CHL appoints review panel to examine harassment policies

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In response to recent lawsuits, the Canadian Hockey League (CHL) has appointed a panel to review policies pertaining to abuse, hazing, and harassment.

The CHL announced Thursday an independent review panel that will examine practices in the Ontario Hockey League (OHL), the Western Hockey League (WHL), and the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL), as they relate to hazing, bullying, and other forms of abuse. The panel will also look at allegations that the atmosphere experienced by some players does not support a willingness on their part to report such behaviour.

“The CHL is committed to the 1,400 young men who play in our league and the protection of our players has been and will always be our primary concern,” said CHL President Dan McKenzie in a statement. “This is why we have assembled this independent review panel to review the effectiveness of our current policies, player experience programs and procedures for reporting off-ice misconduct, to help ensure that we are providing the safest environment free of hazing, abuse, harassment and bullying.”

The panel has been put together in the wake of lawsuits filed by two former OHL players; Daniel Carcillo of the Sarnia Sting and Garrett Taylor of the Lethbridge Hurricanes. The lawsuits claim that the defendants created a toxic environment in which degrading, racist, sexual, or homophobic conduct has been ignored or tolerated. The plaintiffs seek an order certifying the class action and make claims for damages for negligence, breach of fiduciary duty, and breach of contract in an amount the court deems appropriate.

Former New Brunswick Premier Camille Theriault will chair the panel, which will include Daniele Sauvageau, the gold-medal winning head coach of Team Canada’s 2002 Olympic women’s hockey team, as well as Sheldon Kennedy, a former player with the Boston Bruins, Calgary Flames, and Detroit Red Wings who was a sexual abuse survivor and a current advocate for abuse prevention.

The CHL has created, over the last two decades, programs supporting the efforts of the leagues and individual teams to educate players, coaches, and staff on practices that promote bullying prevention and respect. The Talk Today initiative has also been created in partnership with the Canadian Mental Health Association.

A report from the independent review panel is due to be completed by the start of the 2020-2021 junior hockey season. Training camps are set to begin at the end of August, pending guidelines related to COVID-19 prevention.

-With files from Dave Dentinger