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TSN Senior Correspondent

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The Bank of Nova Scotia and Telus said they are pausing their sponsorships of Hockey Canada as a federal government committee continues to further scrutinize the organization’s response to a 2018 sexual assault allegation.

Canadian Tire, meantime, said the company is withdrawing its sponsorship support for the upcoming World Juniors tournament and re-evaluating its partnership with Hockey Canada.

“We have made the decision to pause our sponsorship of Hockey Canada until we are confident the right steps are being taken to improve the culture within the sport – both on and off the ice,” Scotiabank chief executive Brian Porter wrote in an open letter to Canadians that was emailed to media on Tuesday.

“I was appalled by the recent reports of alleged assault involving younger ambassadors of Canada’s game. The alleged behaviour in this current case is contrary to the beliefs and values that hockey is meant to embody, and those that we champion at Scotiabank, as Canada’s hockey bank.” 

Porter wrote that Scotiabank expects Hockey Canada to cooperate with a government audit of the organization.

Hockey Canada has several tiers of corporate partnerships and lists 25 premier, international and national partners on its website, including Esso, Nike, TSN and Tim Hortons. Scotiabank and Canadian Tire are among the organization’s international partners. Telus is a premier partner.

“Telus is pausing its sponsorship activation with Hockey Canada and the upcoming World Juniors tournament,” the company wrote in a statement sent to media on Tuesday. “We will redirect those funds to Canadian organizations that support women affected by sexual violence.”

Canadian Tire also responded to the Hockey Canada controversy.

“Canadian Tire Corp. is immediately withdrawing its sponsorship support for the upcoming men’s World Juniors and is re-evaluating its relationship with Hockey Canada,” the company wrote in a statement. “We are calling on Hockey Canada to do better and live up to their commitment to change the systemic culture of silence in our nation’s sport, and push to make it more inclusive and safe for all.”

Scotiabank’s Porter wrote that the bank will cancel its planned marketing and events at the upcoming IIHF World Junior Championship in Edmonton this August and redirect sponsorship investments to other programs, including the Hockey Canada Assist Fund, which is helping to eliminate financial barriers to hockey for young people, and the women’s world championship.

The bank will also donate to the Canadian Women’s Foundation, a charity that supports women who are the victims of gender-based violence.

“The time for change is long overdue,” Porter wrote. “We call on Hockey Canada to move with a sense of urgency in order to ensure that the game we love is held to the highest standards and can truly be hockey for all.”

Hockey Canada released a statement Tuesday, saying the organization values its corporate relationships and understands decisions regarding their sponsorships.

“As we said to the Members of the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage last week, Hockey Canada is on a journey to change the culture of our sport and to make it safer and more inclusive, both at the rink and in our communities,” the statement reads. “We have been on this journey for some time, but we agree that more needs to be done, and more quickly. This is a priority for our organization’s leaders, and with the work we are doing, and the changes we are planning, our intention is to ensure that Hockey Canada meets the standards that our many stakeholders have for us. Canadians will be hearing more about our actions in this regard.”

The Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage is scheduled to convene hearings in Ottawa on July 27 and 28 to obtain more information about an alleged sexual assault in 2018.

In a lawsuit filed in April that was settled by Hockey Canada weeks later, a woman, who is not identified in court records, alleged she was repeatedly assaulted in a London, Ont., hotel room following a Hockey Canada golf tournament and gala.

She alleged in her lawsuit that some of her attackers were members of Canada’s 2018 World Junior gold-medal winning team. The plaintiff had asked a judge to award $3.55 million. The amount of the settlement is unknown. The allegations against the players were never proven in court and none of the defendants filed a response.

In previous testimony before the committee, Hockey Canada president Scott Smith testified that the organization didn’t require players who attended the event in London to participate in its third-party investigation.

Federal Minister for Sport Pascale St-Onge told TSN in an interview last week that the government was freezing Hockey Canada’s federal funding moving forward until it meets a number of conditions, including signing up for a new federal agency that independently receives abuse complaints, investigates them, and levies sanctions when appropriate.

Also last week, the House of Commons unanimously approved a Bloc Quebecois motion to commission an independent investigation into Hockey Canada.

The National Hockey League announced May 26 it was opening an investigation into the allegations.