Hockey Canada, one of the nation’s wealthiest sports organizations, received $14 million in federal assistance in 2020 and 2021, including $3.4 million in COVID-19 emergency grants, according to CBC News financial reports.
The COVID-19 funds helped the nonprofit national hockey governing body post a budget surplus of $13.2 million for the fiscal year ended June 30, 2021 — further adding to a collection of stocks, bonds, cash and other assets , which at the time were worth more than $153 million. The organization reported a loss of $3.2 million in 2020 due to falling market values for its investments, compared to a surplus of $18.1 million in 2019.
Hockey Canada’s finances will take center stage on Monday when three current and former executives – including Tom Renney, the organization’s outgoing chief operating officer, who will retire on July 1 – address the Standing Committee on Parliament Hill should testify to Canadian heritage.
Politicians from all parties are trying to find out if public money was used to settle a $3.55 million lawsuit brought by a woman who claims she was in London, Ontario after a Hockey Canada Foundation event , sexually assaulted by eight former Canadian Hockey League players June 2018.
Their lawsuit states that some of the attackers – identified only as John Doe 1 through 8 – were members of Canada’s junior national team, which had won gold at the IIHF World Championships six months earlier.
The woman was not named and her allegations were not proven in court. But news of the lawsuit, first reported by TSN last month, has resonated throughout the hockey world and beyond. Sports Secretary Pascale St-Onge has ordered a forensic audit of Hockey Canada’s finances.
“What I want to know, and what I think all Canadians want to know, is, has public money been used to cover up this horrific story of collective rape?” St-Onge told reporters earlier this month after ordering the review. “The other thing Canadians want to know is how such an important organization can ensure that their players are not held responsible for these allegations.”
The National Hockey League is conducting its own investigation to determine if any of its current players are among the accused. 22 members of the 2017-18 junior roster were NHL draft picks.
Hockey Canada officials did not respond to a CBC News interview request or written questions about his finances. But a media statement about the committee’s appearance, released last week, said that “no government funds were used for the recent settlement of the lawsuit.”
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The nonprofit had $25 million in cash last June
The organization is very public about some numbers — such as its 385,190 registered players — but is less forthcoming about tying dollar numbers to its business. Hockey Canada says only a small portion of its funding — six percent according to its 2020-21 annual report — comes from “government support,” as opposed to 43 percent from “business development and partnerships.”
However, the financial statements filed with the Canada Revenue Agency’s Charity Board give a more complete picture. (As a registered Canadian amateur sports association, Hockey Canada is authorized to issue tax receipts for donations.)
These filings show that in fiscal year 2021, Hockey Canada received $5.65 million in operating grants from Sports Canada, as well as $2.45 million under the Canadian Emergency Wage Assistance (CEWS) and an additional $197,000 under the Canada emergency rent subsidy, both pandemic relief programs. This total of $8.3 million represents 13.4 percent of the organization’s annual revenue of $61.9 million.
For the fiscal year ended June 2020, Hockey Canada received $4.95 million in federal operating grants and $760,000 in CEWS funding — 8.7 percent of its $65 million revenue.
At the end of June 2021, Hockey Canada had nearly $25 million in cash, $41.5 million in bonds and $77 million in stock spread across three trust and endowment funds – with total assets of $20 million Dollars as of 2020 and $32 million more than 2019.
The financial statements show that Hockey Canada paid no income tax in fiscal year 2020 or 2021.
However, the organization paid $9.64 million in insurance premiums in fiscal 2021 for everything from accidental medical and dental coverage to third-party sexual misconduct liability — a potential source of the recent litigation settlement.
Calls for more accountability
Bruce Kidd, professor emeritus of sport and public policy at the University of Toronto, said Canadians deserve more transparency from the people who run the country’s national sport.
“I think they owe a report on what happened … a report on how that severance pay was paid,” he said. “And I think, more importantly to me, they have to do a much better job of explaining how they’re trying to change the culture of their sport so that these abuses – which have a long history in hockey and some other sports – never happen again. “
Kidd said he believes many sports in Canada are at a point of crisis and that the appropriate government response might be to convene a commission of inquiry, such as Charles Dubin’s investigation into performance-enhancing drugs following the Ben Johnson doping scandal at the 1988 Summer Olympics.
“I think there are a lot more voices calling for change today than there were at the last moment when we had a national debate about sexual harassment, abuse and misconduct in sports in the early 1990s,” Kidd said. “I mean, it’s wall to wall now. It’s not just a few sports, it’s almost every sport. And it’s going to be very difficult for decision makers not to act.”
Jennifer Dunn, chief executive of the London Abused Women’s Centre, the city where the gang’s alleged sexual assault took place, said the controversy over Hockey Canada’s handling of the 2018 allegations has worried some of her clients.
“I’m saying women who have experienced sexual assault are basically serving a life sentence because yes, they can get support from agencies like ours, but it doesn’t really take that long,” she said.
However, she said all the attention to whether taxpayers’ money was used for the settlement was misguided.
“It just keeps happening. There’s a sort of locker room mentality where it’s almost like these young guys are being raised with essentially no value in a woman’s life,” Dunn said. “The real focus should be how to stop that.”