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Sexual assault allegations related to 2003 World Junior team under investigation

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Content Warning: The following article contains references to sexual assault.

Halifax police said they have opened a criminal investigation into sexual assault allegations related to Canada’s 2003 World Junior team.

In a statement released to TSN on Friday, Halifax police constable John MacLeod wrote that his department received a report late Thursday related to a historical sexual assault that is alleged to have occurred in Halifax in 2003.

“It is not our practice to provide information in relation to individuals involved in investigations unless charges have been laid and sworn before the courts,” MacLeod wrote in an email. “We take all matters of this nature very seriously and will be conducting a thorough investigation."

Earlier on Friday, Hockey Canada wrote in a statement that two weeks ago it “heard a rumour about ‘something bad’ at the 2003 World Juniors. In order to learn more, Hockey Canada hired a third-party investigator to try to find more information.”

The national governing body for hockey said it was unable to learn anything about the alleged incident before being contacted by TSN. Halifax was the co-host city of the event.

“We believe the alleged incident from 2003 should be investigated by the authorities, and we urge the police to open an investigation into this disturbing situation,” Hockey Canada wrote in the statement. “Hockey Canada will cooperate with and support the authorities in every way we can, and we once again urge anyone who may have relevant information about this alleged incident to contact Halifax police immediately.”

The statement was released after Conservative MP John Nater, a member of the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage, told TSN on Thursday he plans to ask Hockey Canada on July 27 to respond to allegations that more than a half-dozen players on the 2003 World Junior team were recorded during the tournament having sex with a woman who was naked and non-responsive.

Nater, who represents the southwestern Ontario riding of Perth-Wellington, said he spoke with a source who said he viewed a video of the alleged incident in the spring of 2003, several months after the World Junior tournament was held in Halifax.

“We’re talking about Canada’s elite national team and to hear allegations like this is just disgusting,” Nater said.

TSN has independently interviewed the source who contacted Nater and corroborated their account with two additional sources, including the owner of the video camera used to film the alleged incident.

The sources have requested anonymity because they said they fear recriminations. Each of the three sources told TSN they are willing to testify about the purported video in private before the committee. The three sources independently described the six- or seven-minute video.

The source who contacted Nater works in the hockey industry and said the video began with a Team Canada player standing outside of a room, answering questions as if he were doing a pre-game interview with the person holding the camera, who is not identified.

The player told the camera operator that viewers were about to see "a f---ing lamb roast,” the three sources said. After the hallway interview, the camera was then carried into a room with a pool table, the source said.

The video shows roughly a half-dozen players taking turns having sex with a woman who was non-responsive and lying face up on the pool table, the source said.

Two sources said they watched the video on a VHS tape in an apartment in the spring of 2003.

The third source said that one of the players on the 2003 World Juniors team borrowed their video camera during the tournament in Halifax. The recording was on the camera when it was returned to them. That person said they did not inform police about the recording and deleted the video from their camera after being pressured to do so by players. The source said they believe a copy of the video was made when the camera was not in their possession.

None of the three sources reported the video to police or Hockey Canada.

“I didn't want to get in trouble,” the owner of the video camera said in a phone interview. “I knew this could get them in trouble.”

The National Hockey League released a statement Friday saying it has been made aware of the 2003 allegations.

“We were made aware earlier today of the horrific allegations against members of the 2002-03 Canadian National Junior Team,” the league statement reads. “The National Hockey League will look into the allegations and will respond appropriately.”

Nater said he also plans to ask Hockey Canada about historical abuse complaints. 

“We need to hear from Hockey Canada how many complaints there have been over the years, and how many quiet payments there have been,” Nater said. “We need these disclosures from Hockey Canada, whether they give it to us willingly or whether they have to be forced to do so.”

The revelation of the alleged video comes before the committee is scheduled to hold two days of hearings July 26 and 27 scrutinizing a 2018 alleged sexual assault involving eight former Canadian Hockey League players, at least some of whom were members of Canada’s gold medal-winning 2018 World Junior team. A woman who is not named in court documents filed a lawsuit in April against Hockey Canada, the CHL and eight players referred to as John Does 1-8.

While the lawsuit was settled and no criminal charges have been laid in the case, the federal government committee is investigating Hockey Canada’s response to the alleged assaults and the subsequent lawsuit.

After Hockey Canada chief executive officer Scott Smith and retired CEO Tom Renney testified before the committee on June 20, the committee ordered two more days of hearings July 26 and 27.

Lawyers for seven players connected to the case said their clients plan to fully cooperate with the NHL’s investigation into the alleged 2018 assault.

Hockey Canada has also reopened its investigation into the 2018 alleged assault, and the London Police Service has announced plans to do the same.

In a statement released on Friday, London police chief Steve Williams wrote that a team of investigators with the department were asked this week to review the case. London police closed its initial investigation in February 2019 without laying charges.

After a preliminary review of the case, Williams wrote that London police "have determined there are further investigative opportunities available to us, and as such, the criminal investigation has been re-opened to allow those opportunities to be explored."