Hockey Canada, CHL settle lawsuit over alleged sexual assault involving World Junior players
Content Warning: The following article contains references to sexual assault
A woman who alleged she was sexually assaulted by eight Canadian Hockey League players, including members of Canada’s gold medal-winning 2017-18 World Junior team, has agreed to drop a lawsuit against the players, Hockey Canada, and the CHL after reaching a settlement.
The woman, whose allegations are detailed in court records filed in Ontario Superior Court in London, Ont., on Apr. 20, claimed she was repeatedly assaulted while intoxicated in a hotel room following a Hockey Canada Foundation gala and golf event in the city in June of 2018.
Hockey Canada and the CHL were named as defendants in the case, as were eight unnamed CHL players “including but not limited to members of the Canada U20 Men’s Junior Hockey Team.” The hockey players are identified in the 18-page statement of claim as John Does 1-8.
The allegations against the players were never proven in court and none of the defendants filed a response.
The plaintiff, identified in court records as “E.M.” asked a judge to award $3.55 million, including $2 million for past and future pecuniary damages, $1 million for punitive damages, $300,000 for pain and suffering, and $50,000 for mental and emotional stress.
Robert Talach, the plaintiff’s London-based lawyer, confirmed to TSN his client accepted a settlement in the case. He refused to say whether the woman had signed a non-disclosure agreement as part of her settlement.
“The plaintiff is satisfied with the outcome and relieved that this difficult matter has been concluded,” Talach wrote in an email to TSN on Tuesday. “She has nothing further to add and, consistent with her expressed wishes and behaviour throughout, requests that her privacy and desire not to be identified continues to be respected.”
The woman, who is now 24, also alleged in the statement of claim that Hockey Canada was made aware of the alleged assaults and failed to investigate or sanction the players involved.
Hockey Canada spokeswoman Esther Madziya said that the organization informed London police about the allegations.
“Hockey Canada is deeply troubled by the very serious allegations of sexual assault regarding members of the 2017-18 National Junior Hockey Team,” Madziya wrote in a statement to TSN. “As soon as Hockey Canada became aware of this matter in 2018, we contacted local police authorities to inform them. The same day, we also retained Henein Hutchison LLP, a firm with extensive experience in this area, to undertake a thorough independent internal investigation and make recommendations on areas for improvement which we have been implementing and will continue to pursue.
“The person bringing the allegations forward chose not to speak with either police or with Hockey Canada’s independent investigator and also chose not to identify the players involved. This was her right, and we fully respect her wishes. We have settled this matter and as part of that settlement, we will not be commenting further.”
London Police Service spokeswoman Sandasha Bough wrote in a statement to TSN that the department does not comment on alleged criminal investigations.
“The London Police Service is committed to thoroughly investigating all complaints of sexual assault,” Bough wrote. “Along with our community partners, we will fully support those who come forward and we encourage anyone who has experienced sexual violence to report the incident to police so that the matter can be investigated.”
CHL president Dan MacKenzie wrote in a statement that the league was notified about the lawsuit in early May and was “deeply troubled by the allegations.”
“We have been advised by Hockey Canada that they have settled the matter and we will not be providing further comment,” MacKenzie wrote.
According to the lawsuit, the alleged assaults took place in the early morning of June 19, 2018, during a two-day Hockey Canada event in London where the 2017-18 World Junior team was honoured for winning gold by beating Sweden 3-1 in the Jan. 5 final in Buffalo.
The lawsuit said the John Doe defendants attended a Hockey Canada Foundation Gala June 18 and following the event went to Jack’s Yard, a bar and restaurant in downtown London. The claim said that the plaintiff arrived at the bar at 11 p.m., where she met a hockey player – not listed as a defendant – who introduced her to John Doe 1 and his teammates.
The defendant players allegedly bought the woman a number of alcoholic beverages and shots and she became separated from her friends, growing more intoxicated as the night progressed.
The plaintiff said she showed evident signs of intoxication including “glassy eyes, slurred speech, stumbling and loss of balance” as she left the bar with one of the players – John Doe 1 – and went with him to the Delta London Armouries Hotel. After she engaged in sexual acts with him, John Doe 1 “invited the remainder of the John Doe defendants into the room without the knowledge or consent of the Plaintiff,” the lawsuit alleged.
According to the lawsuit, the players directed her to fondle her genitals, and perform oral sex on them. The players also allegedly straddled the plaintiff while placing their genitals in her face, slapped the plaintiff on her buttocks, spat on her, ejaculated in and on her, engaged in vaginal intercourse with her, pressured her from leaving the room when she tried to, and engaged in other sexual activities with her.
“Throughout the assaults, the plaintiff experienced an ongoing apprehension of imminent physical harm of a sexual nature,” the lawsuit said. “The actions of the John Doe defendants caused terror and fear in the plaintiff’s mind. The John Doe defendants had complete control over the plaintiff and had isolated her from others. The number of men and the fact that they had brought golf clubs to the room further intimidated the plaintiff. As a result, the plaintiff acquiesced to their repeated sexual acts and direction to engage in same, but this in no way constituted valid consent under law by the plaintiff.”
The plaintiff alleged that she was too intoxicated to provide proper consent.
“At times the plaintiff was crying and attempted to leave the room but was directed, manipulated and intimidated into remaining, after which she was subjected to further sexual assaults,” the lawsuit said.
The plaintiff alleged that the actions of the players amounted to conspiracy because the players allegedly encouraged her to drink alcohol, isolated her from her friends, engaged in sexual acts with her, pressured her to not leave when she made an effort to do so, directed her to say that she was sober while being video recorded, and directed her to have a shower after the sexual assaults had concluded.
She also alleged the John Doe defendants pressured her to not report the players to police and to not cooperate with a criminal investigation after it was initiated.
As a result of the alleged assaults, the plaintiff has suffered mental anguish, humiliation, degradation, shame, and low self-esteem, her lawsuit said. It also said the incident impaired her ability to complete her education, to earn an income, and to establish relationships of intimacy. She has also suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, nightmares, depression, and suicidal ideation, the claim says.
“The plaintiff has been required to undergo medical treatment and psychological counselling and will continue to require same indefinitely throughout her lifetime,” the claim said.
The lawsuit alleged that Hockey Canada, the governing body for amateur hockey in Canada, has “ignored or failed to reasonably address institutionalized and systemic abuse” and “had knowledge that over the last number of years, its players were subjected to sexual assault and also encouraged to sexually assault others.”
The NHL released the following statement on Thursday:
“Two days ago, the National Hockey League was advised of a lawsuit involving sexual allegations filed against eight unnamed members of the 2018 Canadian World Junior hockey team. We were subsequently provided with the Statement of Claim, containing allegations of behavior that is both abhorrent and reprehensible. We will endeavor to determine the underlying facts and, to the extent this may involve players who are now in the NHL, we will determine what action, if any, would be appropriate. We will have no further comment at this time.”