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Canadian hockey's problems go beyond just a few bad apples: the entire system needs to be redesigned

Canadian hockey's problems go beyond just a few bad apples: the entire system needs to be redesigned

Former NHL and Canadian world hockey player Alex Formenton has turned himself in to police in London, Ontario, in connection with an alleged sexual assault by members of Canada's 2018 World Junior Team. A woman has claimed she was assaulted by players while drunk after a party in London.

Formenton is one of five team members expected to face related charges, according to the Globe and Mail. “Alex will vigorously defend his innocence and ask people not to rush to judgment without hearing all the evidence,” Formenton's lead legal counsel said.

His legal team said police had charged Formenton and several other players in connection with the incident. London Police said they would hold a press conference on February 5. Five hockey players have been placed on leaves of absence from NHL and European teams over the past week or so amid the news.

Whether convictions follow or not, it has become increasingly clear that accusations of sexual assault can no longer be silenced or swept under the rug in sports and other contexts.

Hockey Canada has paid an as-yet-undisclosed settlement to EM, the plaintiff in a $3.55 million sexual assault lawsuit against members of the 2018 junior national team. Another $6.8 million has been set aside for settlements related to Graham James, the junior hockey coach convicted of sexually assaulting youth players he coached. In the 1990s.

Hockey Canada has spent a total of $8.9 million on 21 sexual abuse settlements since 1989. Of that total, $7.6 million came from membership fees and investment generated by the National Equity Fund, and $1.3 million from its insurance. Hockey Canada has since announced it will not use funds from membership fees to settle sexual assault claims.

More than a few bad apples

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Psychologist Philip Zimbardo asserts in his book “The Lucifer Effect” that when dealing with abuse, it's not just about removing a few “bad apples” — oftentimes, it spoils the entire barrel. The entire barrel making system had to be redesigned to produce only the best barrels to preserve and preserve the apples with integrity.

Sports protection advocates argue that while efforts such as the recently announced Commission on the Future of Sport in Canada may address systemic issues by re-engineering sports leadership and governance structures, remaining corrupt elements will continue to abuse power, driving out real change. In Canadian hockey derailed.

Those who abuse their power and take advantage of the power imbalance will exercise that power to maintain the status quo. Researchers have identified that typical leadership responses to allegations of abuse include complicity, complicity, control, and cover-up.

There is evidence of this in several Canadian national sporting organizations trying to change, including Hockey Canada, Gymnastics Canada, Rowing Canada, Canadian Football, and Bobsleigh and Skeleton Canada.

According to Zimbardo's theory, leaders must remove corrupt elements while addressing systemic issues – only then will they be able to create and maintain high-quality, durable barrels. Otherwise, the existing bad apples will poison the new apples and spoil the barrel from the inside.

The power of Canadian hockey

Hockey Canada has seen a shake-up with the resignation and reshuffle of both the CEO and Board of Directors. The new CEO is set to be appointed in September 2023, but it's important to note that new doesn't necessarily mean different.

Sexual assault is also an abuse of power. One could argue that the culture of misogyny and sexual assault evident in hockey environments is a product of the abuse of power that has been normalized throughout the hockey world:

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-Coaches have power over the careers of athletes

-Hockey leagues have power over the careers of coaches

-Financiers have power over CEOs

– The veterans dominate the rookies

– Men often have power over women

Although often well-intentioned, unbalanced power structures and hierarchies allow individuals and groups to abuse their power. Power imbalances are often sought and maintained as a misguided means of achieving stability, security, dominance and control.

However, a lack of independence can also lead to a lack of transparency and tangible accountability processes, leading to a recurring cycle of abuse and corruption – a phenomenon that has been well documented in academic, media and government reports.

Reform the sports system

Canadian sports leaders must remove corrupt elements while re-engineering a new, power-balanced sports system based on independence, transparency and accountability. We only need to look at best practices in the sport itself as a blueprint for the Canadian sport system as a whole.

Independence must be integrated into the system by separating assessment and education from rehabilitation. Senior coaches teach and evaluate athletes, but an independent body sets qualifications based on gold medal standards.

For example, the International and National Olympic Committees set qualification standards for the Olympic Games and international federations research and provide gold medal criteria for each sport.

National sports organizations should guide their international federations to adopt well-researched goals, standards and performance measures, all of which should be publicly available. Sports Canada must then use these standards to hold national sports organizations to account.

Greater transparency is needed

Too often, coaches and organizational leaders obscure standards and procedures to allow subjective decisions to be made. An excellent coach communicates performance goals, standards, and metrics early and often, and the results of the athlete's performance daily and publicly.

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This approach can be extended to suit any type of sporting organization or group. Sports Canada must ensure that evaluation criteria are comprehensive, general, objective and based on standards of practice.

Transparency creates a partnership model of shared goals and collaborative process, rather than an unbalanced power model of authoritarian control and compliance.

Sports Canada needs accountability

Accountability requires concrete demonstrations of change. Sport Canada was rebuked for implementing superficial box checks such as the Canadian Sport Governance Code and the report card system, which have since been discontinued.

When boards do not provide advice and a clear framework of accountability, it is easy for CEOs or CEOs to abuse their power.

In accordance with sound governance principles, Sports Canada needs to establish a robust accountability framework that requires verifiable evidence of policy implementation and achievement of standards of practice as a condition of funding.

To build safe, healthy, high-performance sports organisations, structures, policies and processes, the balance of power in the system as a whole must be re-engineered and those who tend to abuse power must be removed.

Those who cause harm must also be removed and criminally charged based on the law. Others who cover up abuse or are negligent bystanders should be held to the same standards. Only through a commitment to independence, transparency and accountability can sports bodies become a space that champions not only excellence, but also the well-being of all its participants.

Written by Jennifer Wallinga, Professor of Communication and Culture at Royal Roads University. This article was originally published on The Conversation, an independent, nonprofit source of news, analysis, and commentary from academic experts. Disclosure information is available on the original website.

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