Sunday October 16, 2022
It was painful, watching Andrea Skinner, the interim chair of Hockey Canada’s Board of Directors, as the Parliamentary Committee on Canadian Heritage grilled her mercilessly about charges that Hockey Canada had covered up a gang rape.
Skinner squirmed like a worm impaled on a hook as she tried to defend the indefensible.
She gave Hockey Canada an “A” grade for its handling of sexual abuse charges against players under Hockey Canada’s jurisdiction. But her face, her body language, her eyes, suggested to me that she knew she was lying.
Her abrupt resignation soon after seems to confirm that intuition.
I don’t need to go into the details. In broad terms, as everyone now knows, Hockey Canada paid out $8.9 million as hush money for 21 sexual assault accusations since 1989.
Out of curiosity, I looked up Hockey Canada’s Bylaws and Regulations. In 204 pages of rules and procedures, not one word deals with paying hush money to victims of too much testosterone.
So someone was inventing the rules as they went along.
And Skinner had to defend that.
Corporate entities don’t care
Did your mother ever tell you, as she rescued you from yet another potential disaster, “Let that be a lesson to you?”:
Hockey Canada should be a lesson to us. Which is – in the fewest words I can manage –that corporate entities are not worth sacrificing yourself for.
“Corporate entities” – it sounds so abstract. Unreal. It should. Because in fact, that’s what they are.
I could use more familiar terms like organizations, corporations, charities, non-profits, political parties… But these terms all narrow the field. I want to widen it, to include any social/legal structure that takes on a life of its own.
And sooner or later, its “life” matters more than the people who give it life.
So you have to defend that artificial creation, even when you know it has gone off the rails. You have no choice. The entity, whatever it is, demands loyalty.
Sure, you can lobby within an oil company for better environmental standards. You can submit study after study about flawed wireless networks to your supervisors. You can file endless reports about priests molesting children, coaches fondling gymnasts, or lawyers defrauding clients.
But you cannot come out and condemn the corporate body.
We saw it with Andrea Skinner. In previous times, we’ve seen it with executives of SNC-Lavalin. With Enron and Bre-X. With the WE charity. With police and military forces. With the NHL.
The institution itself becomes more important than what it stands for.
Having sacrificed yourself, your integrity, maybe your health, for the institution, do not expect the institution to do anything to save you. Because the institution is an idea, a legal fiction, not even a thing. It has no empathy, no compassion.
The people within it may care about you. May support you. At possible risk to their own careers.
But the institution itself is utterly amoral.
The game, not the players
Hockey Canada defines its mission, to “Lead, Develop, and Promote Positive Hockey Experience.”
To that end, it establishes a consistent set of playing rules for amateur hockey games across the country, so that every game and practice is played at the same standard.
I don’t think that the young men alleged to have raped those women were encouraged – by local leaders or by anyone from Hockey Canada -- to disregard social norms. They just happened to be fitter, stronger, more bonded, more confident, than any other team in the whole damn world.
Together, they could do anything.
And, tragically, they did.
And Hockey Canada turned a blind eye. Because the reputation of the great game of hockey mattered more than the off-ice lives of players. And more than the lives of their victims, who may initially have thought this flirtation was an exciting adventure. Until it wasn’t.
The most recent Annual Report that I could access overflows with hockey activities for which Hockey Canada can take credit.
No mention of racism on ice. No mention of toxic attitudes that might develop from too much macho togetherness.
And nothing about funding -- $14 million from the federal government; unknown millions from sponsors like Esso, Tim Hortons, Canadian Tire, Scotiabank, Bauer, Chevrolet…
My cynical side suspects that the loss of all that sponsorship income had more influence on the resignation of the entire board of directors than the investigations of the parliamentary committee.
And certainly nothing about secret payments and non-disclosure agreements.
Because those would reflect badly on the organization.
Which always has to come first.
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“Thank you for finding words and complete sentences for some of my thinking!” Nenke Jongkind wrote about last week’s column. “I don’t think Jesus was wrong even when I don’t understand those parables either. However, I wish we could stop hearing about Trump. ‘Loathsome’ is such a good word to describe him.”
Bruce Elliott asked, “Please tell us a little bit more about why you find Donald Trump ‘loathsome’.”
I (mis)quoted Shakespeare: “"How do I loathe thee? Let me count the ways..." and then gave Bruce 11 reasons.
Bruce agreed, sort of, but pointed out that several of those flaws were also applicable to other presidents.
And Bruce Hartwick thought that in fairness, I should note that “the judge who authorized the raid on Trump’s home was one of the hundreds appointed by Obama. The appointment of judges is just another of the Washington games, with a long history.”
Otherwise, the letters generally focussed on interpretation of troublesome parables.
Helen Reid: “I believe that parables are meant to provoke scrutiny of customary thought and behaviours. They lend themselves to various interpretations, depending on the context. The parable of the unjust steward is surely one of those. It seems to me that Jesus is contrasting and lamenting the difference between children of this world and the children of light. Sadly, the former are often much smarter than the latter, The message I get is to practice the behaviours I want to be part of for all eternity. Trump is a good example of the other -- in lights.”
Tom Watson: “At first, in the parable of the dishonest manager, Jesus seems to praise the man for his shrewdness. But then comes the point that you can't be trusted with true riches if you can't be trusted with wealth you have gained dishonestly—you can't serve both wealth and God.
“Seems to me that Donald Trump fails on all counts; he's never been faithful and trustworthy in anything other than what profited him. Whether that makes Jesus right or wrong, I don't know; I only know that Trump is wrong.”
Steve Roney reads the parables differently: “The miracles in the Bible stretch credulity only if you start with the assumption that Jesus is not God.
“The parable of the three stewards and the parable of the workers in the vineyard make better sense if we understand talents to mean talents . The point of the parable of the stewards is the same point Jesus makes in the Sermon on the Mount, that we are to let our light shine, not hide it under a bushel. We are obliged, in other words, to develop and express whatever talents God gave us.
“The parable of the workers in the vineyard is an admonition not to envy the talents of others. Do not complain, so long as you have what you need.
“You are misreading the parable of the shrewd manager in thinking he is cheating his master. The master does not think so—he congratulates him. So this rules out that interpretation. Rather, the shrewd manager is just being shrewd, doing what every retail business does when they offer a sale. Being generous to customers, even taking a loss, pays off in the end, by, as the parable says, establishing a mutually beneficial long-term relationship.
“I don’t see the parallel to Trump appointing judges, but more importantly, Trump simply did what all presidents do. So you cannot be arguing that Trump did anything wrong; you just hate Trump, a priori.”
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