CALGARY — The chair of Hockey Canada’s board of directors has resigned.
Michael Brind’Amour has stepped down effective immediately, Hockey Canada said Saturday in a statement.
The organization is under intense scrutiny for its handling of sexual assault allegations against members of previous men’s junior teams.
“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 the statement. “I understand that the actions we have taken in recent weeks are part of the solution.
“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, which our Action Plan works to accomplish.
“I would not be able to see this renewal through.”
Brind’Amour was elected board chair in 2018.
The federal government froze Hockey Canada’s funding after it was revealed the organization had quietly settled a lawsuit with a woman who alleged she was sexually assaulted by members of the 2018 men’s junior team at Hockey Canada gala in London, Ont., that year.
Since then, Hockey Canada has said members of the 2003 junior team are under investigation for alleged sexual assault in Nova Scotia.
Canada’s sports minister Pascale St-Onge is withholding funds until she’s satisfied Hockey Canada meets her conditions, which were a financial audit of the organization, producing the recommendations of a third-party law firm review and an action plan for change, as well as signing onto the office of the new sports integrity commissioner.
Sheldon Kennedy, a former NHL player and victim rights advocate, was among those calling for Hockey Canada leadership to step down.
Brind’Amour is the first to do so.
“We’re starting to see cracks in the fortress, and that’s how the light gets in,” St-Onge said Saturday in Niagara Falls, Ont., where she met with provincial and territorial sports leaders on the eve of the Canada Games.
“Canadians have sent a clear message to Hockey Canada that real leadership change is needed and this is at all levels within the organization.
“I agree also with Michael Brind’Amour’s statement today . . . that there is no need to wait for a new era and immediate action is essential.
“I still believe, as many do, that more diversity is needed to address the culture of silence and toxic masculinity within the organization and the sport.”
Brind’Amour’s resignation also follows Hockey Canada’s appointment Thursday 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.
Brind’Amour said he leaves confident that Cromwell taking on that work “will help us make the changes that are needed. I am confident the recommendations will guide the organization into a future of desired change.”
Also, Canada’s 13 provincial hockey federations requested earlier this week an “extraordinary meeting” with the embattled national body.
Led by Hockey Quebec, the 10 provincial and three territorial associations want more information on the handling of the sexual assault allegations.
Hockey Canada had maintained a fund drawing on minor hockey membership fees to pay for uninsured liabilities, including sexual abuse claims.
The organization has stated it will no longer use its “national equity fund” to settle sexual assault claims.
The provincial and territorial hockey associations have threatened to withhold payment without answers.
“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.”
Hockey Canada’s board of directors will meet in the coming days to determine next steps following Brind’Amour’s resignation, and appoint an interim chair, the organization said in its statement.
The next board election is scheduled for November’s annual general meeting.
“The board needs to reassess whether the people that are on the directors board are the right people to implement that change,” St-Onge said.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 6, 2022.
The Canadian Press