Documents obtained by Global News show six University of Lethbridge hockey players have formally filed a complaint against Pronghorns Women’s head coach Michelle Janus under the school’s harassment and discrimination policy.
The players allege Janus displayed a continued pattern of abuse, discrimination and harassment. They also say they took their concerns to Pronghorns’ executive director, Ken McInnes, on multiple occasions.
The 12-page joint complaint includes 21 alleged incidents dating back to 2015, including the mishandling of a former player’s attempted suicide during the 2016-2017 season, allowing a culture of bullying within the team and releasing confidential information to team captains, which was then disseminated to the team. The complaint also accuses Janus of trying to stop a team member from visiting her dying aunt following a game in Calgary, alleging the coach told the player “it would be different if it were a funeral.”
Near the end of the written complaint, the players write they are requesting Janus be “terminated or suspended from her position as head coach of the University of Lethbridge Pronghorns women’s hockey team.”
An independent investigation found some of the incidents created an intimidating environment and that harassment had occurred.
One of the complainants is frustrated because the university acknowledged the coach violated the harassment policy but isn’t being punished for it.
“They have said she violated it but they’re still going to let her keep her job,” Chelsea Kasprick said Thursday. “It’s rewarding bad behaviour and who’s to say she’s not going to do it again?”
The forward said Janus received training and counselling after her first season with the Pronghorns and after she allegedly mishandled a situation where one of her players attempted suicide.
“Things never changed. And I think it’s going to take something bigger than counselling her to change,” Kasprick said.
Kasprick said she herself was a victim of Janus’ bullying and when she approached her coach about her teammates cyberbullying her, she said her coach told her that “she brought it on herself.”
The University of Lethbridge released its final decision to the players on July 31 regarding the allegations, saying it would be “working with Coach Janus to correct the harassment behaviour and to work towards ensuring a healthy team environment.”
This is the full response from Nancy Walker, vice-president (Finance & Administration) and acting chief human resources officer for the University of Lethbridge:
Global News spoke with Walker on Thursday and she noted there were some questionable allegations in the complaint and that what the players were asking for was a little strong.
“For suspension or for termination is very significant step and we don’t believe that we are there yet. There is still a lot of support for Michelle (Janus) from other players on the team as well as from the university,” she said.
On Wednesday afternoon, McInnes told Global News that Janus will return as head coach next season.
Pronghorns Athletics released a statement on Wednesday regarding the matter.
“The University of Lethbridge can confirm that a complaint has been received under our harassment and discrimination policy regarding our Women’s Pronghorn hockey coach. A formal investigation has been conducted under the policy and the findings of the independent investigation have been submitted in a report as per the policy. The university is moving forward with the guidance from the report and is putting a plan in place to address the situation. Given that this is a confidential personnel matter, we cannot disclose any additional details. The University of Lethbridge and Pronghorn Athletics remains committed to providing an exceptional experience for our student athletes to learn in and excel.”
In order to protect the identity of players who have not publicly come forward, Global News is not releasing the official harassment and discrimination complaint at this time.
Global News reached out to Janus for comment on this story but has not yet received a response.
— With files from Global’s Kyle Benning