In September, before the Hockey Canada board resigned and its then-CEO was fired, the 2023 World Junior Hockey Championship was all about rape– specifically what took place at the 2003 and 2018 games. We were starting to have a serious discussion about rape culture in hockey. But after the resignation of the board,, the channel changed back to hockey.
In Halifax, as the games begin, there has been barely a breath, or a whisper of the ugly matter of the gang rape which took place in Halifax at the 2003 Juniors—where the gang rape was caught on film.
Neither has there been a mention of the gang rape of a woman at the 2018 Juniors in London, Ont– except to say that the police are starting in earnest to investigate both sexual assaults. I say in earnest because the local police dropped the ball in 2003, and then in 2018. So, in a way, the police are starting from scratch.
The co-hosts of this year’s Championship are Halifax and Moncton. The New Brunswick government, which ponied up $1.25 million of the $5 million price-tag for the games, has persuaded the parent organization, Hockey Canada, to sign a “good conduct” clause. The document demands Hockey Canada and its representatives “must be of good character and must not indulge in unethical conduct” during the event. If unethical or illegal behaviour does happen, then New Brunswick can “demand that all of the unused portion of the funding be reimbursed.”
Halifax put up $1 million for its share to co-host the Juniors and asked for nothing in return. Likewise Edmonton, the Junior Championship’s 2022 venue, never agreed to a “good conduct” clause, though the games were postponed to August due to concerns about Covid-19.
But those sums are small potatoes compared to two secret Hockey Canada funds that indemnified Junior players for bad, likely criminal, activities.
Millions of dollars sequestered from hockey registration fees from families across Canada who enrolled their children in hockey were paid to women who complained of sexual assaults by members of Team Canada Juniors. From 1989 to 2021, Hockey Canada paid out $8.9 million to 21 victims. In 2022 alone, more than $2.9 million was paid to at least one victim. She was the woman at the 2018 Juniors in London who claimed she was sexually assaulted by eight players Most, if not all of the women who received money, signed non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) for their silence.
As of today, not one player has been named or been held responsible. Not one Junior player has faced criminal charges.
Almost all the players on any Juniors Team Canada go on to a career of some sort in the NHL (National Hockey League). That happened with the 2003 team and it happened with the 2018 team. I looked up some of their NHL salaries: each went on to earn from $1 million to $6 million a year. Not exactly pocket change.
It is almost a certainty that the gang rapists from 2013 and 2018 went on to very lucrative NHL careers. They have been rewarded very generously despite, as one journalist writes, “leaving behind a trail of women who will never again be the same because no one has been held responsible for these crimes.”
Given that gang rape occurred in 2003 in Halifax, and in 2018 in London, Ont. it seems likely that OTHER sex misdemeanours happened during the intervening years as well. It is not unreasonable to assume there is a very toxic “rape culture” among the Junior players, a culture that will not go away because the old Hockey Canada board resigned.
What are we doing?
So what are we, as a society, doing about this situation? More than 21 victims have been paid for their silence; we can only imagine how many other women declined to come forward, thinking Hockey Canada or the police or both would not believe them. The police in London, Ont. have admitted as much when they apologized for having dropped the 2018 investigation . It turns out each of the eight players (labelledJohn Doe 1-8 in a document filed in the Ontario Superior Court) who (allegedly) gang-raped the London victim warned her not to report or co-operate with the criminal investigation.
Court documents reveal that the young woman who had been “plied with alcohol” was lured to one player’s hotel room where she was “ subjected to a variety of non-consensual sexual acts which ‘collectively constituted sexual abuse and assault.’ ” The victim said she was videotaped prior to the assault and instructed to say she was sober. She said she was prevented from leaving the room and was fearful of the fact that players had brought golf clubs into the room. After the assault, she said she was directed to shower.”
Little wonder she chose not to identify the players, not to speak with police or Hockey Canada’s independent investigation.
As author Laura Robinson notes, “It’s all about this team bonding bullshit through the degradation of the female body.” It’s all about entitlement. Her 1998 book Crossing the Line: Violence and Sexual Assault in Canada’s National Sport, Robinson explains
“in the social context of junior hockey, young men see themselves treated as objects, and consequently readily objectify young women,” …which leads to rape culture.
Take Back the Night, painting by Carlo Ghirardelli, 2013
If we cancelled the Juniors for ONE YEAR, imagine what a message that would send!
The money Hockey Canada would lose would be an act of penance. Downtown restaurants, hotels and bars would somehow survive and the NHL – well whatever. But no – what’s important according to Halifax Mayor Savage and Councillor Tony Mancini, is that the Juniors will bring $35 million to the NS economy. Savage blustered on, “We’re gonna go ahead and put these games — put this tournament on, we’re gonna do a hell of a job as we always do.”
Councillor Lisa Blackburn disagreed. Hockey Canada has “ …taught these boys through their actions… that it’s OK to cover up that wrongdoing and bury it from scrutiny.” Blackburn said something good, but in the end she fell into line and supported the Juniors coming to Halifax, after the Hockey Canada board had resigned. But will their resignation change anything?
This year everyone is watching; the chance of players getting caught is high. It’s a good year to be on best behaviour. But next year and the year after that – the gang rapes and the sexual assaults will likely continue unless something serious is done.
Meanwhile, there’s lots of money to be made.
Featured image: 2018 Team Canada, photo credit Matt Zambonim/HHOF-IIHF Images
Halifax Mayor and Councillors as well as Premier Houston and colleagues are cheering in the stands of local profit but silent in the halls of justice. Where does that kind of leadership take us? Ask our daughters and granddaughters who look at the world we hand them in grim astonishment – – and fear for the safety of their bodies and minds.
Hi Judy, Your article on Junior Hockey is thought provoking. Rather than punish the young players, let’s punish Hockey Canada. Apart from the $7.6 million in settlements, there must be considerable amounts in the ‘National Equity Fund’. There’s plenty of inequity in hockey, so let’s hear their plan to spend every last dime from that fund, principally on women and underrepresented groups. And rather than a $5 million handout from Moncton and Halifax, they should get a bill. Gus
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