Hockey Canada reveals large chunk of player insurance fees go to National Equity Fund
Hockey Canada has revealed that over 65 per cent of player insurance fees go toward the organization's National Equity Fund.
In a letter to MP Peter Julian obtained by The Canadian Press, Hockey Canada president and chief executive officer Scott Smith provided a breakdown of how registration and insurance fees are allocated.
General liability insurance ($8.90), director's and officers insurance ($2) and safety/admin ($2.75) are allocated to the National Equity Fund and make up $13.65 of the $20.80 of insurance fees that are paid.
The breakdown said the general liability insurance would have been partly used to settle claims of sexual misconduct, though Hockey Canada has since said the reserve fund will no longer be used for that purpose and will be "exclusively dedicated towards safety, wellness and equity initiatives."
Accidental death and dismemberment insurance ($5.15) and medical and dental insurance ($2) make up the remainder, and are paid into the health and benefit trust. Insurance in total makes up the bulk of the total registration fee of $23.80, with the other three dollars coming from assessment and registration fees.
Despite Smith sharing such specifics, Julian is not confident in the accuracy of them.
"Well, I'm skeptical because Hockey Canada tends not to provide fulsome information," Julian said. "That's certainly been my experience. And the fact that I specifically wrote to Mr. Smith asking questions that he never answered makes me skeptical about the financial fee estimate that he puts forward.
"My experience with Hockey Canada when they have been caught in not giving accurate information is that they kind of double down. They refused to provide the accurate information until they're through the hearing. We certainly saw that with the executive bonuses that they finally released, but after the committee hearing."
Smith was responding to an Aug. 22 letter from Julian, where the member of the House of Commons heritage committee called out Hockey Canada for a lack of transparency regarding its use of registration fees.
"Hockey parents across the country deserve to know exactly how their registration fees are used," Julian said in the letter.
The National Equity Fund has put Hockey Canada under increased scrutiny since the organization confirmed its existence in a statement on July 19 and said it had been used to settle sexual misconduct claims.
Hockey Canada said the following day that it would no longer be used to settle sexual assault claims.
At a parliamentary hearing on July 27, Hockey Canada chief financial officer Brian Cairo said the governing body used the fund to pay out $7.6 million in nine settlements related to sexual assault and sexual abuse claims since 1989.
That figure does not include the undisclosed amount of a 2018 settlement from an alleged sexual assault involving players from that year's world junior team.
Julian had also posed questions regarding perks and luxurious accommodations provided to board members. Smith said allowable expenses under the board of director's travel and expense policy include airfare, accommodation, meals and ground travel are regularly reviewed to ensure they are appropriate.
The MP said he had received information on the expenses from a former board member who chose to remain anonymous. Those included dinners costing north of $5,000 for the board of directors, as well as accommodations of over $3,000 per night "such as the presidential suite at the (Westin) Harbour Castle in Downtown Toronto."
In addition, championship rings received by board members reportedly worth more than $3,000 apiece, which Smith himself stated at a previous hearing that "board of directors and our members from time to time have received a version of."
"We cannot speak to the information you have received regarding specific dinners or accommodations as this information did not come from Hockey Canada, but we do not believe it to be accurate" Smith said in response.
Julian called Smith's response "disingenuous"
"Sadly more of the same from Hockey Canada," he said. "That is a complete lack of transparency. And for hockey parents who enrol their daughter or son in Hockey Canada programs, who pay registration fees, who are struggling often to find the money to pay those fees -- which are often quite high -- what we have is Hockey Canada refusing to reveal information that I believe should be part of the public domain."
With Hockey Canada interim board of directors chair Andrea Skinner, former chair Michael Brind'Amour and former president and CEO Bob Nicholson being summoned to testify at an Oct. 4 meeting, Julian plans on questioning the accuracy of a number of figures.
"When you look at the books for Hockey Canada and you compare it to the number of people enrolled, I think right there you get a sense of whether or not the figures are transparent," he said.
After months of what he described as "stonewalling" from the organization, Julian hopes Hockey Canada takes the opportunity to come clean.
"My point to Hockey Canada is, with its credibility so diminished, the number of sponsors who have left sponsoring Hockey Canada events, having completely declined -- the way to deal with that crisis within Hockey Canada is to respond fully and completely and honestly," he said.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 22, 2022.