Hockey Canada Reveals Sexual Abuse Allegations Involving 2003 National Junior Hockey Team Players in Halifax

Team Canada jersey during a team practice for the IIHF World Junior Hockey Championships in Vancouver on December 25, 2018.DARRYL DYCK/The Canadian Press

The Halifax Police Department has opened an investigation into an alleged sexual assault involving members of Canada’s 2003 World Junior Hockey team, marking the latest development in a series of revelations that have laid bare a troubling culture within of the country’s national winter sport.

Hockey Canada said in a statement Friday that it contacted Halifax Regional Police after learning of “troublesome details” of an alleged assault dating back nearly two decades at the Halifax co-hosted World Junior Hockey Championship. The police department confirmed they had received a report of a historic sexual assault that allegedly took place in Halifax in 2003 and said they would be investigating thoroughly.

Even before these latest allegations surfaced, Hockey Canada was under the microscope for its handling of a lawsuit charging eight Canadian Hockey League players with sexual assault in London, Ont., in 2018. On Friday, the service London police announced they would reopen their investigation into the alleged incident, having initially concluded their investigation without bringing criminal charges.

The conduct of hockey’s national governing body is the subject of parliamentary hearings, which began in June and are set to resume on July 26. Already, the federal government has suspended funding for Hockey Canada and several corporate sponsors have suspended or withdrawn their support. for organization or specific events, such as the World Juniors in Alberta next month.

On Friday, federal sports minister Pascale St-Onge described the 2003 allegations as “another horror story” that angered and appalled her. “It is clear that the culture of silence and the trivialization of sexual violence is well entrenched in the culture of this sport,” she said in a statement to The Globe and Mail. “Hockey Canada has a lot of work to do to regain the trust of Canadians. »

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Hockey Canada said staff heard a rumor two weeks ago about “something bad at the 2003 World Juniors.” The organization hired a third-party investigator to investigate the matter, the statement said, but the investigator was unable to learn anything immediately.

Then on Thursday, TSN reporter Rick Westhead informed Hockey Canada that he had spoken to several people who had provided “explicit descriptions” of an alleged sexual assault. The Hockey Canada news release says Conservative MP John Nater, who is vice-chair of the federal Canadian Heritage committee charged with reviewing the conduct of Hockey Canada, is in possession of the same or similar information.

“Hockey Canada will cooperate with the authorities and support them in every way possible,” the statement said. “[We] urge anyone who may have relevant information about this alleged incident to contact Halifax Police immediately.

TSN reported on Friday that, according to its sources, video footage showed about half a dozen players taking turns having sex with an unresponsive woman lying on a pool table. TSN has not viewed such footage, but cited three sources who described them. The Globe has not independently verified the existence or details of the video footage in question.

Marc Habscheid, who was the head coach of Canada’s junior world championship team in 2003, said he first learned of the allegations when he read Hockey Canada’s statement. The National Hockey League said Friday it had been made aware earlier in the day of “horrible allegations” against members of the 2003 Canadian junior team. “The NHL will review the allegations and respond appropriately.” , the league said.

In an email, Mr. Nater said he was recently contacted by someone who said he had information regarding the alleged assault in 2003. He said he passed the information on to the Halifax Police Department and encouraged the person to communicate directly with the authorities. “The individual has asked not to be identified at this time,” Nater said.

Another member of the heritage committee, Liberal MP Anthony Housefather, said Hockey Canada officials who testify next week will be questioned about the Halifax allegations. “I’m sure this will raise a number of questions during the hearings, both about what Hockey Canada knew and didn’t know – and what it did and didn’t do – about an overall culture that must be reformed,” he said.

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Since the start of federal hearings last month, Hockey Canada has announced steps to tackle what it describes as a ‘culture of toxic behaviour’ in sport, including no longer using a special multi-million dollar fund. to resolve sexual assault allegations. The organization has also reopened a third-party investigation into the alleged 2018 sexual assault, which the woman says took place after a Hockey Canada fundraising gala.

In May, Hockey Canada settled a lawsuit related to the allegations. The players are unnamed in the civil lawsuit and have not been publicly identified, but they include members of Canada’s 2018 World Junior Team.

In her statement, the woman alleges having had sexual acts with a player in a hotel room after the gala. Seven other CHL members then entered the room and engaged in a series of sexual acts to which she did not consent, according to the complaint. All along, the woman says, she felt an impending fear of physical harm.

The lawsuit, which sought more than $3.5 million in damages, was settled by Hockey Canada on behalf of Players Anonymous under terms that were not disclosed. The allegations have not been tested in court.

Lawyers representing seven players say their clients were never given a chance to contest the claim. Their clients deny wrongdoing and argue that any sexual contact was consensual.

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