Parliament 'seeking more answers' from Hockey Canada in upcoming third set of hearings
Content Warning: The following article contains references to sexual assault.
A player on Canada’s 2018 World Juniors hockey team who was present in a London, Ont., hotel room at the time of an alleged sexual assault told police during their initial investigation he was not a participant in what transpired and left the room unsure of what he had witnessed, the player’s agent told TSN in an interview.
The agent said his client was invited by another player to come to a room in the Delta London Armouries Hotel early in the morning of June 19, 2018.
“My guy got a text message from one of his teammates that there was a party going on with pizza, so he went up to the room,” the agent said. “He did not know how to process what was going on when he saw what was happening in the room. He did not know if this was consensual group sex or if it was a sexual assault.
“It’s true that he did not intervene and say stop. You can judge him for not intervening. What would you do in the same situation when you were a teenager? Is this something he should lose his career and reputation over?”
The agent, who requested anonymity to protect the identity of his client, said the player left the room after about 10 minutes.
The player was interviewed by London police in late 2018 after a woman alleged she was sexually assaulted on June 19, 2018, in a hotel room by eight hockey players – at least some of whom were members of Canada’s 2018 World Juniors team. While London police closed the case without filing charges in February 2019, they have since reopened the investigation.
The agent said London detectives are now making plans for in-person interviews with players who were in the city for the Hockey Canada Foundation event that took place the evening before the alleged assault.
“My guy has already spoken with police [in 2018] and he was completely honest with them, and he will be honest when police speak with him again,” the agent said. “My understanding is that police will be travelling to do interviews with players in person over the next few weeks.”
Neither the woman in the case nor the players allegedly involved have been publicly identified.
A London police spokesperson refused to answer specific questions about the investigation.
“As this is an active criminal investigation, we are unable to speak further to the matter,” the spokesperson wrote in an email to TSN on Monday. “Appropriate information will be shared once the investigation has concluded.”
The sexual assault allegations have cast a cloud over Hockey Canada in recent months and raised questions about the organization’s governance.
After TSN reported in May that Hockey Canada had settled a lawsuit filed by the woman weeks earlier, a parliamentary committee began investigating the organization’s response to the allegation.
Hockey Canada officials testified before the committee on June 20 that players from the 2018 World Juniors team initially had the option of refusing to participate in an investigation into the allegations. Hockey Canada hired Danielle Robitaille, a lawyer with the Toronto firm Henein Hutchison LLP, to lead its investigation.
Robitaille testified July 26 she interviewed 10 of 18 players who were in London at the time of the alleged assault and that while she closed her investigation in 2019 because the complainant refused to speak with her, she has since reopened the file. Hockey Canada has said that it will name players who refuse to cooperate with Robitaille’s probe.
Hockey Canada also continues to be scrutinized after admitting to building up a fund called the National Equity Fund to pay lawsuits, including those related to sexual assault claims, with money from player registrations without telling hockey parents about the nature of the fund. The organization has pledged it won’t use money from that fund in the future to settle sexual assault cases.
Hockey Canada officials also testified in July that after its board agreed during an in-camera meeting to settle the women’s lawsuit this spring – on behalf of itself, the Canadian Hockey League, and the players who were allegedly involved in the incident – Hockey Canada did not document the vote in its meeting minutes. The organization also did not disclose the settlement to attorneys representing the players who allegedly were involved.
Several sponsors have cut ties to Hockey Canada, the federal government has frozen its funding over the scandal, and board chair Michael Brind’Amour has resigned.
Besides the London police and Hockey Canada, the NHL is also investigating the alleged assaults. Halifax police are also investigating an alleged sexual assault involving players from the 2003 World Juniors team after three sources told TSN they watched a video showing multiple players assaulting an unresponsive woman.
A lawyer representing several players under investigation said in an interview with TSN in July that their clients told London police in late 2018 that any physical contact between players and the woman was consensual.
“The players say that the woman in this case was encouraging other players to participate,” the lawyer said.
Lawyers for the players have said two videos filmed with a cellphone during and after the incident, as well as 35 text messages sent between the alleged victim and one of the players, are evidence that any contact between the woman and players was consensual.
The woman has denied that and said she has provided London police with an eight-page statement, five pages of photographs, and four-and-a-half pages of text messages.
Shayan Shaffie, a Toronto defence attorney who represents clients accused of sexual assault, said in an interview that it would be unlikely for police to charge a player who was in the hotel room if they did not do anything to encourage a sexual assault or prevent the woman from leaving.
“Generally speaking, criminal law isn’t concerned with people stopping a crime in process unless they have a specific duty of care,” said Shaffie, who is not involved in the case. “There is no punishment for not acting as a good Samaritan.”
However, Shaffie said if a player did anything to “aid and abet” an assault, that could lead to them facing criminal charges.
“If they helped or encouraged a sexual assault, by locking a door, or encouraging peers to engage in a sexual assault, or preventing the complainant from leaving the room, that could lead to liability for a player,” Shaffie said.