Sport Canada knew of Team Canada sexual assault allegations in 2018

Michel Ruest, senior director of Sport Canada, says the federal organization learned of an alleged sexual assault involving members of Team Canada’s junior world hockey team in late June 2018 but did not follow up with Hockey Canada. at that moment.

Questioned in a House of Commons committee on Tuesday, Ruest also told MPs that Sport Canada, an offshoot of Canadian Heritage, had failed to inform the office of then-sports minister Kent Hehr about the allegations.

Current Sports Minister Pascale St-Onge has said she was unaware of the allegations until this year.

Sport Canada officials have been called to testify as the Commons heritage committee investigates what happened between June 2018, when Hockey Canada, the national governing body, learned of the allegations, and May of this year, when it became known. the news that he settled a lawsuit with the plaintiff.

They were asked by several parliamentarians why the funding for Hockey Canada was not cut off before June of this year and why there was no follow-up to the case.

The woman at the center of the complaint alleges she was sexually assaulted in an incident involving eight hockey players, including some members of the 2018 world junior team, after a Hockey Canada gala in London, Ontario.

A lawyer for the firm conducting a third-party investigation into the allegations told parliamentarians on the committee that she cannot answer all of their questions.

Danielle Robitaille, a partner at Henein Hutchison LLP, said Hockey Canada told her some of the information is protected by attorney-client privilege and certain questions could undermine the integrity of the ongoing investigation.

Robitaille said that Hockey Canada contacted his firm after the alleged assault in June 2018 and that the initial investigation was closed because the whistleblower did not provide a statement. The whistleblower subsequently filed a lawsuit this spring.

Robitaille said the plaintiff has now given her “detailed version of the facts,” allowing investigators to interview nine more players who were at the event and declined to be interviewed in 2018.

Hockey Canada has been under intense scrutiny since news of its settlement in response to the plaintiff’s lawsuit was first reported in May, and that grew as another allegation related to the 2003 team surfaced last week.

Robitaille said Glen McCurdie, the former vice president of insurance and risk management for Hockey Canada, contacted her in 2018, and her advice to him was to contact the London Police Service.

She said she was then given a mandate to conduct an independent investigation and interviewed 10 of the 19 players who were present at the event.

Robitaille said the remaining nine players refused to be interviewed due to an ongoing police investigation at the time, and determined that he should not interview them until he had the whistleblower’s version of events.

When Robitaille learned from the complainant’s attorney that she planned to participate, she contacted Hockey Canada and requested an injunction to reopen the investigation.

“I am in contact with the players’ lawyer and hope to schedule interviews imminently,” he told the Commons committee.

“I am well equipped to continue this investigation.”

Hockey Canada has said that player participation is mandatory.

“I look forward to receiving voluntary compliance with my investigation,” Robitaille said, but added that Hockey Canada provided him with an additional tool because anyone who does not participate will be expelled from its activities and programs.

Those bans will be made public, Robitaille said.

London police have reopened their investigation, and the NHL and the NHL Players Association are also investigating.

The plaintiff’s suit sought just over $3.5 million in damages from Hockey Canada, the Canadian Hockey League and eight unnamed players. Hockey Canada quickly settled the case for an undisclosed amount.

Details of the settlement, including the identities of the whistleblower and the men involved, have not been made public.

During a committee hearing in June, Hockey Canada officials said they had no knowledge of what happened the night of the alleged assault and did not know the identities of the players involved.

Robitaille would not say whether the eight players who were allegedly involved in the sexual assault were among the nine who did not take part in the investigation in 2018, but he told the committee there were two reasons he felt he could not. Continue interviewing him.

Robitaille first said that he felt he could not complete his search for the truth without hearing from the whistleblower.

Second, he said, “As a matter of due process, I could not interview the players without giving them fair notice of what was alleged against them.”

Several men who were part of that team have publicly stated that they were not involved in the alleged attack and that they participated in the investigations.

Robitaille said that because Hockey Canada did not give him permission to waive attorney-client privilege, he was unable to answer some of the committee’s questions.

That included a question from New Democrat MP Peter Julian about whether Team Canada staff and coaches were involved in the investigation.

The committee chairman instructed her to waive the privilege, and Robitaille said seven coaches and staff members participated, though she wasn’t sure how many of them were coaches.

He was also unable to tell the committee what his company’s interim report contained, except to say that he advised Hockey Canada on policy issues that might be addressed. He said that one of the recommendations concerned alcohol.

Hockey Canada released a plan Monday to rid the sport of “toxic culture,” which includes mandatory chaperones for underage athletes at Hockey Canada events to enforce curfews and ensure alcohol is not consumed. Hockey Canada also said it will no longer host “open bar” events.

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on July 26, 2022.

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