If you spend time on Hockey Canada’s website, you’ll come across information on all sorts of programs aimed at improving the lives of boys and girls in the country.
Such as Pink Shirt Day to end bullying.
The program, created in partnership with Telus, talks about promoting the best things about sport: ethics, honour and teamwork. They even gave the initiative a snappy promotional tag: The Code.
The idea being that when you sign The Code, you agree to help end online bullying and harassment.
It’s ironic, of course, because the “code” in hockey has other meanings. It says, for instance, that under certain circumstances you must fight. But a bigger part of the code is silence: As a good teammate, you keep your mouth shut about what happens inside and outside the dressing room.
That code apparently also extends to organizations that govern the game such as Hockey Canada, which wants us to believe it is there for the betterment of the sport, there to instill in our children the notions of honour and high moral conduct.
And it’s an utter sham.
Hockey Canada is ensnared in arguably the biggest scandal of its existence. It’s been revealed that it tried to quietly pay off a woman alleged to have been gang raped by eight players who had been attending its fundraiser in London, Ont., in June, 2018. That is until TSN’s Rick Westhead disclosed it.
A statement filed in court by the woman’s lawyers outlined in horrific detail the degradation and abuse that she suffered at the hands of these men, including forced oral and vaginal sex. She said she was ordered to have a shower after the long ordeal was over, ostensibly to wash away any evidence.
She sought $3.55-million in damages. She was forced to sign a non-disclosure agreement. We don’t know how much money Hockey Canada paid to buy her silence.
We do know that players at the fundraiser included members of the world junior hockey team that won a gold medal six months earlier. Several of these players are in the NHL, which has announced it is conducting its own investigation into the matter.
The federal government recently announced it is freezing its funding to Hockey Canada until it gets more answers about what happened here. We know that the organization did employ a third-party to investigate the alleged incident, but that investigation was never completed, nor released. The players who possibly would have been involved in the gang rape were not compelled by Hockey Canada to co-operate.
If you were a corporate sponsor of this organization, would you want to continue that partnership?
On Tuesday evening, Telus announced it was ending its corporate relationship with Hockey Canada and redirecting any funds that might have gone to the organization to groups that support women affected by sexual violence. Earlier, Canadian Tire said it was severing its planned sponsorship of the World Junior Championships and re-evaluating its current partnership with Hockey Canada.
Before that, Scotiabank announced it was suspending its association with Hockey Canada. As a company that employs thousands of women in this country and around the world, the bank could no longer, in good conscience, maintain an association with an organization whose behaviour in this case has been reprehensible and undermines the very values it purports to be cultivating.
Now, it will be interesting to see who is next.
Hockey Canada has a long list of sponsors that have been an integral part of their funding base. They include Tim Horton’s, Bauer, Tempur Sealy, Esso, TSN, Chevrolet and Lordco, among others.
They all sign cheques to help support an organization whose leadership has overseen what is a national disgrace. Hockey Canada wants this situation to just go away. It wants to protect the identities of the players who might have been involved in this alleged crime because it might ruin their careers and upset their mothers or girlfriends.
Yes, wouldn’t it be terrible if the world found out that these people Hockey Canada has held up as heroes, were anything but? If we found out that they are, in fact, potential criminals?
I think the companies who still have a connection with Hockey Canada need to think long and hard about what that says about their corporate ideals and standards. What it says to the thousands of women they employ, who go to work each day to help them make profits.
Are they happy to continue funding an organization that tried to cover up an alleged gang rape by buying the silence of the victim?
Kudos to Telus, Scotiabank and Canadian Tire for recognizing just how terrible the optics look. Now, we’ll see if other companies make the same stand for women in their organizations and across the country.
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