Hockey Canada’s federal funding has been frozen because of its handling of sexual assault allegations – a good first step in addressing the cultural issues evident in Canadian sport, says a University of Guelph sports management researcher.
Dr. Ann Pegoraro is a professor in the Department of Management and the Lang Chair in Sport Management in the Gordon S. Lang School of Business and Economics. She is also the co-director of the National Network for Research on Gender Equity in Canadian Sport and the director of the International Institute for Sport Business and Leadership.
In May, TSN reported Hockey Canada and the Canadian Hockey League settled a lawsuit with a woman who alleged she was assaulted by members of a gold medal-winning World Junior Team. The federal minister of sport, Pascale St-Onge, has since announced an audit to investigate whether taxpayer dollars were used to settle the suit.
The situation is “yet another example” of the problems the Canadian sport system faces, says Pegoraro.
“The Canadian sport system seems to consistently demonstrate a culture that’s supportive of ignoring and covering up issues in support of winning,” she says.
Freezing Hockey Canada’s funding is one way to start addressing some of the cultural issues – many of which have been brought to light recently by athletes in the system, she added.
“The recent announcements and investments to address safe sport in Canada are likely to come into play around how Hockey Canada handles abuse allegations and investigations,” she continued, referencing the declaration by St-Onge of a safe sport crisis in Canada.
St-Onge, who also announced the freezing of Hockey Canada’s funding, introduced measures to hold sports organizations accountable for their members’ safety and to protect athletes from mistreatment and abuse.
“Ultimately, there is an urgent need to change the culture in sport,” says Pegoraro. “Increasingly, youth in our country are leaving sport and thereby missing out on the lifelong benefits that come from participation.”
Dr. Ann Pegoraro