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Police open investigations into 2003 and 2018 Canadian world junior teams

The two police investigations are the latest developments in an ongoing crisis for Hockey Canada
Hockey Canada says members of its 2003 men’s world junior hockey championship team is being investigated for a group sexual assault. Hockey Canada logo at an event in Toronto on November 1, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn

Two of Canada’s men’s world junior hockey teams are being investigated by police following alleged group sexual assaults in 2003 and 2018.

Halifax Regional Police confirmed on Friday that they are investigating a historic assault at the world junior hockey championships in 2003 and shortly afterwards the force in London, Ont., announced that it is reopening its investigation into an incident involving members of the 2018 team.

The two police investigations are the latest developments in an ongoing crisis that has rocked Hockey Canada and led to its funding being suspended by the federal government and several major corporate sponsors.

Sport Minister Pascale St-Onge said on Friday that the new allegations surrounding the 2003 world junior team was another blow to Hockey Canada’s reputation.

“Today we learn of yet another horror story that allegedly occurred in 2003. Once again, like all Canadians, I am appalled and angry,” said St-Onge. “It is clear that the culture of silence and the trivialization of sexual violence is well entrenched in the culture of this sport.

“Hockey Canada has a lot of work to do on this issue before they regain the trust of Canadians. Anyone with information about the events of 2003, or any other such event, should report it to the police.”

Hockey Canada said it became aware of the 2003 incident after it was contacted by TSN on Thursday seeking comment on the alleged assault. The national sport organization said it immediately contacted Sport Canada and Halifax police, as the city was the co-host of the international tournament that year.

“Hockey Canada is committed to bringing an end to the culture of silence in hockey,” said a statement issued by the national sport organization on Friday. “That is why we are publicly calling for anyone with knowledge of this incident to come forward to police, and we are being transparent in how we learned of this alleged assault and the steps we are taking to address it.”

Cst. John MacLeod, a spokesman for Halifax police, confirmed that the force received a report related to a historical sexual assault that allegedly happened in the city in 2003. He said the force takes all matters of this nature very seriously and will be conducting a thorough investigation.

Carlo Colaiacovo, who played defence for Canada’s junior team in 2003, issued a statement on the investigation late Friday.

“As a member of that team, it is important that everyone is aware that I had no involvement or knowledge of any incidents whatsoever,” reads part of Colaiacovo’s tweet. “I will co-operate fully with any investigations.”

P-A Parenteau, a forward on the team, told The Canadian Press that he only learned about the alleged sexual assault on Friday. He said that he was “definitely not involved” and that the allegations are “a shock.”

Colaiacovo and Parenteau are two of 21 players from the silver-medal 2003 team that went on to play in the NHL.

Hockey Canada said that two weeks earlier members of its staff heard a rumour about “something bad at the 2003 world juniors” but were not able to get any details until it was contacted by TSN on Thursday.

MP John Nater said he was contacted by a person earlier this week with information regarding an alleged sexual assault involving members of the 2003 national junior team. He said he forwarded the information to Halifax police and encouraged the person to contact police directly.

TSN reports that a source contacted Nater and described a video of the alleged sexual assault to the MP. TSN spoke to the source and two others who have watched the video and all three corroborate that it shows approximately six players from Canada’s junior team having sex with a woman who was non-responsive and laying face up on the pool table.

One of the three sources told TSN that one of the players from the 2003 team had borrowed their video camera during the tournament in Halifax and the graphic recording was still on the camera when it was returned to them. That person said they were pressured by the players to delete the video and that they never reported it to police.

Hockey Canada has already had funding from the federal government and corporate sponsors paused following allegations of a sexual assault involving eight members of the 2018 men’s junior hockey team.

Those allegations came to light after it was reported by media that Hockey Canada paid out an undisclosed settlement to the complainant after she sued the organization, the Canadian Hockey League, and the eight unnamed players. The woman was seeking $3.55 million.

On Wednesday, London police chief Steve Williams ordered a review of that force’s initial sexual assault investigation in June 2018. He said on Friday that, following the review, London police would reopen their investigation.

“Through this review, they have determined there are further investigative opportunities available to us, and as such, the criminal investigation has been reopened to allow those opportunities to be explored,” said Williams.

The Canadian Press reported on Monday that Hockey Canada has maintained a fund that draws on minor hockey membership fees to pay for uninsured liabilities, including sexual abuse claims. Hockey Canada confirmed on Tuesday that the fund exists but it would no longer be used to pay out claims over sexual assault allegations.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Thursday that there needs to be a “real reckoning” at Hockey Canada as the organization continues to deal with the fallout related to its handling of the alleged sexual assault in June 2018 and out-of-court settlement.

The standing committee on Canadian Heritage is scheduled to continue its examination of Hockey Canada’s handling of the 2018 allegations on Tuesday and Wednesday.

MP Sébastien Lemire made the motion to bring Hockey Canada back to testify before the standing committee. He said it was a necessary step to hold Hockey Canada accountable,

“Of course, whether this is just the tip of the iceberg, whether this is a culture that’s deeply rooted, that’s what we’re afraid of throughout this process,” Lemire said in French. “What’s important is rebuilding the trust between the Hockey Canada organization and the public, and the athletes and youth.

“It has to change, this culture, and that’s a profound change that has to take place and mores that have to change.”

MP Peter Julian, another member of the standing committee, said it was with “shock and sadness” that he learned of Friday’s new allegations involving the 2003 team.

“I think I’m just shocked that Hockey Canada has been so unwilling to deal with sexual abuse and sexual violence in any meaningful way,” said Julian. “This is something that I think requires the imperative that we put in place all the tools and practices to ensure that there’s zero tolerance for sexual abuse and sexual violence.”

St-Onge is set to testify along with a Sport Canada official on Tuesday. Hockey Canada said it told Sport Canada about the 2018 allegations at the time, but St-Onge was not yet in the sport minister position and only learned about it when the story originally broke in May.

Glen McCurdie, Hockey Canada’s former vice-president of insurance and risk assessment, is scheduled to testify on Wednesday. It was his sworn affidavit in an unrelated lawsuit that revealed the existence of the fund that, among other things, covered claims regarding sexual misconduct.

— With files from Abdulhamid Ibrahim, Paola Loriggio and Sarah Ritchie.

John Chidley-Hill, The Canadian Press