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Hope for 'significant change' in all of sports following Hockey Canada board chair's resignation: lawyer

The recent resignation of Hockey Canada's board chair could be a sign of further departures to come, one lawyer says.

"I do hope that there's significant change not only within Hockey Canada but within pretty much every sporting organization in Canada, from federal ones down to municipal ones," Simona Jellinek, a sexual abuse and assault lawyer based in Toronto, told CTV News Channel on Sunday.

Jellinek says if Canada wants to address sexual abuse in sports, at all levels, sexual violence must be taken more seriously and at early enough stages, or the problem will only continue.

"The problem is, though, that we can't wait for scandals," she said.

"We can't wait for people to come forward, we can't wait for things to have happened and then react. We have to be proactive in protecting our players, our spectators and everybody else who can be subjected to sexual violence by someone who's in a position of power or who's protected by those who are in a position of power."

On Saturday, Hockey Canada announced that Michael Brind'Amour had stepped down as chair of the board for Hockey Canada.

He is the first senior leader to leave the organization, which has come under heavy scrutiny over its handling of sexual assault allegations involving members of past Canadian men's junior hockey teams.

Hockey Canada also maintained a fund, financed by membership fees, to pay for uninsured liabilities, including but not limited to sexual abuse claims. The organization has since said it would no longer use the fund to settle claims of sexual assault.

The federal government froze its funding for Hockey Canada following revelations the organization quietly settled a lawsuit with a woman who alleged members of the 2018 men's junior team sexually assaulted her after a Hockey Canada gala event in London, Ont., that year.

Members of the 2003 junior team also are under investigation for an alleged sexual assault in Nova Scotia.

Meanwhile, former players and victim rights advocates have called for senior leaders at Hockey Canada to step down.

On Aug. 4, Hockey Canada announced former Supreme Court of Canada judge Thomas Cromwell will lead an independent review of the organization's governance.

"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.

"Canadians have sent a clear message to Hockey Canada that real leadership change is needed and this is at all levels within the organization."

With files from CTV News and The Canadian Press Top Stories

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