B.C.-based Frank Lento, chair from 1995 to 1998, says board has ‘lost their compass’
A former chair of Hockey Canada is the latest person to express anger and frustration with the national sporting organization’s mishandling of sexual assault allegations against its players.
Frank Lento of Fernie, B.C. sat on Hockey Canada’s board of directors from 1991 to 2000, and chaired the organization from 1995 to 1998. He said he is grieving the news that Hockey Canada used investments and membership fee revenue to settle sexual abuse claims.
“I’m shocked and devastated at the circumstances,” Lento said to host Chris Walker on CBC’s Daybreak South.
“I’m upset because how dear and how close it is to my heart that hockey has done so many good things for kids when they become teams and they learn about the values of life.”
He called on all members of the current board to step down.
“The board is ultimately responsible. Ultimately every director on the board should resign. They failed the association, the game, the participants and the country,” Lento said.
“They’ve lost their compass in the service of the game and what hockey should be in this country.”
Hockey Canada has been under pressure from its regional branches, corporate sponsors and Parliament to overhaul its leadership, after its executives revealed in a parliamentary hearing in July that the organization had paid $8.9 million for sexual abuse settlements to 21 complainants since 1989.
The organization’s chief financial officer said $7.6 million out of these settlements came from its “National Equity Fund,” which is generated by Hockey Canada membership fees and investments.
Hockey Canada said it uses the fund to cover any claims not otherwise covered by insurance policies, but after recent criticism, the organization has announced it will no longer use the fund to settle sexual assault claims.
MPs from all parties have been calling for Hockey Canada’s executives to quit, and on Thursday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau ramped up the pressure, saying Canadians “have lost faith” in the organization.
Federal Minister of Sport Pascale St-Onge also urged all leaders of Hockey Canada to resign from the organization “before they burn it to the ground.”
A dozen of Hockey Canada’s corporate sponsors, including Canadian Tire, Nike and Tim Hortons, have either suspended or entirely ended their support in light of the scandal.
Hockey Canada’s regional branches in Quebec, Ontario, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick have also announced this week that they are suspending payments to national headquarters.