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Ottawa knew about Hockey Canada sexual-assault claim in 2018 – The Globe and Mail



Witnesses Michel Ruest, Senior Director, Programs, Sport Canada Branch of Canadian Heritage, and Isabelle Mondou, Deputy Minister of Canadian Heritage, appear at the standing committee on Canadian Heritage in Ottawa on July 26.Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press

Ottawa was told by Hockey Canada in 2018 about sexual-assault allegations involving members of that year’s Canadian world junior team but didn’t follow up with the organization about the complaint for four years, according to federal officials.

Until this past spring, Sport Canada had thought a police investigation into the alleged assault in London, Ont., was continuing, according to Isabelle Mondou, deputy minister for the Department of Canadian Heritage, which oversees Sport Canada. She said it wasn’t until May – when Hockey Canada reached out to inform Sport Canada that the allegations were about to become public – that the government realized the London Police Service had concluded its probe, without charges, in early 2019.

The revelation emerged Tuesday during high-profile, public testimony before the Canadian Heritage parliamentary committee, which is examining Hockey Canada’s handling of sexual-assault allegations. While the conduct of the national governing body for hockey had been the focal point of hearings that took place in June, it was Ottawa that was under a microscope Tuesday.


In addition to the 2018 allegations, which are now the subject of a reopened police investigation, authorities in Halifax are investigating an alleged sexual assault involving members of the country’s 2003 world junior team.

The federal government froze its funding to Hockey Canada after it was revealed in the media that the organization had settled a $3.55-million lawsuit on behalf of eight Canadian Hockey League players accused of sexually assaulting a woman after a Hockey Canada fundraising gala in London in June, 2018. The players are not named in the lawsuit and have not been publicly identified, nor has the amount of the settlement been revealed.

While several Sport Canada officials were aware in 2018 that London police were investigating the allegations, the matter was not escalated to the attention of then-minister Kirsty Duncan. Sport Canada senior director Michel Ruest, who was among those who knew four years ago about the alleged incident, told the committee that, to his knowledge, transition documents to subsequent ministers did not include information about the allegations.

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In her second appearance before the committee, Minister of Sport Pascale St-Onge told MPs that the federal branch must do a better job of following up on complaints of sexual assault and abuse in sport. She also said the government is considering measures to strengthen its monitoring of national sport organizations, which are subject to federal funding agreements.

Asked by Bloc Québécois MP Sébastien Lemire if she is satisfied with how Sport Canada handled the 2018 allegations, Ms. St-Onge said there’s room for improvement. “When I say that everyone within sports and Canada needs to rethink their way of doing things, I think that also includes Sport Canada,” she said.

Sheldon Kennedy, a sexual-abuse survivor and former National Hockey League player, called for the immediate resignation of Hockey Canada chief executive Scott Smith, along with his leadership team and board of directors.

“The same people with a new plan expecting different results is the definition of insanity,” he wrote in a statement posted to social media. “Enough is enough already.”

Ms. St-Onge didn’t go so far as to say that Hockey Canada executives and directors should resign, but she questioned whether the people leading the organization are fit to bring about the change in culture they have promised in recent days.

Conservative committee member John Nater, who forwarded information to Halifax police that he had recently received about the alleged 2003 assault, took the minister to task, asking if the same standard of reflection applies to the government.

“The person to your right knew of the allegations four years ago,” he said, referring to Mr. Ruest. “[He] did not inform the minister’s office and did not follow up. You’ve made mention that you’re not sure that the current leadership at Hockey Canada is the right individuals to carry on, but I question you, do you think the person sitting next to you is the right person to be leading change within Sport Canada?”

Ms. St-Onge responded that Sport Canada is not a regulatory body with powers to investigate, and noted that the branch has taken steps to improve the culture in sport. For example, it recently created the federal Office of the Sport Integrity Commissioner, whose mandate is to confront serious complaints of abuse and maltreatment in sport.

Mr. Nater said no one was suggesting Sport Canada should investigate allegations; rather, that it should at least monitor the status of serious complaints to ensure they’re properly dealt with.

“[Sport Canada officials] took note on a piece of paper and nothing more happened with that – it was kept in a filing cabinet somewhere,” he said. “They took note and then did nothing.”

Committee members also asked about Hockey Canada’s use of a special multimillion-dollar fund – fed by player registration fees – to settle claims of alleged sexual assault. The fund was detailed in a recent Globe and Mail investigation.

Mr. Ruest said the government was aware of the National Equity Fund, but didn’t know that it was used to pay for settlements in sexual-assault claims. Hockey Canada has said it will no longer use the fund for that purpose.

Hockey Canada used health fund for lawsuits, documents say

Tuesday’s hearings centred on Sport Canada, but the day began with testimony from Danielle Robitaille, a partner at law firm Henein Hutchison, which was retained by Hockey Canada to conduct an independent investigation into the 2018 allegations. Hockey Canada announced earlier this month that it was reopening that probe, after the work was initially halted in 2020 because the woman was not willing to speak with the lead investigator.

Ms. Robitaille’s opening statement provided details about what transpired in the wake of the gala held on June 18, 2018. She said she spoke with Glen McCurdie, who retired as Hockey Canada senior vice-president of insurance and risk management in December, on the morning of June 19, 2018. She said she advised him that Hockey Canada should immediately contact police. Mr. Smith, the Hockey Canada CEO, told the committee last month that the organization contacted London police around 6 p.m. that day.

Ms. Robitaille said that of the 19 players who attended the gala, 10 participated in initial interviews; seven said they wouldn’t participate until the police investigation concluded; and two declined. She clarified that she now understands that the latter two only meant to suspend their participation until the end of the police investigation, not outright decline.

This time around, she said, if players do not co-operate in the investigation, they will receive a lifetime ban from participating in Hockey Canada programs. That ban, she added, would be made public.

Ms. Robitaille declined to answer a number of questions from MPs, including whether she is aware of the identities of the eight players involved in the alleged incident, citing instructions from Hockey Canada not to waive solicitor-client privilege.

She assured the committee that she is “laser focused” on deciphering what happened in London four years ago. “We do not yet know what did or did not occur,” she said. “The goal of the investigation is to uncover the truth.”

On Wednesday, Hockey Canada representatives will return for a second round of testimony, including Mr. Smith, former CEO Tom Renney, and the chair of the Hockey Canada Foundation, Dave Andrews. Mr. McCurdie will testify for the first time. The witness list also includes representatives from leagues under the Hockey Canada umbrella.

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Raptors' Nick Nurse 'Gonna Take a Few Weeks to See Where I'm at' After Season Ends – Bleacher Report



Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Toronto Raptors head coach Nick Nurse is unsure of his future with the franchise beyond the 2022-23 campaign.

Nurse told reporters ahead of Friday’s matchup against the Philadelphia 76ers that he’s going to take his time deciding on whether he wants to forge ahead as Toronto’s head coach beyond this season.

Nurse said, via ESPN’s Tim Bontemps:


“First of all, I think when this season gets done, we’ll evaluate everything, and even personally, I’m gonna take a few weeks to see where I’m at, you know? Like you said, where my head’s at. And just see how the relationship with the organization is and everything. It’s been 10 years for me now, which is a pretty good run. I don’t know, over those 10 years we got to be up there in number of wins with anybody in the league. I don’t know even know where that is, but we’ve had a lot of big seasons.

“And then, right now, my head is to make this as long of a season as possible. This team needs playoff experience. So that is where I’m at right now … finish out these six, see where we land, see if we can’t creep up a spot or two in the standings, and then give them hell in the playoffs, see if we can get in a real series and take it from there.”

Nurse added that he has not considered his future being somewhere other than Toronto after the 2022-23 campaign.

The 55-year-old has been with the franchise for 10 years. He has been head coach of the Raptors since the 2018-19 season and he served as an assistant for the franchise under Dwane Casey from 2013 to ’18.

In his five seasons as Toronto’s head coach, the team has gone 224-160 and has made three postseason appearances, including a trip to the NBA Finals in 2019, where the Raptors defeated the Golden State Warriors in six games.

However, the Raptors have struggled to a 38-38 record this season entering Friday’s game against the Sixers. The team currently sits ninth in the Eastern Conference and isn’t expected to contend for a title this year.

If Nurse and the Raptors part ways after this season, it will be interesting to see whether he retires or searches for another head coaching gig. He has been linked to the Houston Rockets, but there’s been no indication that he would take that job.

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Harnden brothers together again for World Curling Championship – SooToday



With the World Men’s Curling Championship set to open up in Ottawa this weekend, E.J. and Ryan Harnden are set to reunite on the curling rink.

The Sault Ste. Marie brothers, who were teammates for years with Brad Jacobs and his northern Ontario-based team for years before the team disbanded at the end of last season, are back together as members of Brad Gushue’s Newfoundland and Labrador-based team that will represent Canada at the tournament.

E.J. joined the Gushue rink full time in the off-season while Ryan will be with the team as an alternate.


“Joining E.J. is going to be special,” Ryan said. “Joining a group like these guys, who have won so much over the last seven years, I have a tremendous amount of respect for this team. We’ve battled in some big games over the course of our careers, but that respect level has always been there.”

“Anything I need to do, anything they want me to do, I’ll be there to help make their lives a little bit easier so they can relax and focus on curling. That’s my primary goal,” Ryan added.

Gushue said experience played a role in adding Ryan as their alternate.

“Ryan has been one of the best leads in the world the last number of years,” Gushue said. “The ability for him late at night to go out and match rocks for us, we’re going to be confident that whatever he says, whatever he gives us, they’re going to be pretty darn close.”

Gushue added that familiarity with the team also helped.

“The familiarity there and the comfort he’s going to provide to the team,” Gushue said. “It’s not like he’s coming in and we need to learn about him.”

Ryan also said that getting a chance to join the Gushue rink took some of the sting off losing in the Brier final with Matt Dunstone’s Manitoba-based team.

“To come that close, it was obviously very disappointing,” Ryan said. “I’m honoured and very excited to join these guys. They’re a team I’ve respected for a very long time.”

E.J. called having brother Ryan joining the team for the Worlds “special.”

“Going back to that, obviously it was extremely hard playing against Ryan,” E.J. said of the Brier final. “We have a really close relationship and I think everyone got a really good inside look at that throughout the Brier and especially into the playoff round and the type of relationship that we do have. Both of us were very honest and genuine when we said, as hard as it was, that was a perfect scenario because at least one of us was going to win.”

E.J. added that “I probably felt every single emotion that I was able to feel simultaneously once we won.”

Both Harnden brothers also reflected on their last World Men’s Curling Championship appearance, which was 10 years ago with Brad Jacobs’ rink.

“We were a bit of a deer in the headlights at that first Worlds,” Ryan said. “Being quite new onto the scene, we had some ups and downs. That prepared us very well for Sochi, even though the Olympics is a bit of a different beast. Having that international experience kind of opened our eyes of how much pressure there is wearing that Canadian flag.”

“It’s hard to prepare for what that feels like when you’re now representing your country,” E.J. added. “That was a great learning experience for us to be able to separate from those expectations and focus on what it is that we need to do as individuals and as a team in order to maximize our play on the ice and focus on the things that are within our control.”

E.J. joined the Gushue rink in the off-season after Team Jacobs announced near the end of last season that Jacobs was stepping away from competitive men’s curling for the time being.  E.J. said transitioning to his new team has been “going great.”

“To still be able to learn and absorb knowledge has been great,” E.J. said. “I feel like that’s only going to help me of these next number of years continue to improve and become even a better player than I am now, which is a great feeling.”

E.J. added that his new teammates – Gushue, Mark Nichols, and Geoff Walker – “have been really easy to get along with.”

With E.J. and Caleb Flaxey, also a Sault native, on the team this year, Gushue said both have mixed in well, E.J. as second and Flaxey as a coach.

“We’re at very similar stages in our life. We’re similar ages and have a lot of similar interests. We have good chats and it’s nice to be able to bounce some stuff off him and him bounce some stuff off me and we also like our quiet time too,” Gushue said of E.J.

“Caleb’s very detail-oriented,” Gushue added. “It’s nice to have him on board and take care of a lot of the stuff, some of the things I had to deal with over the last number of years.”

Gushue joked that while Flaxey’s rock experience wasn’t quite at the level of longtime Canadian curling coach Jules Owchar, Flaxey is “just probably a little bit more organized than Jules.”

“Jules still does everything by paper and pen,” Gushue joked. “He’s pretty old-school where Caleb gets the laptop out.”

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Ryan O'Reilly on his broken finger and injury rehab: "They said I needed surgery, so I'm thinking, 'Am I done for the season?' The timeline gave me relief… Playoffs are all that really matters” – Maple Leafs Hot Stove



Photo: Dan Hamilton/USA Today Sports

For the first time since breaking his finger, Ryan O’Reilly met with the media to discuss his return to practice, his injury rehab, and the plan to ramp up for the playoffs.

How does the finger feel right now?

O’Reilly: It feels good. It has been four weeks now since it happened, but it feels good. We’re progressing. It is not 100% yet. We have to be smart. The goal is to be 100% for the playoffs.

It was nice to be out there skating with the guys. We are getting close here.


Would you be playing if this was the playoffs right now?

O’Reilly: Possibly. It is tough to say. We are in a good position with having the points.

It does feel good. It is just being smart and making sure we don’t have setbacks and can be ready for the right time.

Was there a sinking feeling and you knew right away when the puck hit you? 

O’Reilly: I didn’t really know until I got off and was getting changed. Paul [Ayotte] the trainer came over, asked, and wanted to look at it. I kind of saw it was crooked. I knew it wasn’t good.

We saw the x-ray, and obviously, it was disappointing. But I didn’t really know. They said I probably needed surgery, so I didn’t know how long. Am I done for the season or not?

It was kind of good news that I wouldn’t be out too long and that it happened early enough. It wasn’t later in the season. I am just focused on getting ready for the playoffs.

How long did it take for you to find out the severity of it?

O’Reilly: It wasn’t too long after. They kind of gave me a timeline of four-to-six weeks after doing the surgery on it. I was really disappointed, but that kind of gave me relief with regard to the playoffs. That’s all that really matters.

What is the final piece you are waiting for until it would be 100%?

O’Reilly: The shooting and passing feel great. It is just the other stuff — the stick battles and all of that, and just being able to trust that it’s 100% strong in that.

Again, that is going to come. It is progressing. I feel like I could push it harder, but there is no point. We just have to be smart with it and make sure it heals the right way. It will help me down the road.

Does the fact that it is the lower hand on the stick make it more impactful?

O’Reilly: The top hand does a lot of work, too. Both do different things. For faceoffs, it is the bottom hand that carries a lot of the force, too. Either or play a vital part in it. It is just an unfortunate break. It happens.

Are you going to wear a modified glove when you come back to protect it?

O’Reilly: Possibly. Right now, I am wearing something that can protect it a little better. As we progress, we will kind of revisit it and see.

Have you circled a game for a return?

O’Reilly: No, we are kind of just taking it every couple of days, evaluating it, and seeing where we are at. We don’t really have a target yet.

Is it nice to be back into the full practice?

O’Reilly: I don’t like being in the red [jersey]. It stands out a little too much.

It was a good first practice to get back into the feel and be out there with other bodies. I think it will start from there.

How significant are the final few games and making sure you get into a game or two?

O’Reilly: Those will be great. It will be good for our lineup, too, to see how we are going to approach that first game and for me to get the timing back. You can skate all you want in practice, but the feel of the game, the pushing, the competing is something that you can’t really replicate.

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