Former player shocked to learn convicted sex offender could be coaching again

Click to play video: 'Focus Saskatchewan: Global News investigation into Young Athlete Saskatchewan basketball camp' Focus Saskatchewan: Global News investigation into Young Athlete Saskatchewan basketball camp
A year-long investigation shows how a lack of regulations may have allowed a convicted sex offender to be involved with a sports camp in Saskatoon and Regina for decades. Former employees allege the convicted sex offender harassed them and one says he used fake names to represent the camp. The investigation has also revealed the camp receives funding from government-sponsored organizations – May 29, 2021

A woman, now in her 50s, said she was shocked into disbelief earlier this year when she learned that the former basketball coach convicted of assaulting her as a minor could be near children.

Four decades ago, she had testified against him, stating on the record that he had assaulted her in the school library after basketball practice.

“What part of our society will hold him accountable until the day that he dies?” she asked.

Her former coach is Dennis Robert Hall, who Saskatchewan Chief Justice Judge F.W. Johnson, who later became lieutenant-governor, convicted in 1981 on two counts of having sex with girls between the ages of 14 and 16 and two counts of indecent assault against two other adolescent girls. All four played for the Holy Rosary Raiders, a Regina Church Basketball Association team that Hall coached, according to news coverage at the time. The crimes took place in Regina, Melfort and Swift Current between 1975 and 1980, according to court records.

Read more: Former employees allege sexual misconduct at Saskatchewan basketball camp for teenagers

The woman, one of four that Hall was convicted of assaulting in the 1970s, agreed to speak to Global News in an interview to explain what happened to her and how it affected her life. She was an adolescent at the time and a publication ban prevents Global News from identifying her.

She is one of about a dozen sources who spoke to Global News for this story. Two former employees allege that Hall behaved inappropriately and that he was involved with Young Athlete Saskatchewan basketball camp, decades after his conviction and after communications from the camp stated he is no longer involved.

Global News reached out to Hall on several occasions and has not received a response.

Several government spokespeople and an official with the provincial agency that oversees amateur sport said there are no regulations requiring sports camps in Saskatchewan to register with a governing body. A legal expert said there is no overarching regulation for the sector that prevents someone convicted of sexual offences against minors from being involved with a summer camp.

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The former player and sexual assault survivor said she finds that unacceptable.

She is now in her 50s and said she played in the Regina Church Basketball Association league when she was young. Hall was running this league at the time. He was also a teacher and basketball coach at Holy Rosary School in Regina. His Holy Rosary Raiders, the woman said, were the team to beat in the league. They travelled to other cities almost every weekend to compete in tournaments, which they frequently won.

Holy Rosary School is connected to the Holy Rosary Cathedral in Regina.

She said Hall was seen as “a pillar of the community” back then, though she said all the players knew he had a mean temper.

“He would throw basketballs at you,” she claims.

“There were lots of girls in tears. And we’re 12, 13, 14-year-old girls.”

Click to play video: 'Saskatoon police felt they lacked evidence to further probe teen’s sexual harassment report, file shows' Saskatoon police felt they lacked evidence to further probe teen’s sexual harassment report, file shows
Saskatoon police felt they lacked evidence to further probe teen’s sexual harassment report, file shows – May 29, 2021

“You just didn’t really know any different,” she explained, when asked why the girls tolerated this. She said they didn’t know it was strange, especially since they were being assaulted by someone who was known as a successful coach and a respected community leader.

“You would just do things to please him,” she said.

“And then it became more apparent that it was going to be more of a sexual adventure that, (at that age), you’re incapable of deciding that this is inappropriate.”

He would hug a player when they were upset, “giving you a kiss on your forehead like your father would.”

“Then it just led to much more intimate kissing and … much more intimate touching that, all of a sudden … this is beyond soothing someone.”

The basketball season runs from the fall until the spring and she said the team practised in the evenings until 8 or 9 p.m. The dark and the cold of the Saskatchewan winter made it unsafe for a teenage girl to walk home alone, so Hall would give her a ride.

One night he said he needed to get something from the school and that she should come inside with him.

“I said, ‘I’ll just stay in the car,’” she recalled. But Hall wouldn’t let her, firmly insisting she go with him.

She said he assaulted her in the library, touching and grabbing her, trying to pull her clothes off.

She told Global News she fought back and he eventually relented.

Afterwards, she said Hall told her he always hurts the ones he loves.

She says as they walked outside and down the steps of the Catholic school library, he asked her to kneel with him and pray so that God would forgive him for his sins.

An article in the Regina Leader-Post published on July 11, 1981, a day after Hall was convicted, also reports the prosecutor said Hall asked a girl to “pray for the sin he has committed with her” on the steps of the school library.

Then she said they got back in his car and he drove her the rest of the way home.

When she got there she lied to her parents about why she was late. She didn’t tell anyone what happened for years.

“I had no one to tell,” she said.

Read more: Basketball camp claimed it was endorsed by woman who alleged sexual harassment

She continued playing basketball for Hall, but was “vengeful,” determined that he would never be alone with any other girl.

She started running home from practice through alleyways so Hall couldn’t find her.

She only decided to tell others what happened when a police officer knocked on her door. By then, she was a university student.

She said Hall had allegedly impregnated another teenage girl who played for him and the girl’s family was pressing charges.

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Regina police were searching for other people he coached and potentially abused.

Sentenced in 1981

She agreed to testify, telling her family what Hall did to her for the first time.

She said she was gratified when she heard the verdict, on July 10, 1981.

Judge Johnson sentenced Hall to 18 concurrent months of jail time, to be served at the Provincial Correctional Centre in Regina.

The conviction doesn’t say whether Hall impregnated the girl but news coverage at the time reported the allegation.

The Leader-Post article published the day after his conviction also said the prosecutor alleged he rented an apartment for a 15-year-old girl and visited her for about six months in 1980. According to the article the prosecutor said she gave birth to a baby boy and gave him up for adoption.

A 2003 article in the same newspaper reports Hall denied that he was responsible for impregnating her.

The article said that he wanted to be an example of someone putting their life back together and that he said he apologized “to anyone who remains hurt by my indiscretions of the 1970s.”

It also said Hall stressed that the sexual offences related to his role as a coach and not to his work as a teacher.

A 2016 National Post article stated that Hall and the girl’s family settled out of court for $3,500.

Multiple media outlets have reported he received a pardon in 1994, but Global News could not confirm this.

The 1981 article recounts that Hall’s lawyer Ron Barclay produced 40 character references. These were “written on behalf of his client from clergymen, school principals, schoolteachers (sic), coaches of other basketball teams and parents of Hall’s former students,” the article said.

According to the article, Barclay also told the court that the girls never complained and that all but one of them continued to play on teams coached by Hall.

Besides his work in the basketball community, Hall was an active member of the Holy Rosary Council of Knights of Columbus and a volunteer at the Santa Maria Home for the Elderly, the article said.

During sentencing, Judge Johnson said he considered the need to protect the public and young girls in particular, according to the article. Judge Johnson said that the sentence would act as a deterrent for others holding similar positions who might be tempted to abuse their authority in a way Hall did, the paper added.

The judge also said that Hall punished himself by having lost his job, his coaching position, the breach of his family ties and his reputation he had in the community, Johnson was also quoted as saying.

Read more: How a N.S. therapist was allowed to keep practicing after first sexual assault allegation

Four years later, the Leader-Post reported that Hall served 19 weeks of prison time, slightly more than a quarter of the sentence, and additional time in a halfway house.

That article was reporting Hall’s candidacy for the board of the Regina Catholic School Division.

It was the first of several campaigns he mounted for different school boards.

In August 1989, the paper reported he appeared before the Regina Planning Commission to propose “a combined youth centre and private men’s club.”

In 1990, the Saskatoon Star-Phoenix reported he and his wife Loretta Hall were teachers at Montreal Lake High School and would leave if the band council again turned down his application to become principal.

Montreal Lake Cree Nation is about 250 kilometres north of Saskatoon.

A former employee, who Global News will identify only as “Silvia,” said she believes Dennis and Loretta Hall were divorced or separated then or afterwards. Global News could not confirm this was the case.

Loretta Hall declined to be interviewed for this story.

Nothing but a towel

Silvia said she took a job to work for Hall in June 2002, completing administrative tasks in his home office before the camp began that year.

She alleges Hall propositioned her while she worked there, stating he said she could stay at his apartment but “light cleaning wouldn’t be the only thing I would get you to do to repay me.”

She said she understood he meant she would have to sleep with him.

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She was 18 at the time.

“He had said, on another occasion, if I did want to move in there … he would only be there just a little bit over the summer, like three or four times and then we could work out my repayment to him when he was home,” she said.

A few months later another teenager accepted a job at Hall’s home office.

She was 16.

Global News is protecting her identity and referring to her as Noelle in this article.

Noelle said Hall answered the door wearing nothing but a towel when she arrived at his apartment for a work shift.

She said she asked if she had arrived at the wrong time. She remembers Hall saying, “No, you came at the perfect time.”

Click to play video: 'Global News exclusive investigation: Convicted sex offender involved with Saskatchewan youth basketball camp for decades' Global News exclusive investigation: Convicted sex offender involved with Saskatchewan youth basketball camp for decades
Global News exclusive investigation: Convicted sex offender involved with Saskatchewan youth basketball camp for decades – May 28, 2021

Noelle said Hall said he needed to go change and then, still only wearing a towel, showed her to his home office. She remembers sitting at his desk and Hall standing over her.

She told Global News he didn’t put on clothes for about 15 minutes.

Noelle said she remembers him occasionally returning to the office over the next few hours. She said he told her that he knew the job was boring and she could take a nap if she was getting tired. According to Noelle, he said he could drive her home if she finished late and they could tell Noelle’s mom that she was staying overnight.

Silvia also told Global News Hall answered the door wearing nothing but a towel.

Before working for Hall, Noelle said he often followed her and her friends to the George Ward public swimming pool in Saskatoon after camp, “trying to check out girls in their little swimsuits.”

She and Noelle both told Global News that Hall sent them unwanted emails for months afterwards. Noelle said he accused her of flirting with him, telling her she needed medical help.

Silvia reported Hall to the Saskatoon Police Service around a year later. Internal records obtained through a Freedom of Information show police did not believe there was enough evidence to warrant further investigation or to lay charges.

The records show she referred police to Noelle.

Read more: Saskatoon police felt they lacked evidence to further probe teen’s sexual harassment report, file shows

According to separate Saskatoon police records obtained by Global News, police contacted Noelle’s mother, who told them that Hall told her daughter he fired her because he had feelings for her.

Silvia had mentioned Noelle in her complaint and the officer was able to contact Noelle’s mother. Police did not lay charges in relation to Noelle’s allegation.

Both former employees said they believe Hall is still involved with YAS.

Silvia said she overheard Hall in his home office use aliases when was he speaking to parents.

She alleged all the information about the camp, despite the different names attached to emails, is “all coming from him.”

An email from a camp account to a parent in 2020 stated Hall hadn’t been involved with YAS in more than six years.

Global News contacted YAS staff several times. No one responded.

An absence of oversight

Monique St. Germain, general counsel at the Canadian Centre for Child Protection, in Winnipeg, said most organizations that work with children will likely have policies regulating who can and can’t work there, but there’s no overarching legal requirement for that to be the case.

She explained organizations may require criminal record checks if it’s a condition for them to get funding or if a provincial or municipal law requires it.

An employer could also request a potential employee undergo a vulnerable sector check, which would show whether a pardon had been issued, but that is up to the discretion of the employer.

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“Everything we have set up is set up from the perspective that the organization is going to be run by people who are interested in the protection of children,” she said.

When asked about why there were no rules or legislation preventing someone with Hall’s history from being involved with a camp for children or teenagers, a spokesperson for the Saskatchewan Ministry of Parks, Culture and Sport said it had not been “made aware of issues that would require provincial regulation of sport camps” and that it “typically responds to needs/issues expressed by sector stakeholders or groups/individuals using the services of that sector.”

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In an earlier statement, the spokesperson stated provincial sports organizations (PSO) are “available to provide sanctioning and or endorsement of sport specific camps” and that contacting the relevant PSO may be one avenue to help parents or participants in choosing appropriate activities.

Another spokesperson also stated that is not the case with all sports camps in the province.

Linsay Rabyj, speaking for the Ministry of Parks, Culture and Sport, stated any sports camp and coach that is part of a PSO must adhere to certain requirements, like having insurance and mandatory training for coaches, but “not every instance of amateur sport falls within this system.”

“Some may be private bodies not affiliated with the Sask Sport System or run by individuals (affiliation or not) that wish to do so to fill a need. Camps are not required to register with any provincial body,” the then-ministry communications executive director wrote.

Jeff Bohach, a spokesperson for Sask Sport, the provincial federation for amateur sport, said in an email that “there are currently no regulations governing the operation of sports camps.”

Global News contacted Basketball Saskatchewan, the provincial sports governing body. The executive director, Megan Penno, said in an email that “YAS has no affiliation of any kind with Basketball Saskatchewan.”

Daniel Savoie, spokesperson for Heritage Canada, the federal department that has a division responsible for the organization of sports, said the Canadian government is working toward implementing a Universal Code of Conduct to Prevent and Address Maltreatment in Sport. He said Sport Canada, a national body that funds national-level sports organizations, requires all funding recipients to adhere to the new code of conduct.

But Savoie, said the federal government doesn’t regulate summer camps and suggested speaking to municipal, provincial and territorial authorities about regulations for the summer camp industry.

The woman who testified about Hall’s assaults in court four decades ago can’t understand why he appears to still be involved with youth in sport.

“There should be no way that he should have ever been allowed near a minor in any form,” the former player said.

She added she is worried Hall would assault other minors just as he assaulted her, because she believes he will always be a predator.

“When does it stop?” she asked.

“When do we as a society say, ‘This is what he did, these are the consequences?’”

— with files from Mike De Souza and Jigar Patel