Hockey Canada’s resistance to change amid exodus of sponsors baffles expert – National | Globalnews.ca

Experts say Hockey Canada’s board is failing to adequately respond to criticism over its mishandling of alleged sexual assaults, with one observer noting the organization’s ‘scorched earth’ approach could spell the end of the… national sports governing body in its current form.

The organization has come under intense scrutiny since the spring, amid growing public outcry and calls for change. But despite the federal funding freeze and corporate sponsors fleeing, former presidents and interim board chairs this week defended the current leadership in Ottawa.

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“I haven’t seen this in nearly 30 years,” Richard Leblanc, a law and governance professor at York University, said in an interview. “The board’s job is not to defend management. The job of the board is to act in the best interest of the organization.

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“It is unlikely to see the best interests of the organization being served by pursuing a policy of scorched earth and entrenchment.”

Many organizations, from corporations like banks to charities and amateur sports organizations like Hockey Canada, are governed by boards of directors. Hockey Canada’s Board of Directors oversees its management and staff and is elected by the provincial hockey federations.

But Leblanc said Hockey Canada’s management and its board of directors seem “unified.”

“Management can be in denial, but a board should never be in denial,” Leblanc said.

“It’s not a game that any board can win. I don’t see the end game here.

Click to play video: “Imperial Oil will not support Hockey Canada men's program until action is taken”

Imperial will not support Hockey Canada’s men’s program until action is taken

Imperial will not support Hockey Canada’s men’s program until action is taken

Former Hockey Canada board chair Michael Brind’Amour stepped down in early August before his term ends this fall. The next Board of Directors election is scheduled for November.

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Hockey Canada has been questioned by Ottawa over why President and CEO Scott Smith, who has held the position since July 1, has not been fired amid the series of scandals. Acting President Andrea Skinner defended Smith this week and said hockey shouldn’t be the “scapegoat” for a toxic culture that exists elsewhere in society.

As the organization loses sponsors and member support, it is clear that stakeholders have lost confidence in the ability of the board to identify and respond to the risks facing Hockey Canada, said Christie Stephenson , Executive Director of the Dhillon Center at the UBC Sauder School of Business. .

“Directors’ obligations are to the organization, and that also means its stakeholders,” she said.

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The board’s role is not just to oversee, but to challenge management, Stephenson said — not to support it when things go wrong.

There are two big questions, Stephenson said: what kinds of consequences Hockey Canada’s management should face, but also whether its current board is the right governing body to oversee those consequences.

At election time, Hockey Canada members will cast their votes and make it clear whether they want the current board composition to remain as the organization grapples with its issues, said Stephenson, who teaches director education and board governance.

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She said the board should consider whether they are the right people to sit at the table — and answer honestly.

“Directors definitely need to be aligned with an organization’s values,” she said. “And it’s pretty clear that stakeholders believe that Hockey Canada’s values ​​need to change.

Hockey Canada’s mission statement, according to its website, is to “lead, develop and promote positive hockey experiences.”

The organization first came under fire in May when it emerged that an undisclosed settlement had been paid to a woman who alleged in a $3.55million lawsuit that she had been sexually assaulted by eight players – including members of the country’s world junior team – after a gala in 2018. in London, Ont. The allegations have not been proven in court.

Hockey Canada’s summer of ugly headlines continued with the revelation of a fund partly fueled by minor hockey registration fees to pay for uninsured liabilities, including assault and sexual abuse claims.

Hockey Canada officials testified on Parliament Hill in July that the organization had paid $7.6 million in nine settlements related to sexual assault and abuse complaints since 1989, not including the payment of this year to the plaintiff from London.

Hockey Canada released an action plan to address security issues in sport and appointed former Supreme Court Justice Thomas Cromwell to lead a governance review.

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But Leblanc said that’s not enough and called on the board to “lead by example.”

“There is only one right decision, which is a change in leadership at the top,” he said. “If they don’t, the board will eventually be replaced.”

The tone of the summit is crucial at a time like this, Stephenson said, and it is very difficult to govern without the trust of stakeholders.

“Board directors are ultimately the stewards of the organization. And if they really don’t have or are unable to regain the trust of their stakeholders, then it’s probably time to leave.

Leblanc said as things stand, there’s no win for Hockey Canada.

“The lounge chairs on the board have moved slightly, but the message hasn’t. It tells me the board is in denial. The board and management are advocating for this rooting strategy,” he said. he declares.

“It is a mistake that this will go away. It won’t end well.

Click to play video: “Sponsors sever ties with Hockey Canada over sexual assault mishandling”

Sponsors sever ties with Hockey Canada over sexual assault mishandling

Sponsors sever ties with Hockey Canada over sexual assault mishandling

Trudeau’s suggestion that a new hockey organization could take over from Hockey Canada isn’t as far-fetched as some might think, according to Leblanc, if the organization seems unable or unwilling to change.

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“It’s our public pride,” he said.

“If the prime minister is smart, and I think he is, he’s working on the legislation right now. I think within the next few weeks Hockey Canada could be declared dead. »

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