Hockey Canada unveils plan to eliminate 'toxic behaviour'

FILE PHOTO: Ice technicians at the MTS Centre in Winnipeg January 8, 2013. REUTERS/Fred Greenslade/File Photo

(Reuters) - Hockey Canada unveiled a plan on Monday that it hopes will "shatter the code of silence and eliminate toxic behaviour" in the sport amid police investigations into alleged group sexual assaults by two of the country's national junior teams.

One of the commitments revealed by the national governing body is the implementation of a tracking and reporting system for all complaints of maltreatment with the results published publicly annually to hold Hockey Canada accountable.

Among the other measures are enhanced character screening for all high-performance players as well as enhanced training for players, coaches and employees to include additional focus on masculinity, consent and toxic behaviours.

The under-fire organization also said it will mandate that breaching the Code of Conduct or failing to participate in any investigation could result in a lifetime ban from Hockey Canada programs.

"We recognize that there is an urgent need to address the types of behaviours that are rightly causing Canadians to question aspects of our game," Hockey Canada Chief Executive Officer Scott Smith said in a statement.

"Culture change will not occur overnight, but with this Action Plan we are fully committed to making the meaningful changes necessary to ensure the safety, welfare and well-being of everyone who participates in, and enjoys the sport of hockey."

News of the action plan comes as the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage is scheduled to meet on Tuesday and Wednesday to discuss Hockey Canada's involvement into alleged sexual assaults committed in 2018.

The Canadian federal government froze funding to Hockey Canada in June over the organization's handling of an alleged group sexual assault in London, Ontario, involving some members of the 2018 world junior team and out-of-court settlement.

Hockey Canada said last week that it learned of a second allegation of group sexual assault involving some members of the 2003 team during that year's world junior championship in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

(Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto, editing by Pritha Sarkar)

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