Olympic champion Marnie McBean says she was asked to join Hockey Canada oversight group

·3 min read
Marnie McBean, a three-time Olympic gold medalist in rowing, speaks after being named the Olympic chef de mission for the Tokyo 2020 Summer Games in July 2019. (Justin Tang/The Canadian Press - image credit)
Marnie McBean, a three-time Olympic gold medalist in rowing, speaks after being named the Olympic chef de mission for the Tokyo 2020 Summer Games in July 2019. (Justin Tang/The Canadian Press - image credit)

A Canadian Olympic champion says she was asked to sit on a Hockey Canada oversight committee — but the offer was withdrawn after she lobbied for leadership change in response to the sexual abuse scandal that has rocked the organization in recent months.

Rower and three-time Olympic gold medallist Marnie McBean said she was approached by the high-profile PR firm Navigator earlier this month.

McBean said she was asked to be a member of a special committee of independent experts tasked with monitoring and providing guidance on Hockey Canada's previously-announced plan to eliminate "toxic" behaviour in the sport.

TSN first reported the offer to McBean on Thursday.

McBean told CBC News on Friday that she made it clear to the firm she would consider joining the committee if top Hockey Canada officials were removed.

Michael Brind'Amour is the only board member to announce their resignation since the scandal broke. Brind'Amour said his final term was set to end in November but that "immediate action is essential to address the important challenges facing our organization and our sport."

'They knew my threshold for accepting'

McBean said that, several days after her initial discussion with Navigator, the firm said other top officials would remain and that the offer for McBean to join the committee was being rescinded.

"I felt when Navigator removed the offer, because they knew my threshold for accepting would not be met by Hockey Canada, that they were also disappointed; they had been anticipating otherwise," McBean said in an email to CBC News.

Navigator and Hockey Canada have not yet responded to requests for comment submitted Thursday.

Navigator is a well-known crisis management firm. Earlier this year, the Ottawa Police Services tapped the company to help then-Police Chief Peter Sloly manage the messaging around the ongoing Freedom Convoy occupation. Sloly resigned before that crisis came to an end.

McBean said she was first approached by Navigator principal Adam Vaughan, a former Liberal MP.

In May, Hockey Canada reached a settlement with a young woman who alleges she was sexually assaulted in London, Ont. in 2018 by eight Canadian Hockey League (CHL) players, including members of the World Junior team.

Police in Halifax then announced they had opened an investigation into an allegation of a separate group sexual assault involving players on the 2003 World Junior hockey team.

According to the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, police in Quebec City have reopened their investigation into an alleged group sexual assault eight years ago involving four players with the 2014 Gatineau Olympiques.

Sport Canada — a branch of the federal Department of Heritage — has frozen its funding to Hockey Canada while sponsors have dropped out.

The action plan released by Hockey Canada in July includes the implementation by the end of September of a centralized tracking and reporting system for abuse complaints. It said the results will be published annually to "hold Hockey Canada accountable."

Members of the special committee are to be appointed by Sept. 12, according to the action plan.