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Hockey Canada: PM, MPs condemn organization



On the heels of another tense hearing with Hockey Canada‘s past and current board chairs defending the organization, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and MPs were unequivocal on Wednesday in their condemnation of Hockey Canada’s resistance to making changes that they say are necessary.

“It boggles the mind that Hockey Canada is continuing to dig in its heels. Parents across the country are losing faith, or have lost faith in Hockey Canada,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on his way in to a Liberal caucus meeting.

“Certainly, politicians here in Ottawa have lost faith in Hockey Canada. It’s no surprise that provincial organizations are questioning whether or not they want to continue supporting an organization that doesn’t understand how serious the situation it has contributed to causing,” he continued, referencing Hockey Quebec’s decision to no longer transfer funds to the national organization.

Hockey Quebec’s board passed a motion on Tuesday night, stating that it no longer thinks Hockey Canada is capable of changing hockey culture under its current structure.

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Federal Sport Minister Pascale St-Onge told reporters on Wednesday that she thinks Hockey Quebec’s decision “sends the message to the leaders at the organization that are holding on to their jobs, that Hockey Canada doesn’t belong to them. It also belongs to their members, and they want change.”

Asked if other provincial hockey bodies should follow suit, St-Onge said she thinks that all voting members “need to clean the house.”

For months, federal politicians have been examining Hockey Canada’s handling of alleged sexual assaults and lawsuit pay-outs, with all parties calling for a change to senior leadership and a full airing of the facts with a clear plan for reform.

During a parliamentary hearing on Tuesday, officials faced a barrage of questions from MPs frustrated by continuing revelations about Hockey Canada’s management of sexual assault claims and funding, with MPs demanding answers why Hockey Canada President Scott Smith hasn’t been fired.

Hockey Canada continues to defend its handling of the matter, suggesting Tuesday that it’s not worth the risk of lights going off in Canadian rinks should all senior leaders leave, and is claiming some of its actions have been mischaracterized.

The national governing body for hockey in Canada which has hired a public relations firm to help navigate the controversy — has also said it is working on addressing safe sport concerns, has made changes to how it uses certain funding, and has appointed a former Supreme Court justice to conduct a governance review.

However, on Wednesday MPs made it clear they don’t think the steps Hockey Canada has taken are nearly sufficient.

“We need meaningful change at the top of Hockey Canada. Obviously the CEO has to go, and other management has to go as well. What we’ve seen over the past few months is a complete unwillingness to be transparent and complete unwillingness to make the changes necessary to ensure that Canadians have trust and faith in the leadership of Hockey Canada,” said Conservative MP John Nater, who has been among the main questioners of the organization throughout the House Canadian Heritage Committee’s hearings.

Nater, speaking on his way into a Conservative caucus meeting, said he thinks other provincial organizations should follow Hockey Quebec’s lead.

Echoing his colleague, Conservative MP Kevin Waugh said Hockey Canada’s sponsors also have a responsibility to “stand up and push back.”

Tim Hortons said Wednesday that it informed Hockey Canada this week that it has pulled out of all men’s hockey programming for the 2022-23 season including the men’s world junior championships.

“We’ve communicated to Hockey Canada on many occasions that the organization needs to take strong and definitive action before it can regain the faith and trust of Canadians. We’re deeply disappointed in the lack of progress that Hockey Canada has made to date,” said the fast food giant’s media relations in a statement to CTV News. “We continue to fund Canada’s women’s and para hockey teams, as well as youth hockey.”

Scotiabank also released a statement Wednesday, saying the company’s sponsorship pause of Hockey Canada will remain in effect for the 2022-23 season and the world junior tournament.

“In our open letter in June, we publicly called on Hockey Canada to hold the game to a higher standard and we are disappointed with the lack of progress to date.” Scotiabank said in a statement to CTV National News. “From Hockey Canada, we expect a tangible commitment to transparency with Canadians, strong leadership, accountability with their stakeholders and the hockey community, and improved safety both on and off the ice. Ultimately our position hasn’t wavered: the time for change is long overdue.”

Referencing interim Hockey Canada board chair Andrea Skinner’s comments during Tuesday’s hearing about the risk of rinks going dark should there be a complete overhaul of senior leadership, Waugh said “come on.”

“The Toronto Blue Jays fired their manager midseason, where are they today? They’re in the playoffs. You can make changes in an organization and you know, we can cite several hockey teams over the years have made changes. Hockey Canada needs to make changes,” he said. “They’re pretty arrogant right now.”

Speaking about Tuesday’s testimony, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said that he was “pretty shocked at the complete lack of understanding of the seriousness of the problem.”

“Rightly so, people are appalled, people are upset, and we need to do everything we can to put pressure on Hockey Canada to change. It’s clear right now that the leadership doesn’t get it and so calling for resignation of the leadership I think is appropriate,” Singh said.

Liberal MP and parliamentary secretary for Canadian Heritage Chris Bittle told reporters that he’d like to see the ongoing parliamentary study expanded to hear from witnesses beyond those connected to Hockey Canada, such as experts and other sports stakeholders who can help provide recommendations. He said parliamentarians should also look at former Supreme Court judge Thomas Cromwell’s interim recommendations which are expected to be presented ahead of Hockey Canada’s annual general meeting in November.

“Hockey Canada hasn’t learned its lesson. It doesn’t seem to be interested in change. It seems interested in promoting the status quo,” Bittle said. “Ultimately this is for kids, it’s for the sport that Canadians love, is that there needs to be significant changes this organization, But also, other national sports organizations need to be watching this because Hockey Canada isn’t the only one that has problems going on.”

With a file from CTV National News Parliamentary Bureau reporter Annie Bergeron-Oliver

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Canadian military would be ‘challenged’ to launch a large scale operation: chief of the defence staff





Canada’s military forces are “ready” to meet their commitments should Russia’s war in Ukraine spread to NATO countries, but it would be a “challenge” to launch a larger scale operation in the long term, with ongoing personnel and equipment shortages, according to Chief of the Defence Staff Gen. Wayne Eyre.

Eyre told Joyce Napier on CTV’s Question Period in an interview airing Sunday that while the forces in Europe are “ready for the tactical mission they’ve been assigned,” he has larger concerns about strategic readiness. He said there’s a lack of people and equipment, and further concern around the ability to sustain a larger scale mission in the longer term.

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The Canadian Armed Forces are still struggling to retain staff, with nearly 10,000 fewer trained personnel than they’d need to be at full force, and equipment stocks below what they require.

“We’ve got challenges in all of those,” Eyre said, adding the numbers reflect what’s been “let slip over decades, as we’ve focused on the more immediate (needs).”

Eyre said Canada’s military would be “hard pressed” to launch another large-scale operation like it had in Afghanistan, as an example, without having to redistribute its resources around the globe, as threats evolve.

“The military that we have now is going to be increasingly called upon to support Canada and to support Canadian interests, to support our allies overseas, but as well at home,” Eyre said, citing Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, climate change impacting the landscape in the Arctic, and an increase in digital and cybersecurity threats.

“It’s always a case of prioritization and balancing our deployments around the globe, not just with what, but when, and with who … and getting that balance right is something that that we’re working on,” he said. “Could we use more? Yeah, absolutely. But we operate with what we have.”

“We prioritize and balance based on what our allies need, and what the demand signals, just to make sure that we achieve the strategic effect the government wants us to achieve,” he also said.

Meanwhile Defence Minister Anita Anand said on CTV’s Question Period last week that Canada should “be able to walk and chew gum at the same time,” and balance its NATO commitments with securing the Arctic and promoting peace in the Indo-Pacific.

Eyre said his number one priority is getting Canada’s armed forces up to full strength, with an attrition rate of 9.3 per cent between both regular and reserve forces, up from 6.9 per cent last year. The Canadian Armed Forces Retention Strategy was released just last month.

“We are facing the same challenge that every other industry out there is facing in terms of a really tight labor market,” Eyre said. “Every other military in the West is facing the same challenge.”

He explained the organization is working on streamlining its recruitment process, among other changes, to meet the increasing need, with the goal to get numbers up “as quickly as possible.”

“Ideally, would have been yesterday,” he said. “We’re looking at where we can accelerate the recruiting, the training, and optimizing our training pipeline.”

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How soccer is evolving in Canada




Soccer wasn’t really a thing when I was a kid. I grew up in the 1970s and ‘80s. Sure, we all had soccer balls. And we played a lot of what should be more accurately called, Kick and Run. But I – and all my friends – did not really know the rules, the teams or the players. We might’ve heard of Pelé, but not more than that.

We followed hockey, baseball, football (CFL and NFL) and basketball, in that order. I did occasionally watch soccer on TV, but that was because we didn’t have a lot of channels and the soothing English accents often lulled me to sleep.

Things are much different now. My 13-year-old son is a massive soccer fan. He plays on a team three or four times a week. His schoolmates include a lot of second-generation Canadians, whose parents came from soccer-obsessed nations. He watches Premier League and Championship League matches. He’s watches La Liga and Bundesliga. He watches World Cup qualifiers and could tell me the backstory on most of the players. In fact, he watches classic games on YouTube and plays FIFA22 on his PS4 and as a result, knows more about Pelé than I ever did. But, because of him, I now watch enough football to know a game is a match, a goalie is a keeper and I know which plays end up in corner kicks or throw-ins.

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I once asked him, “How well do you know the Germany national team?” and he said, “Not very well.” He then proceeded to name seven of their 11 starters. It’s a different world.

I still know almost nothing compared to the other soccer dads, but like millions of Canadians, I watched Canada’s qualifying matches and I know we have a great team, with some stellar players who are worth watching. The qualifying matches regularly beat both hockey games and CFL football when it comes to viewership.

But we should care about more than just the matches themselves. The World Cup is one of the biggest and most lucrative sports spectacles on Earth. This will be the first one hosted in the Middle East. And although Qatar may look shiny and new on TV, it’s mired in what many Western nations believe to be medieval and backwards policies on working conditions, LGBTQ2S+ and women’s rights.

Finding people to talk about it in Qatar is NOT easy. One of W5’s goals this week was to talk to migrant workers to describe how they were treated, their living conditions and their labour rights. Most were too afraid to talk to us.

And to confound things, there have been many stories of journalists being detained or arrested for reporting on migrant workers. Last week, a Danish reporter was live on TV from Qatar and when asked what things were like there, he directed his camera operator to pan left – revealing security officials in golf carts, who immediately tried to stop the live hit. The next day Qatari officials apologized, but the message was clear: we can stop you from reporting when we want. It’s a fascinating video that’s been viewed millions of times around the globe.

The Qatari government denies they’ve put any restrictions on media. In a tweet, the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy says “several regional and international media outlets are based in Qatar, and thousands of journalists report from Qatar freely without interference each year.”

Not everyone is convinced. Qatar ranks 118 out of 180 countries in the 2022 Press Freedom index, published by Reporters Without Borders. Freedom House, which is a U.S.-based freedom watchdog, gives Qatar a 25 out of 100 score on Global Freedom, which includes freedom of expression. (Canada ranks 98 and the US ranks 83).

A Reuters Institute column from last week on press freedom in Qatar suggests authorities obscure press freedom laws, by hiding behind trespassing laws.

“One of the most common risks when doing journalistic work in Qatar is to be accused of trespassing. This is what Halvor Ekeland and Lokman Ghorbani of Norwegian state broadcaster NRK were accused of when they were arrested by officers of Qatar’s Criminal Investigations Department in November 2021, while covering World Cup preparations. The journalists were held for over 30 hours before being released without charge. They deny they were filming without permission,” says the article.

A little insider info: I have personally written, “we don’t want you to get arrested, but…” at least twice in correspondence with our team in Qatar. I’ve never encouraged anyone to break the law of course, but sometimes doing our jobs leads police or security into thinking they have a duty (or at least a right) to stop you.

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Don’t have a cow: Senator’s legen-dairy speech draws metaphor from bovine caper



OTTAWA — Haven’t you herd? A dramatic tale of 20 escaped cows, nine cowboys and a drone recently unfolded in St-Sévère, Que., and it behooved a Canadian senator to milk it for all it was worth.

Prompting priceless reactions of surprise from her colleagues, Sen. Julie Miville-Dechêne recounted the story of the bovine fugitives in the Senate chamber this week — and attempted to make a moo-ving point about politics.

“Honourable senators, usually, when we do tributes here, it is to recognize the achievements of our fellow citizens,” Miville-Dechêne began in French, having chosen to wear a white blouse with black spots for the occasion.

“However, today, I want to express my amused admiration for a remarkably determined herd of cows.”

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On a day when senators paid tribute to a late Alberta pastor, the crash of a luxury steamer off the coast of Newfoundland in 1918 and environmental negotiators at the recent climate talks in Egypt, senators seated near Miville-Dechêne seemed udderly taken aback by the lighter fare — but there are no reports that they had beef with what she was saying.

Miville-Dechêne’s storytelling touched on the highlights of the cows’ evasion of authorities after a summer jailbreak — from their wont to jump fences like deer to a local official’s entreaty that she would not go running after cattle in a dress and high heels.

The climax of her narrative came as nine cowboys — eight on horseback, one with a drone — arrived from the western festival in nearby St-Tite, Que., north of Trois-Rivières, and nearly nabbed the vagabonds before they fled through a cornfield.

“They are still on the run, hiding in the woods by day and grazing by night,” said Miville-Dechêne, with a note of pride and perhaps a hint of fromage.

She neglected to mention the reported costs of the twilight vandalism, which locals say has cost at least $20,000.

But Miville-Dechêne did save some of her praise for the humans in the story, congratulating the municipal general manager, Marie-Andrée Cadorette, for her “dogged determination,” and commending the would-be wranglers for stepping up when every government department and police force in Quebec said there was nothing they could do.

“There is a political lesson in there somewhere,” said the former journalist.

Miville-Dechêne ended on what could perhaps be interpreted as a butchered metaphor about non-partisanship: “Finally, I would like to confess my unbridled admiration for these cows that have found freedom and are still out there, frolicking about. While we overcomplicate things, these cows are learning to jump fences.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 26, 2022.


Marie-Danielle Smith, The Canadian Press



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