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Hockey Canada, under fire for payouts in sexual-assault claims, doesn’t disclose its audited finances. Amid calls for greater transparency, The Globe is making them public

Before Hockey Canada faced scrutiny for using player registration fees to settle sexual-assault claims, it was asked to be more transparent about its finances, and not to keep its records from the public.

The Canadian Olympic Committee was mounting a push last year to improve the accountability of national sports organizations, which collect money from participants, receive funding from the government, and are given tax-free status. It wanted each of them to start disclosing their audited financial statements.

But Hockey Canada wasn’t interested. In its view, being too transparent about its financials would only lead to problems. It didn’t want people knowing how rich it was.

As executives told retired Supreme Court judge Thomas Cromwell, who conducted a governance review of Hockey Canada this fall, such changes “were just not well suited for their organization.”

“Hockey Canada is concerned that being seen as an organization with ‘deep pockets’ could create negative implications,” Mr. Cromwell wrote in his interim report. Sponsors might be less willing to write large cheques and Hockey Canada could lose bargaining power in legal settlements, executives told him.

The Financials

View nearly 20 years of Hockey Canada’s audited financials, along with the corresponding records for the Hockey Canada Foundation.

View the documents

By keeping its audited financials off its website, away from its annual reports, and largely out of the public’s hands, it was effectively deploying – in hockey terms – a shutdown defensive strategy.

But with Hockey Canada now facing criticism for settling a lawsuit related to an alleged 2018 sexual assault – without fully investigating the matter and without disclosing to parents and players how their money was being used – that lack of transparency is under a microscope.

Though Hockey Canada receives millions of dollars from participants and taxpayers, it conducts itself as a private entity. Its website and annual reports are opaque, containing only sparse indications of its financial operations.

“Hockey Canada is not required to disclose its financial statements on its website or to the public,” spokesman Jeremy Knight said in a statement.

With Canadians and corporate sponsors calling for more accountability in light of the controversy, The Globe and Mail has obtained nearly 20 years of financial records for the organization and is making them public.

What the dozens of financial statements show is an operation flush with cash, despite its tax-free, not-for-profit status.

In less than 20 years, Hockey Canada, which governs the sport across the country, has risen from a relatively modest operation to a financial powerhouse. It presides over vast reserves of liquid assets held in multiple different funds, in some cases exceeding what its own auditors believe are necessary – and what financial experts deem appropriate for a non-profit organization.

The files include 35 audited financial statements for Hockey Canada and its fundraising arm, the Hockey Canada Foundation. They span 2004 to 2021, and include financial data going back to 2003.

The Globe obtained the files from the Canada Revenue Agency, which requires Canadians to navigate the Access to Information Act to obtain them. That can take several months, and often much longer, say auditors, lawyers and transparency groups.

The files represent the entirety of Hockey Canada’s records at the CRA. Only one document was not produced – the 2014 records for the Hockey Canada Foundation – though no reason was provided.

The records reveal remarkable growth. In 2021, Hockey Canada reported total assets worth more than $153-million. In 2003, that number was less than $28-million. Those assets include $25-million of cash, which is almost double the $12.6-million it reported to its auditors in 2003. On top of that, Hockey Canada listed $118-million worth of investments, which is more than 14 times the amount it held nearly 20 years ago, when it presided over less than $8.4-million worth of investments.

Total assets

In millions of dollars

Cash

Investments

Other

 

 

 

$160

140

120

100

80

60

40

20

0

2003

2005

2007

2009

2011

2013

2015

2017

2019

‘21

THE GLOBE AND MAIL, SOURCE: HOCKEY CANADA

AUDITED FINANCIALS, CRA

Total assets

In millions of dollars

Cash

Investments

Other

 

 

 

$160

140

120

100

80

60

40

20

0

2003

2005

2007

2009

2011

2013

2015

2017

2019

‘21

THE GLOBE AND MAIL, SOURCE: HOCKEY CANADA

AUDITED FINANCIALS, CRA

Total assets

In millions of dollars

Cash

Investments

Other

 

 

 

$160

140

120

100

80

60

40

20

0

2003

2005

2007

2009

2011

2013

2015

2017

2019

‘21

THE GLOBE AND MAIL, SOURCE: HOCKEY CANADA AUDITED FINANCIALS, CRA

As Hockey Canada’s financial war chest grew, so did the amount of public funding it received from all levels of government. Back in 2003, Hockey Canada took in only a few million dollars a year in government grants. In 2021, that number exceeded $9.4-million. However, this summer, Minister of Sport Pascale St-Onge froze Ottawa’s contributions amid concerns over the organization’s handling of the alleged 2018 sexual assault, which involved members of that year’s national junior team.

Revenue from sponsorships and international event hosting grew to more than $37-million last year, before sponsors also began pulling their support amid the controversy. That compared to just $14-million in 2003.

And in years when Canada hosts the World Junior Championship, that number jumps considerably, rising to more than $57-million in 2019, when the tournament was played in British Columbia.

But there is one metric derived from Hockey Canada’s audited numbers that financial experts say is particularly revealing, showing just how wealthy the organization is. Hockey Canada’s net funding reserve – a figure analysts liken to accumulated profit since it represents the money non-profit organizations retain in surplus – has grown to more than $143-million. It was less than one-sixth that size in 2003, at about $21-million.

“These funds have been built up year over year by annual surpluses,” said Kate Bahen, managing director of Charity Intelligence Canada, which scrutinizes non-profits across the country.

“For a not-for-profit, it’s really profitable.”


Net funding reserves

In millions of dollars

$160

140

120

100

80

60

40

20

0

2003

2005

2007

2009

2011

2013

2015

2017

2019

‘21

THE GLOBE AND MAIL, SOURCE: HOCKEY CANADA

AUDITED FINANCIALS, CRA

Net funding reserves

In millions of dollars

$160

140

120

100

80

60

40

20

0

2003

2005

2007

2009

2011

2013

2015

2017

2019

‘21

THE GLOBE AND MAIL, SOURCE: HOCKEY CANADA

AUDITED FINANCIALS, CRA

Net funding reserves

In millions of dollars

$160

140

120

100

80

60

40

20

0

2003

2005

2007

2009

2011

2013

2015

2017

2019

‘21

THE GLOBE AND MAIL, SOURCE: HOCKEY CANADA AUDITED FINANCIALS, CRA

Revenue from sponsorships and

international event hosting

In millions of dollars

$60

Blue bars denote years Hockey Canada hosted the World Junior Championship

40

20

0

2003

2005

2007

2009

2011

2013

2015

2017

2019

‘21

THE GLOBE AND MAIL, SOURCE: HOCKEY CANADA

AUDITED FINANCIALS, CRA

Revenue from ponsorships and international

event hosting

In millions of dollars

$60

Blue bars denote years Hockey Canada hosted the World Junior Championship

40

20

0

2003

2005

2007

2009

2011

2013

2015

2017

2019

‘21

THE GLOBE AND MAIL, SOURCE: HOCKEY CANADA

AUDITED FINANCIALS, CRA

Revenue from sponsorships and international event hosting

In millions of dollars

$60

Blue bars denote years Hockey Canada hosted the World Junior Championship

40

20

0

2003

2005

2007

2009

2011

2013

2015

2017

2019

‘21

THE GLOBE AND MAIL, SOURCE: HOCKEY CANADA AUDITED FINANCIALS, CRA

Total government funding*

All levels of government, in millions of dollars

$10

8

6

4

2

*Federal funding now frozen by Minister of Sport

0

2003

2005

2007

2009

2011

2013

2015

2017

2019

‘21

THE GLOBE AND MAIL, SOURCE: HOCKEY CANADA

AUDITED FINANCIALS, CRA

Total government funding*

All levels of government, in millions of dollars

$10

8

6

4

2

*Federal funding now frozen by Minister of Sport

0

2003

2005

2007

2009

2011

2013

2015

2017

2019

‘21

THE GLOBE AND MAIL, SOURCE: HOCKEY CANADA

AUDITED FINANCIALS, CRA

Total government funding*

All levels of government, in millions of dollars

$10

8

6

4

2

*Federal funding now frozen by Minister of Sport

0

2003

2005

2007

2009

2011

2013

2015

2017

2019

‘21

THE GLOBE AND MAIL, SOURCE: HOCKEY CANADA AUDITED FINANCIALS, CRA


‘Nuclear secrets’

At parliamentary hearings this fall to probe Hockey Canada’s handling of the sexual assault allegations, the organization faced intense questioning about how it allocates and spends money. Among the purchases that came under scrutiny were multiple gold rings for directors and expensive dinners for executives.

When The Globe asked Hockey Canada why it keeps such large financial surpluses on its books, Mr. Knight said the money is to ensure the organization’s operations remain viable.

“Hockey Canada’s decision to maintain a surplus is to help safeguard the financial health and stability of the corporation,” he said in an e-mail. This is done “so it can effectively deliver a comprehensive hockey development system for participants across the country.”

But the fact that Hockey Canada refuses to divulge its financials, and isn’t required to do so, means its remarkable evolution has taken place with minimal scrutiny.

Financial experts say what the audited reports show is as important as what they conceal.

A Globe and Mail investigation in July was the first to reveal that Hockey Canada kept a reserve known as the National Equity Fund (NEF), which was created with player registration fees and used to settle sexual-assault cases outside of court.

Those included the $3.55-million lawsuit filed this year by a young woman who alleged she was sexually assaulted by players on the 2018 national junior team following a Hockey Canada gala in London, Ont. The accused aren’t named in the claim.

In paying the settlement and acknowledging harm was caused to the woman, Hockey Canada didn’t hold any of the accused players financially accountable. Instead, it turned to participants and parents across the country to foot the bill.

A subsequent Globe investigation in October revealed that Hockey Canada created another vaguely named financial reserve for its provincial associations, known as the Participants Legacy Trust Fund, which could also be used for sexual-assault settlements if needed. But this obscure fund has sat idle as a massive cash reserve.

Both funds were used to shuffle money around Hockey Canada’s books in opaque ways. The Globe’s investigation found that, in 1999, the organization transferred $7.1-million worth of player registration fees into the trust fund, essentially moving that money off its balance sheet.

And, in the initial findings of his governance review, Mr. Cromwell also revealed that Hockey Canada had transferred about $10-million from the National Equity Fund in 2016 into another reserve, known as the Insurance Rate Stabilization Fund. It was the first of several transfers worth millions of dollars.

Hockey Canada did this, Mr. Cromwell’s report suggested, in an effort to move money to a less conspicuous place on the books, away from the prying eyes of the public, sponsors and potential litigants – who, if the financials got out, might have questioned the growth of the National Equity Fund.

Retired Supreme Court judge Thomas Cromwell said Hockey Canada’s funds lack proper transparency.Justin Tang/The Canadian Press

In his report, Mr. Cromwell said the funds lacked proper transparency and oversight. He noted that Hockey Canada had no formal policies in place governing how they operated.

With minimal financial disclosure, these massive transfers of cash went largely unnoticed outside the organization.

“Moving the money off balance sheet into the Legacy Fund – that’s hiding the money,” said Ms. Bahen, who scrutinized the set of Hockey Canada financials obtained by The Globe.

Ms. Bahen criticized what she called a culture of “keeping the books closed” at Hockey Canada.

“An organization can use its financial statements to communicate fully material information, or it can choose not to. And that’s when you sort of see the character of an organization,” she said.

Toronto lawyer Mark Blumberg, who has argued for transparency in the non-profit sector, including among national sports organizations, questioned how Hockey Canada, with $153-million in assets, is not required to pro-actively disclose those holdings to the public.

Mr. Blumberg said he often encounters lengthy delays to obtain such records, and that the financials held by the CRA are sometimes incomplete, with missing pages and redactions.

“We have a problem,” Mr. Blumberg said. “If you work really hard, you can’t even get the information. That’s not good.”

“What are we talking about here? Are we talking nuclear secrets?”


Hockey Canada was criticized at federal hearings for mishandling sexual-assault allegations against players. It gave few details about where the money to settle a lawsuit this year came from. A Globe investigation revealed registration fees from participants across the country were used. Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press; Todd Korol/The Globe and Mail

How financial reserves were built

When Hockey Canada began purchasing insurance for sexual misconduct liability in the 1990s, the organization and its insurer drew up a list of 22 known offenders in the hockey world for whom future abuse claims would not be covered.

The list, which was obtained by The Globe, includes names like disgraced junior coach Graham James, and Gordon Stuckless, a Maple Leaf Gardens employee and minor hockey coach who was convicted of multiple counts of sexual abuse and died in 2020.

It meant that, if any lawsuits connected to the 22 known offenders were to arise, Hockey Canada was responsible for covering those claims itself, since the abuse occurred before the insurance policy was purchased.

To account for the risk of such claims, Hockey Canada built financial reserves in the National Equity Fund.

Hockey Canada told the government this summer that it has paid out $8.9-million since 1989 to settle 21 cases of alleged sexual assault, not including this year’s settlement. The National Equity Fund was used in nine settlements worth $7.6-million. Most of those were cases linked to the known offenders.

The Globe obtained copies of several of Hockey Canada’s past insurance policies for sexual misconduct liability, along with the meeting minutes of its risk management committee. What the documents show is that Hockey Canada carried extensive insurance for sexual assault – with coverage of up to $20-million and a deductible of $50,000 by the early 2010s. Despite this coverage, it kept building reserves.

At a February, 2017, meeting of the risk management committee, former Hockey Canada chief financial officer Paul Delparte briefed executives on these financial holdings.

“Strategic reserves were created over a number of years to cover potential future claims which are not covered under our insurance policy,” Mr. Delparte said, according to the meeting notes. “These relate primarily to past sexual abuse cases when potential perpetrators had been identified.”

He went on to say that reserves were also created to safeguard the organization against other future claims, outside of the known offenders. It was unclear if that was even necessary. “There is some belief that our current insurance policies may substantially cover these claims,” he said.

Mr. Delparte pointed out that Hockey Canada’s auditors “could not agree on the accumulation of the reserves” because it was difficult to identify what future claims might arise, if at all, and how much they would cost.

By then Hockey Canada was already moving millions out of the National Equity Fund into the Insurance Rate Stabilization Fund to shelter that money. From a governance perspective, this was not how either fund was intended to work.

But Hockey Canada’s insurance operations were awash in cash, and the reserves were where a lot of that money flowed.

According to its audited financial statements from 2020, before COVID-19 caused a significant drop in participation, about $10.9-million of player registration fees went toward insurance. However, Hockey Canada’s insurance costs were much lower. Its premiums, deductibles, claims paid, and administration costs amounted to roughly $7.2-million.

The difference, more than $3-million, went toward reserves.

These seven-figure surpluses happened regularly. From 2016 to 2020, Hockey Canada’s insurance margins – the difference between the amount it collected from players and the amount it spent on premiums and deductibles – averaged about 26 per cent, the financials indicate.

Insurance costs and surpluses collected on

registration fees

In millions of dollars. Note: 2021 figures excluded owing to

drop in registration because of COVID-19.

Insurance costs*

Surplus collected on insurance

 

$11

10

9

8

7

6

5

4

3

2

1

0

2016

2017

2018

2019

2020

*Premiums, deductibles, claims paid and admin.

tHE GLOBE AND MAIL, SOURCE: HOCKEY CANADA

AUDITED FINANCIALS, CRa

Insurance costs and surpluses collected on

registration fees

In millions of dollars. Note: 2021 figures excluded owing to

drop in registration because of COVID-19.

Insurance costs*

Surplus collected on insurance

 

$11

10

9

8

7

6

5

4

3

2

1

0

2016

2017

2018

2019

2020

*Premiums, deductibles, claims paid and admin.

tHE GLOBE AND MAIL, SOURCE: HOCKEY CANADA

AUDITED FINANCIALS, CRa

Insurance costs and surpluses collected on registration fees

In millions of dollars. Note: 2021 figures excluded owing to drop in registration because of COVID-19.

Insurance costs*

Surplus collected on insurance

 

$11

10

9

8

7

6

5

4

3

2

1

0

2016

2017

2018

2019

2020

*Premiums, deductibles, claims paid and admin.

tHE GLOBE AND MAIL, SOURCE: HOCKEY CANADA AUDITED FINANCIALS, CRa

But how much was too much? For his governance review, Mr. Cromwell spoke to Hockey Canada’s auditors and noted, “in their view, Hockey Canada had overestimated its liabilities.” That meant it appeared to be over-preparing for a rainy day by socking away too much cash with no direct purpose and calling it a reserve.

Mr. Cromwell said Hockey Canada gave little justification for the size of its reserves. “When asked how they had estimated those liabilities, Hockey Canada informed us that they had relied on past claims, but beyond that, it is not clear to us how these liabilities were estimated.”

If Hockey Canada was keeping money around for future settlements, the math wasn’t clear. Ms. Bahen said the numbers in the audited financials are surprising.

“If people were to ask how did Hockey Canada get all this money, it wasn’t a windfall event. It was net profits year after year after year,” Ms. Bahen said.

In recent years, the reserves have significantly outpaced what the organization pays in claims, Ms. Bahen said. Hockey Canada spent $407,636 to settle uninsured claims and cover deductibles between 2016 and 2021, according to its financials.

Ms. Bahen said she agrees with Hockey Canada’s auditor. “The provisioning was excessive,” she said.

In his report, Mr. Cromwell found the lack of transparency of the National Equity Fund and the other funds unacceptable.

Though some of Hockey Canada’s provincial members told Mr. Cromwell they knew the National Equity Fund was to be used for sexual-assault claims, they believed it would only extend to the 22 named perpetrators, “as opposed to ‘protecting’ predators going forward,” the report said.

Mr. Cromwell noted that reserves for uninsured liabilities can be a sound risk-management policy for organizations, but the National Equity Fund was used in ways that weren’t fully disclosed. It also lacked sufficient oversight. This was not how reserve funds were supposed to operate, the report said.

He also found that parents and players who paid into the multimillion-dollar reserves with their registration fees were not told how the money was being used.

“Notably, the website does not provide any information about the use of annual fees to fund uninsured and underinsured claims,” Mr. Cromwell wrote in the report.

“Participants, whose registration fees are the primary source of funding for the NEF, have not been adequately informed.”


Polls have shown Canadians are upset by Hockey Canada’s handling of sexual-assault allegations. In Montreal, a referee wears black tape over the organization’s logo during a game in June.MATHIEW LEISER/AFP via Getty Images


‘A lot of money, a lot of power’

The problems with disclosure and transparency did not end there.

When Hockey Canada faced criticism this summer for using registration money to settle sexual-assault claims, the organization told MPs at parliamentary hearings in Ottawa that the National Equity Fund was also meant for health and wellness programs.

The fund helped pay for counselling and treatment for players, among other things, Hockey Canada said. But Mr. Cromwell couldn’t find any evidence of these supposed expenditures in the financials.

“If such services were indeed provided to potential claimants and funded by the NEF, it is concerning that they were not recorded in a consistent manner,” he wrote. “We also have no indication that members would have been advised when such services were offered.”

Nor could he find evidence that Hockey Canada was properly reporting when legal settlements exceeding $500,000 were paid out. Mr. Cromwell found at least six instances since 1999 where Hockey Canada paid settlements in excess of that amount, but either did not make formal disclosures to its provincial associations, as was required, or did not keep records of them.

Perhaps most surprisingly, Mr. Cromwell had a difficult time determining who was actually in charge of the National Equity Fund, raising questions about who was accountable for the millions of dollars in registration fees it held.

“We were initially told the CFO was involved in NEF management. Next, Hockey Canada informed us that the director of sport safety played an important role in managing the fund. When asked about the subject, the director of sport safety denied having such a role,” Mr. Cromwell’s report said.

“After obtaining these responses, certain Hockey Canada executives again informed us that the director of sport safety managed the fund, but with the assistance of legal counsel. Most recently, the CFO provided us with a chart according to which all matters involving insurance reserves, renewals and claims, as well as settlements expenses were handled by legal counsel.”

After Mr. Cromwell presented his findings to Hockey Canada, the board announced the immediate departure of chief executive Scott Smith, and all of the organization’s directors said they were stepping down.

Hockey Canada’s lack of transparency, including its refusal to voluntarily disclose financials and the vagueness of how it describes its operations, is a problem, said François Brouard, an accounting professor at the Sprott School of Business in Ottawa.

Mr. Brouard analyzed a few of Hockey Canada’s recent audited financial statements and was struck by the lack of disclosure around its reserve funds, particularly in the footnotes. “When we look at the funds, the notes to financial statements basically say nothing,” he said.

The lack of detail stands out, he said. “As an accountant, I can appreciate the crafting of that note. But on the other hand, I think it’s bad because when I look at the public or someone interested in knowing what happened, that’s a problem.”

This type of limited disclosure helps keep potential issues hidden, he said. “You have a small group of people basically controlling a lot of money, a lot of power,” Mr. Brouard said. “There’s a bunch of question marks.”

“For me, apart from the lack of transparency, one of my biggest problems is probably the cash and the long-term investments they have.”

“I don’t see why they need that much money,” he said.

An organization that uses public money and avails itself of the tax-free status given to non-profit organizations in Canada should not have an option to keep its balance sheet and income statements private, Mr. Brouard said.

“The moment you accept public money, it should be really clear that you have to be transparent,” he said. “You don’t want to? That’s fine. Don’t ask for money. That’s really simple.”


Experts say Hockey Canada should be forced to disclose its audited financials to the public, given the size of funds it operates and the government money it receives.Todd Korol/The Globe and Mail


‘Zero effort’

The transparency problem is not solely a Hockey Canada issue. Many registered non-profits, including charities and national sports organizations, sidestep disclosure. The sector’s track record is dismal.

However, several of Hockey Canada’s peers do post recent financial statements on their websites, including Canada Basketball and Curling Canada.

But when the Canadian Olympic Committee began suggesting Hockey Canada and others adopt better governance standards, the request to disclose audited statements was just that – a request.

Ms. Bahen said financial disclosure should be made mandatory for not-for-profit organizations.

“The status quo of closed books enables secrecy and slush funds. It thwarts justice settlements for survivors of abuse, whether at church-run residential schools or in hockey, and it erodes the public’s confidence in institutions,” Ms. Bahen said.

Transparency in the Canadian sector is particularly bad, she said.

“Over the last 20 years, Australia, Britain and the U.S. made these financial statements publicly available,” Ms. Bahen said. “We are on our own to file access to information requests and tolerate delays, redactions, and incomplete files.”

Sport Canada, which funds Canada’s more than 60 national sports organizations (NSOs), said its hands are tied because it doesn’t own the information.

“NSOs are independent organizations,” Sport Canada spokesman Daniel Savoie said. The audited financials “belong to the NSOs.”

Hannah Wardell, a spokeswoman for the Canada Revenue Agency, said the agency recognizes the need for more transparency, but that the CRA is beholden to the restrictions of the Access to Information Act. Though the CRA can expedite the release of financial records to journalists, sometimes providing them in a matter of weeks, the process takes significantly longer for the rest of the public.

Even when a request is made, there is no guarantee the public will get to see Hockey Canada’s records. The organization is currently fighting the federal government in court to block the release of financial information relating to its grant applications, including details about how the money is spent.

Hockey Canada argues the records contain, “Financial, commercial, scientific and technical information that is confidential.” Disclosing those documents would “cause it serious financial hardship.”

As that case drags on, a simple solution exists for the lack of disclosure around audited financial statements. The federal government gives money to national sports organizations. It could make public disclosure a condition of receiving that funding.

“Why not just put the onus on these organizations? That’s the simplest way to do it. If you want our money, you have to post the financials,” Mr. Blumberg said.

“I don’t think any government should fund any group that hasn’t put their financial statements on their website for at least the last five years.”

He believes there are no good excuses.

“This requires zero effort,” Mr. Blumberg said. “If they can’t, if they have lots of reasons why it’s so hard and difficult, maybe they’re in the wrong job.”


Hockey Canada’s financials

Hockey Canada doesn’t proactively disclose its audited financials for Canadians to see. Amid calls for greater transparency, The Globe and Mail is making them public.

Though Hockey Canada collects millions of dollars in public money through registration fees and government grants, Canadians are not entitled to see its financials without first filing an Access to Information request. For the public, those requests can take several months for records to be produced, and sometimes longer.

The Globe has obtained a set of 35 audited financials for Hockey Canada and its fundraising arm, the Hockey Canada Foundation. They span 2004 to 2021, and include financial data going back to 2003. The files can be downloaded. They contain redactions made by the Canada Revenue Agency before they were obtained.

Organization

  • Hockey Canada
  • Hockey Canada Foundation

Year

  • 2021
  • 2020
  • 2019
  • 2018
  • 2017
  • 2016
  • 2015
  • 2014
  • 2013
  • 2012
  • 2011
  • 2010
  • 2009
  • 2008
  • 2007
  • 2006
  • 2005
  • 2004
Note: No documents were provided for Hockey Canada Foundation in 2014.
Source: Canada Revenue Agency.

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