixon said she was “appalled” that some of her fees were used to pay sexual assault claims when there were more pressing and morally sound issues the money could have supported.

“To say that there are children who can’t even afford to play, and that part of the fee goes to that instead, is just wrong on so, so many levels,” said Dixon, who played competitive hockey into adulthood. “So many things are affected here. Women’s hockey is important to me.

“The amount of money invested in this fund could have done a lot for women’s hockey.”

Ongoing controversies surrounding Hockey Canada and its use of registration fees are forcing parents to make difficult decisions, balancing their children’s desire to play hockey with ethical considerations.

Courtney Adams of Sudbury had planned to enroll her four-year-old son in hockey for the first time this fall, but the sexual assault allegations made her think twice. She said how Hockey Canada handles the next few weeks will dictate how her family proceeds.

“If there are no real changes within the Hockey Canada leadership group and a real will to change, not just the words, but the actions, there is a chance that in September we won’t. ‘might not sign up for hockey,’ Adams said, adding that it’s not just about where his money would go, but about making wise decisions as a parent.

“We also don’t like the idea that he’s in a culture that allows that to happen. Yes, he’s young now, but if hockey is something he loves and he wants to stay in getting older, in his teenage years, that’s not the culture we’d want him to be involved in.”

All three parents said hockey culture is in crisis and cited several other controversies as examples.

Perrier noted that in his neighborhood, a local under-15 hockey team had to suspend six of its players and Hockey Quebec canceled the team’s final two triple-A games of the season after allegations of racism.

Dixon, a die-hard Canadiens fan, said she was incredibly disappointed when the Montreal Canadiens drafted defenseman Logan Mailloux after he was found guilty of sexual misconduct in 2020. Mailloux had waived his draft eligibility so he could focus on reconciliation and personal growth, but was picked by Montreal in the first round anyway.

Adams said she was also concerned about the sexual assault trial of Vancouver Canucks forward Jake Virtanen, who was also a member of Canada’s 2016 junior team. Virtanen was found not guilty by a jury on Tuesday after Adams spoke to The Canadian Press.

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on July 29, 2022.

John Chidley-Hill, The Canadian Press

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