Thank you, Madam Chair and members of the committee.
My name is Dan MacKenzie. I began my role as president of the Canadian Hockey League in September of 2019, a little over a year after the June 2018 Hockey Canada gala.
The CHL is comprised of three leagues: the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, the Ontario Hockey League and the Western Hockey League. The commissioners of these three leagues are with me today to assist the committee in any way we can to answer your questions—any that would relate to the 2018 Hockey Canada gala or any other topic. The three constituent leagues in the CHL have a total of 60 privately or community owned and operated teams, and approximately 1,400 players. Of the 60 teams, eight are located in the United States, while the remaining 52 are in communities from Cape Breton to Victoria.
I wish we were here under different circumstances. As the father of two teenagers, I know that the issues we're going to speak about today are extremely important to parents across this country. We are concerned for the victims of the 2018 and recently reported 2003 world junior teams, as the allegations are horrific. We feel strongly that this is a critical time in our sport. We will fully co-operate with police and other investigations, and expect that any player responsible will be subject to criminal accountability.
Each year, our leagues along with our 60 owners review our policies and educational programs designed for players, coaches, billet families and team staff. For many years, our leagues have conducted training on consent and sexual misconduct, and have worked with organizations, including regional rape crisis centres, the Canadian Mental Health Association, police services, the Canadian Red Cross, and respect in sport, to deliver those programs. Obviously, given the revelations of the past weeks, we ask ourselves: How can we do more to protect victims of sexual misconduct, the communities in which we play, and the reputation of hockey?
Over the past 18 months, we have received two independent reports on how we can improve our respective policies, procedures and training programs relating to off-ice conduct, and are committed to adopting a broad set of recommendations in time for this upcoming season. Having said that, we know that we aren't going to eliminate the type of behaviour alleged in these cases with just policy improvements. The experts have told us that a key element to improvement is a truly independent system of complaints and investigation on these issues to encourage players and other witnesses to come forward knowing that they will be protected from reprisal. On July 15 the CHL's member leagues unanimously endorsed the creation of an independent system of dealing with complaints for implementation this season.
The CHL is part of a larger hockey ecosystem. We stand willing to work with the recommendations of this committee, hockey organizations and outside experts to make real change. Players, no matter their skill, must know that they cannot act with impunity. If they break the law, they will face criminal penalties and severe sanctioning from the CHL or its regional league.
With respect to the world junior tournaments and the 2018 Hockey Canada gala, I would like to note the following for the committee. The gala took place in June, after the end of the CHL season. All of the players on the world junior team were subject to the jurisdiction and supervision of Hockey Canada during the world junior tournaments and the Hockey Canada awards gala. The team was made up of approximately 22 players, all of whom had signed professional contracts. The following season, two of those 22 players returned to the CHL after starting the season with their professional club.
The CHL received the statement of claim in May of 2022. Like all Canadians, we were shocked by the allegations. The CHL was not involved in any settlement discussions with the plaintiff or her counsel. We signed the settlement only after it was negotiated and signed by the plaintiff and Hockey Canada. At the time of the settlement, we were seeking an opinion on whether the claim could be struck against the CHL, as we did not believe we were a proper party to be included in this legal action.
In closing, we look forward to the report of this committee. We are committed to working with you to ensure that hockey remains Canada's game. We want to take care not to damage the reputation of the millions of Canadians who play, coach and volunteer in hockey arenas across this country who are committed, enjoy their experience and have done nothing to warrant the feelings that many Canadians are currently expressing about those involved in these terrible incidents.
We are open to the committee to ask any questions of me or the three commissioners.