Hockey Canada and other league executives spent three hours in front of Parliamentarians on Wednesday, defending their handling of sexual assault allegations that have recently come to light.

Alongside calls for Hockey Canada executives to resign, former players who allege abuse are speaking out in reaction to the testimony, calling for more change.

“They’re not focused necessarily on doing the right thing,” Greg Gilhooly, an alleged survivor of disgraced Winnipeg minor hockey coach and convicted sex offender Graham James, told Global News in reference to Hockey Canada executives’ handling of the sex abuse allegations.

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James pleaded guilty to abusing two players in 2012, and as part of the plea deal at the time, charges related to Gilhooly’s case were dropped.

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Hockey Canada CEO Scott Smith defended the organization’s handling of the 2018 accusations Wednesday before the heritage committee, saying the organization made the decision to settle with the complainant’s needs in mind.

“We made the decision to settle on behalf of Hockey Canada and the other named defendants,” Smith said.

“And we did so in the best interest of the young woman in protecting her privacy and also her benefit going forward.”

Click to play video: 'Hockey Canada president questioned over silently settling sexual assault claim'

Hockey Canada president questioned over silently settling sexual assault claim

Hockey Canada president questioned over silently settling sexual assault claim

In May, TSN first reported that eight unnamed members of the 2018 world junior team had been accused of a group sexual assault after a gala event in London, Ont., that year — and that Hockey Canada had quietly settled a lawsuit with the complainant earlier this year.

Global News reached out to the agents for all players who were on the roster at the time of the alleged incident. Several players have since released public statements denying their involvement. Read the full list of responses from the team in this post on

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Sheldon Kennedy, a former professional ice hockey player who also survived James’ abuse, released a statement on Tuesday calling Smith, as well as the Hockey Canada leadership and board, to step down from their positions “immediately.”

“The same people with a new plan expecting different results is the definition of insanity,” he wrote in the statement, which was released on Twitter.

Gilhooly also called for “failed leadership” to be “replaced” ahead of Wednesday’s testimony.

“I think that means that anyone in Hockey Canada is going to have to be dragged kicking and screaming from their office,” Gilhooly said when asked about Smith’s decision not to step down.

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Speaking to the committee on Wednesday, Smith said Kennedy’s statement was “difficult to read” but he still holds Kennedy in “high regard.”

“I do believe that I’ve got the experience to take Hockey Canada and our game to a new place. I do believe that I have the support of our staff. I do believe that I have the support of our board and our membership,” Smith said.

“I want to be held accountable to take Hockey Canada to a better place.”

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For Gilhooly, Smith’s assurance rang hollow.

“Everyone in Hockey Canada right now is saying that they are perfectly positioned to make Hockey Canada better,” he said.

“If they were in those positions for the right reasons, they would recognize that it is incumbent upon them to get out of the way now.”

Click to play video: '‘It got to the point where I became suicidal’: Ex-player reflects on hockey’s toxic culture'

‘It got to the point where I became suicidal’: Ex-player reflects on hockey’s toxic culture

‘It got to the point where I became suicidal’: Ex-player reflects on hockey’s toxic culture

Gilhooly was not the only individual who reacted to what he heard during Wednesday’s committee.

Former professional hockey player, Daniel Carcillo, said his class action lawsuit was discussed during the committee, “where (he) lacked any opportunity to respond,” according to a statement released through Koskie Minsky LLP, the law firm representing him.

Carcillo was not invited to testify at this week’s hearing, a Liberal MP who sits on the committee confirmed.

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In June 2020, Carcillo and former Lethbridge Hurricanes player Garrett Taylor filed a class-action lawsuit against the Canadian Hockey League (CHL). Carcillo and Taylor alleged that they experienced systemic hazing, bullying and sexual assault during their time in major junior hockey.

The certification hearing for the lawsuit is set to take place in November, according to the firm prosecuting the proposed class action.

In his statement, Carcillo, whose career in the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) lasted from 2002 to 2005, said there is a “culture of hazing and abuse in the CHL.”

“I believe that there is, and has long been, system-wide knowledge of this culture. Systemic failures continue to occur in protecting the children and young people who play in the CHL,” Carcillo said.

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CHL president Dan MacKenzie was present at Wednesday’s committee meeting. When he was asked about Carcillo’s allegations, he said there’s “no doubt” junior hockey had a hazing problem.” But, he said, it was “in the past.”

“Since I would say since the mid-2000s, the leagues hadn’t really focused on trying to stamp out that behaviour, have put in a variety of new policies and programs to try to do that and including strong sanctions for that kind of behaviour,” MacKenzie said.

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The calls for change began in the wake of a series of high-profile allegations that emerged against various players previously affiliated with Hockey Canada, starting with the 2018 allegations.

Click to play video: 'Analysis of the Hockey Canada hearings'

Analysis of the Hockey Canada hearings

Analysis of the Hockey Canada hearings

Last week, another allegation emerged. Hockey Canada and Halifax police both confirmed on July 22 that they are investigating an “alleged group sexual assault” — one they say involved members of the 2002-03 world junior hockey championship team.

The backlash against Hockey Canada grew when, last week, reports surfaced that the organization maintained a fund that drew on membership fees to pay for uninsured liabilities — including sexual abuse claims.

On July 19, Hockey Canada said it would no longer use this fund for sexual abuse claims.

Between this fund, called the National Equity Fund, and insurance, Hockey Canada’s CFO said the organization has settled 21 cases and paid out $8.9 million to complainants.

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By late June, the scandal had started to hit Hockey Canada’s wallet. Before the end of the month, Hockey Canada had lost corporate sponsorships and its federal funding was frozen.

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Hockey Canada unveiled a plan on Monday that pledged to combat any “toxic” behaviour in the sport. It includes the implementation of a centralized tracking and reporting system for abuse complaints by the end of September.

Gilhooly hopes the backlash forces a real reckoning — not just lip service.

“Hockey is a world where everyone focuses on protecting the logo on the front of the jersey, and that’s not an environment conducive to solving problems and calling out bad behaviour when it may actually cost the team or the organization something,” he said.

“If Hockey Canada doesn’t do the right thing, there is the possibility that focus will go away. I think that’s why it’s so important right now to force Hockey Canada to do the right thing and make fundamental change.”

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