TORONTO (Reuters) - Bank of Nova Scotia (Scotiabank) said on Tuesday it had decided to pause its Hockey Canada sponsorship until the organization, which is dealing with fallout from a sexual assault lawsuit, takes the proper steps to improve the culture within the sport.
The decision by Canada's third-biggest lender comes a week after the Canadian federal government froze funding to the organization over its handling of an alleged sexual assault and out-of-court settlement.
"Today, we have made the decision to pause our sponsorship of Hockey Canada until we are confident the right steps are being taken to improve the culture within the sport — both on and off the ice," Scotiabank Chief Executive Officer Brian J. Porter wrote in an open letter.
Porter also said Scotiabank expects Hockey Canada to fully cooperate with the federal government's audit and ensure the bank's sponsorship funds were used as intended.
"The time for change is long overdue," said Porter. "We call on Hockey Canada to move with a sense of urgency in order to ensure that the game we love is held to the highest standards."
Hockey Canada said in a statement it both respects and understands Scotiabank's decision and is committed to making changes that meet the standards of its many stakeholders.
"Hockey Canada is on a journey to change the culture of our sport and to make it safer and more inclusive, both at the rink and in our communities," Hockey Canada said, adding that "more needs to be done, and more quickly."
In April, a woman filed a lawsuit that alleged she was sexually assaulted in a hotel room by eight hockey players following a Hockey Canada golf and gala event in 2018. Hockey Canada settled the lawsuit last month. The allegations against the unnamed players have not been proved in court.
(Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto; editing by David Evans)