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Tracking the Investigations into Team Canada sexual assault allegations

There are multiple concurrent investigations into the actions of two WJC teams.

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Canada v Swizerland: Quarterfinals - 2022 IIHF World Junior Championship Photo by Andy Devlin/ Getty Images

In the spring of 2022, news began to trickle out about an incident involving the 2018 Team Canada WJC team at a Hockey Canada gala in the summer of 2018 in London, Ontario. A complaint was filed with the London Police in 2018 of a group sexual assault. The existence of this complaint and police investigation became public only because Hockey Canada paid the complainant a settlement in a $3.55 million civil suit. The amount has not been made public. (The original version of this article incorrectly stated that $3.55 million was the amount of the settlement.)

Multiple investigations of Hockey Canada itself, and the 2018 incident were opened. A public claim of a group assault at the 2003 WJC tournament in Halifax was made, and more investigations were begun.

This is such a wide-reaching and complicated story that it is difficult to track the status of all the investigation. No one has been charged with any crime related to either incident, and all public details contain allegations not proven in court. The following is a brief documentation of the various investigations as of late December.

London Police

Immediately after the complaint was made in the summer of 2018 to the London Police, they began a criminal investigation. They closed that investigation with no charges laid in February of 2019. citation

In December, it was revealed that the Violence Against Women Advocate Case Review, which is a third-party committee meant to review cases such as this one, never received the file, and has not reviewed that initial investigation. citation

The London Police re-opened the investigation on July 22 of 2022.

In October of 2022, the London Police made an application to the courts for production orders and warrants, per the Globe and Mail’s original reporting for:

  • permission to access group text messages provided by some players’ lawyers that the police already have as sealed evidence
  • warrant to film inside the Delta Armouries Hotel, since that business refused police access for that purpose
  • production orders compelling Heinen Hutchinson to reveal the “fruits of the investigation” they undertook on behalf of Hockey Canada

TSN reported that the judge had ruled on October 21 that Heinen Hutchinson should hand over that information. However, once that happens, the judge will review them and convene a hearing where the Crown and “affected parties” can make submissions.

It is not known if this has occurred, or is scheduled to occur.

The London Police have been told the judge will grant a protection order to help them find an Uber driver who was a witness on the night in question.

The London Police investigation is ongoing.

Hockey Canada and Heinen Hutchinson

Hockey Canada executives testified before a Parliamentary committee that they contacted the police as soon as they learned of the alleged assault, and they also contacted, upon advice, the law firm of Heinen Hutchinson who undertook an investigation.

Lead investigator Danielle Robitaille testified before the committee that they began an investigation in 2018, interviewed some of the players involved, but were told by others they would not speak while a a police investigation was ongoing. The complainant did not wish to speak to Robitaille at that time.

Heinen Hutchinson paused their investigation when the police closed the case. They began again in 2022 when the complainant agreed to speak to them, and Hockey Canada compelled all players to cooperate. citation: personal viewing of committee hearings.

Hockey Canada’s new Board of Directors, just installed, has told CBC News that their investigation is complete and that Heinen Hutchinson has delivered their report to Hockey Canada.

The investigation will now go through a Hockey Canada adjudication process to determine “what sanction, if any, to impose” on the players allegedly involved, [ne board chair Hugh] Fraser said in the media statement. That process will unfold out of the public eye.

“The panel is proceeding in an in camera (confidential) process,” wrote Fraser in the statement given to CBC News. “As this proceeds, all information concerning the contents of the investigator’s report, the adjudication, and any appeal are held in the strictest confidence.”

Fraser said the process is unfolding confidentially because “we do not want to jeopardize the ongoing investigation of the London Police Service.”

Heinen Hutchinson has not revealed publicly if they have complied with the judge’s order to provide their interviews and other information to the police. Hockey Canada waived solicitor-client privilege for the “limited purpose of cooperating” with the police investigation and would comply with any judicial orders. citation

Concurrent with the Robitaille investigation, Hockey Canada commissioned a governance report that culminated in the wholesale resignation and replacement of the Board of Directors. This review did not involve any specific incidents Hockey Canada paid settlements for. The final report explores the extent of the failures in governance, policy and procedure in the organization.

At this time the new board has not had time to hire a new CEO and other executives.

NHL

The NHL opened their own investigation in 2022, and are not planning to reveal the results until the police investigation is complete. No public information about the form of this investigation has ever been revealed, but Gary Bettman stated in mid-December that their investigation was almost complete.

Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage of the Parliament of Canada (CHPC)

A standing committee is established in the House of Commons of Canada to study an area of governmental oversight, the committee is made up of MPs from all parties. CHPC studies the areas covered by the Department of Canadian Heritage. That department covers:

  • Creativity, arts and culture
  • Heritage and celebration
  • Sport
  • Diversity and inclusion
  • Official languages

The department, therefore is responsible for the government’s role with and funding of Hockey Canada.

CHPC began holding meeting on the subject of Safe Sport in Canada in June of 2022, in response to public information about Hockey Canada’s finances. They began with then CEO Scott Smith, former CEO Tom Renney and the chair of the Hockey Canada Foundation, Dave Andrews. They have also called:

  • Danielle Robitaille of Heinen Hutchinson
  • Their first trio of witnesses for a return visit
  • Michael Brind’Amour, the former chair of the Hockey Canada Board
  • Andrea Skinner, the then Interim chair (she resigned shortly after)
  • Pat McLaughlin, the current Senior Vice President of Hockey Canada
  • Bob Nicholson, a former chair of the organization at the time of its formation
  • Thomas Cromwell and his assistants who authored the report on Hockey Canada governance

as well as some senior bureaucrats in the Department of Heritage.

Much of the public understanding of how Hockey Canada used its funds, and the processes used to pay the settlement in the 2018 incident come from committee testimony. The Committee has powers to compel testimony, to demand solicitor-client privilege be set aside, and to require the production of documents without judicial oversight. They have used those powers in limited ways in their investigations, and the Committee members and chair, Hedy Fry, have expressed genuine exasperation at some Hockey Canada witnesses who haven’t been forthcoming or who behaved with a lack of respect for the Committee’s work, notably Scott Smith and Andrea Skinner.

CHPC’s investigations are ongoing and member Chris Bittle spoke to TSN after details of the police case were made available in the court filings of the London Police.

Liberal member of parliament Chris Bittle, who is a member of the Canadian Heritage committee that has been questioning Hockey Canada officials in recent months, said it’s in the public interest to identify both M.M. and the Hockey Canada official who allegedly tipped off Player 1 about a police investigation.

“We need to know who both of those people are,” Bittle said in an interview with TSN on Monday. “Hockey Canada has presented itself as an organization that has accepted responsibility for the broader event but no direct responsibility for the actions that happened. There’s more questions that need to be answered. Even at this point I’m still not done being shocked by this story.” source

The court filing refers to all people without identifying them. Player 1 is the person whom the complainant says she agreed to have sex with at his hotel room. M.M. is a person she says was at the bar prior, provided her directly with alcohol and encouraged her to interact with the players. He has been interviewed by London Police, per this court filing, but his precise relationship to Player 1 has not been explained. Player 1 contacted the complainant via the internet after he was, per the court filing, tipped off by a Hockey Canada official that a police report was filed. That information was not public at the time.

2003 WJC

Over the course of the CHPC hearings, an individual came forward to MP John Nater, then a member of CHPC, with an account of a video they had seen that is said to show members of the 2003 Team Canada WJC team engaging in sex acts with a non-responsive woman. TSN has found other sources who have seen the video.

Hockey Canada and the NHL both launched investigations after this report became public.

The Halifax Police have opened a case and have made no public statements, and will not say if the woman in the video has come forward. No police report was ever filed by anyone who saw the video at any time.

The CBC reported that a source who has seen the video gave two names to the Halifax Police.

Notes

There are three people named here with the same surname as current or former NHL players. Only one is a relative: Andrea Skinner is Jeff Skinner’s sister.

All the links in this article lead to stories full of details that may be difficult to read. Everyone must take caution in reading about this case, but there is public interest in all the information revealed so far, but very little is included here in this article since details of abuse are not what this document is for.

When Danielle Robitaille appeared at CHPC she said something to the effect that justice is often slower than people want it to be. This is a very important point to remember. This is not a scandal that needs a resolution on social media time. It’s a story of a changing public willingness to grapple with the crime of sexual assault. It’s a story of the pace of police in keeping up with that change, and of institutions trying to understand how financial liability interacts with moral responsibility in a changing world.

In the coming weeks, we should expect the London Police to finish their investigation, Hockey Canada to finish their review of the Heinen Hutchinson report and for all parties to decide what the next step is. It’s impossible to even begin to speculate on the course of the Halifax Police investigation.

CHPC has no meetings scheduled at this time, but will get back on this topic in the New Year.