WATCH: Months after the entire team was suspended and the head coach axed, two players on the University of Ottawa’s hockey team are facing sex assault charges. The allegations cast a shadow on varsity sports – and many feel its time to revamp the code of conduct. Global’s Billy Shields reports.
TORONTO – After a six-month-long investigation, two University of Ottawa men’s hockey players have been charged with a sexual assault stemming from an incident in Thunder Bay, Ont.
Guillaume Donovan, 24, and David Foucher, 25, have been charged with sexual assault involving a 21-year-old female victim.
The Ottawa team was in Thunder Bay to play against Lakehead University in a division game; the incident occurred at the West Arthur Street hotel where Ottawa players were staying, “in the early morning hours of February 2, 2014,” according to Thunder Bay police.
Police said they became aware of the complaint through a third party on February 25, a day after the university’s Sports Services department said they received allegations of serious misconduct on the part of some members of the team.
The university said Friday the charges don’t affect the decision to suspend the men’s hockey program for the entire 2014-15 season.
“The University’s focus was not on whether a criminal offence had been committed or whether a conviction could be secured. The University’s focus was on whether the players’ behaviour met the standards that the University community is entitled to expect from those who have the privilege of wearing the University’s colours,” said spokesperson Caroline Milliard in an email to Global News.
The university also fired the head coach on June 25.
“[The head coach] was not involved in the alleged incidents, but his reaction to them did not meet University expectations. In particular, he failed to report the allegations to the University,” said a June release from the University of Ottawa.
The hockey program had initially been suspended in March, but the extension into the 2015 season prompted several students to threaten the school with legal action.
Lawyer Lawrence Greenspon, who represents 12 players not facing any charges, said he knew about the Thunder Bay Police’s intention to charge two people for almost a month.
“I don’t know why they’ve withheld this announcement for this long,” he said Friday afternoon. “In the meantime, I’ve approached the University of Ottawa …and they’re not going to be changing their suspension of the other players, even with the announcement that only two have been charged.”
Greenspon said his clients will decide within the next few weeks whether to bring a civil action suit against the university to sue for damages to their “reputations, careers and their lives.”
“Some of them have lost their summer jobs, others have been told not to come back to their co-op placement, others have left town and gone to other universities and other hockey programs. I don’t think the fact that only two players have been charged really undoes that damage.”
The decisions to suspend the team into the 2015 season and to fire the coach were the result of an internal review conducted by independent experts organized by the university.
WATCH: Thunder Bay Police address the charges against two University of Ottawa players and why the investigation has concluded with no other players charged.
That review involved experts in university sport management, ethics and student disciplinary processes and will result in new behaviour guidelines for student-athletes.
“The University suspended the program, not individual players, as this is standard practice with university and college sports teams in these kinds of circumstances,” said Milliard.
She added the men’s varsity hockey program is in the process of being rebuilt: A new coach will be hired and new behavior guidelines for student-athletes will be implemented.
Mike Domitrz of the Date Safe Project works with schools in Canada and the United States to promote healthy intimacy in young people. He said it’s important not to think of sexual assault as an athletic issue, and that it happens on all levels of university campuses.
Domitrz believes students should be educated about sexuality in terms of consent and respect before they get to post-secondary school.
“What we’re failing to do is talk about what consent is—which means to actually ask your partner: Do you want to do this? Are you comfortable doing this? What would you like to do?” he said.
Domitrz touts the importance of ongoing education since young people will turn to each other or the Internet (“which is a code word for pornography”) in the absence of a healthy skillset through formal education.
“Why are we surprised that this is happening when we don’t give students before this age—high school or younger—skills on respect?” said Domitrz.
“What do you think is going to happen when you have a culture that teaches to go get some, to go after it, that being manly is about how often you’re being sexual with somebody? It becomes about conquering instead of about having a mutual amazing relationship with a partner.”
Thunder Bay Police said Friday its Criminal Investigations Branch conducted “an extensive investigation” with assistance from the Ottawa Police Service Sexual Assault and Child Abuse Section and the Thunder Bay detachment of the RCMP. Thunder Bay Police Officer Chris Adams said Friday many Ottawa hockey players spoke to investigators, but “a few did not.”
When asked about the possibility that more players were involved in the incident, Adams said the charges laid were based on a thorough investigation.
“Terms that were used to reference it as if it involved a large number of people were not correct. The investigation went on, and went on independently of any of those opinions, and just really dealt with the facts.”
Police say the two men were released on an undertaking and will appear in court in Thunder Bay on September 30.
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