Chair of Hockey Canada's board of directors resigns

The latest development in the Hockey Canada controversy over its handling of allegations of sexual assault saw Michael Brind'Amour step down Friday night as chair of its board of directors, effective immediately.

Michael Brind'Amour's 2nd term was due to expire in November

Hockey Canada's board of directors announced on Saturday that Michael Brind’Amour has stepped down from his role as chair of the organization. (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press)

The latest development in the Hockey Canada controversy over its handling of allegations of sexual assault saw Michael Brind'Amour step down Friday night as chair of its board of directors, effective immediately.

"My final term ends in November 2022, and I know that there is no need to wait for a new era. Immediate action is essential to address the important challenges facing our organization and our sport," Brind'Amour stated through a Hockey Canada news release.

Hockey Canada board of directors and members will meet in the coming days to determine next steps and to appoint an interim chair.

In June, Hockey Canada's access to public funds was frozen by the federal government over its response to an alleged sexual assault and subsequent out-of-court settlement.

A woman filed a $3.5-million lawsuit in April that said in 2018, eight hockey players including members of Canada's world junior team sexually assaulted her. Hockey Canada reached a settlement with a young woman the next month.

The complainant says she has always fully co-operated with a police investigation into her case, despite Hockey Canada originally saying she didn't.

"We're starting to see cracks in the fortress, and that's how the light gets in," Canada's sports minister Pascale St-Onge  said Saturday in Niagara Falls, Ont., where she met with provincial and territorial sports leaders on the eve of the Canada Games.

"We're starting to see cracks in the fortress, and that's how the light gets in ... Canadians have sent a message that they want more and better from sports organizations," said St-Onge.

"I have already said many times that there needs to be more changes in the leadership ... If we keep the same people who have been doing the same pattern over the past 30 years, and that's what we've learned during the audience at the Heritage committee, there's a chance that we stay in the same patterns.

I do believe there needs to be more diversity around the table when it's time to make decisions and discussions about the issues and the problems that sports organizations are facing, whether it's sexual abuse or any other kind of abuse, harassment, discrimination or maltreatment."

Recently, retail giant Canadian Tire and telecommunications company Telus, among others, paused their Hockey Canada sponsorships.

And last month, Hockey Canada executives testified before a House of Commons committee Wednesday said they've paid $8.9 million for sexual abuse settlements to 21 complainants since 1989 from the "National Equity Fund," which they said is generated by membership fees and investments.

WATCH | Hockey Canada has paid 21 sexual misconduct settlements since 1989

Hockey Canada has paid 21 settlements for sexual misconduct since 1989

1 year ago
Duration 2:58
Hockey Canada officials revealed the organization has paid out nearly $9 million in settlements since 1989 to 21 people alleging sexual misconduct.

"I have listened carefully and intently to the comments of Canadians about the culture of our sport and our organization, and about our actions and leadership," Brind'Amour said in a statement. "I understand that the actions we have taken in recent weeks are part of the solution."

The announcement follows Hockey Canada's appointment of former Canadian Supreme Court judge, Thomas Cromwell, to review the governance of the country's governing body of hockey.

The review is expected to provide interim recommendations before Hockey Canada's annual general meeting in November.

"I am reassured that The Honourable Thomas Cromwell, C.C., has agreed to lead a governance review of our organization that will help us make the changes that are needed. I am confident the recommendations will guide the organization into a future of desired change."

On Friday, Canada's 13 regional hockey federations announced they are threatening to withhold dues payments from Hockey Canada considering the organization's alleged mishandling of sexual assault allegations in 2018.

Led by Hockey Quebec, the organizations sent a letter Thursday asking for a detailed action plan and an "extraordinary" meeting by the end of November to address their concerns.

The statement of claim, which has not been proven in court, said the hockey players brought golf clubs to the hotel room to further intimidate her, directed the woman to shower after the sexual assault and told her to say she was sober while they videotaped a consent video.

"It's not my job to speak on behalf of the Ontario Hockey Federation," Ontario minister of tourism, culture and sport Neil Lumsden said at Saturday's news conference.

"But it is as [St-Onge] said, it is our jobs to eliminate unacceptable behaviour of any kind in sport. Our job, and as we've spent a lot of time talking about, is to find ways to do that and to do it in the right way."

WATCH: Hockey Canada will bar players who don't co-operate with investigation:

Lawyer Danielle Robitaille says Hockey Canada will ban players who do not participate in investigation

1 year ago
Duration 1:17
Robitaille appeared before a standing House of Commons committee examining allegations of sexual abuse in the sport. Robitaille said legal counsel for eight of the nine players with whom she hasn't spoken told her they're concerned about being pre-judged by Hockey Canada.

As first reported by the Globe and Mail earlier this week, the complainant's lawyer Robert Talach released a statement saying that his client was clear to police in June 2018 that she wanted criminal charges pursued. 

Talach provided a series of new details about the case including that his client spoke with a detective within days of the alleged sexual assault and had a physical exam done at a hospital. 

His client also later gave her clothing to police to examine and met with officers on two other occasions that summer, Talach said. After seven months, she was told the investigation was closed and no charges would be laid.

Following an eruption of public outrage, London's police chief announced recently it would conduct an internal review to "determine what, if any, additional investigative avenues exist."

Talach said his law firm set up a polygraph test for the woman and that she passed. The results have since been provided to police and Hockey Canada's investigators and the NHL, which in May launched its own investigation. 

Talach confirmed his client will not be sitting down for an interview with Hockey Canada or the NHL's investigators because she's already provided an eight-page statement, five pages of photos and 4.5 pages of text messages. 

With files from CBC News & The Canadian Press

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