Former employee calls for regulation of private sports camps in Saskatchewan

A former employee of a private sports camp alleges her old boss harassed her. She said government regulations would have prevent it.
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WATCH: A former employee of a private sports camp in Saskatchewan is calling for better regulation of the sector after alleging her old boss sexually harassed her – Jun 2, 2021

“I find it so frustrating that I could cry,” the former employee said.

“I don’t understand why somebody with a history like his can have access to children.”

The former employee, whom Global News will identity only as Silvia, alleges her former boss sexually harassed her in his home office nearly 20 years ago.

Silvia said regulations preventing someone with Dennis Hall’s history from working with minors would have saved her from the alleged harassment.

She’s calling on organizations that fund or interact with private sports camps to take steps to ensure no one in the camp has a criminal history.

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

Nearly two decades before she says the harassment took place, a judge convicted her old boss, Dennis Hall, in 1981 of two counts of having sex with girls between the ages of 14 and 16 and of indecently assaulting two other adolescent girls.

Several media outlets have reported Hall received a pardon in 1994.

A Global News investigation determined there are no regulations in Saskatchewan that prevent someone convicted of committing sexual offences against minors from being involved with a private sports camp.

The investigation also determined that Hall appears to have been involved with the camp as recently as last year and that the camp, Young Athlete Saskatchewan (YAS), received funding from government-sponsored organizations.

An email from a YAS account to a parent last year says he has not been involved in years.

Global News repeatedly reached out to Hall and YAS staff and has not received a response.

“There needs to be some sort of regulations,” Silvia said.

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“If you have a history like that, I believe you shouldn’t be affiliated with any sort of camp.”

Silvia was 18 in June 2002 when she said she worked at YAS in Hall’s home office. Hall was 56.

She alleges he propositioned her, that he said she could stay at his apartment but “light cleaning” wouldn’t be the only thing he would get her to do to repay him.

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

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

She proceeded to work at the camp later that summer and said she quit after he said, in front of other employees, that he couldn’t stop looking at her breasts.

She also alleged he repeatedly called and emailed her. She said she moved a few months later and got a new phone number, ending the calls, and she said he only stopped emailing when she told him she was going to file a report with the Saskatoon Police Service (SPS).

Internal SPS documents, obtained through a freedom of information request, show police did not believe there was enough evidence to warrant investigating further or to lay charges.

Silvia said his history should have precluded him from working with minors.

A woman named in Hall’s 1981 conviction agrees.

A publication ban prevents Global News from identifying her but she is one of the four girls listed in court records.

She used to play for the Holy Rosary Raiders, the church league basketball team Hall started coaching in the 1970s. She was an adolescent when Hall assaulted her.

She said his involvement with minors should have ended a half-century earlier.

“There should have been no way he could run or even participate in a private camp,” she said.

“Fifty years later, it’s still happening…. That’s a bit ridiculous.”

She said she was surprised to learn there are so few regulations surrounding private sports camps in Saskatchewan.

The Saskatchewan NDP critic for parks, culture and sport is also calling for the provincial government to better regulate the sector.

Matt Love told Global News organizations that provide funding or gym space to private sports camps should make any association conditional on the camp ensuring all employees pass a criminal record screening and take anti-harassment training.

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Focus Saskatchewan: Global News investigation into Young Athlete Saskatchewan basketball camp – May 29, 2021

“It makes a lot of sense that, to be eligible for one of those grants or some of those provincial funding, that you should be following regulations that this government can create to keep kids safe,” he said.

“Our kids deserve to have a regulation that covers … private contractors or private companies that operate sport camps.”

Global News previously contacted the Ministry of Parks, Culture and Sport in August 2020 to ask then-minister Gene Makowsky for an interview.

A spokesperson for the ministry stated that Makowsky was not available for an interview and said “there are no provincial sports regulations for camps.”

Global News asked for an interview with Laura Ross in February 2021 after she was appointed as the new minister following the 2020 election.

Another spokesperson said Ross was unavailable. In follow-up emails, representatives said camps are not required to register with a provincial sport organization, such as Basketball Saskatchewan.

Global News asked for an interview with Premier Scott Moe after publishing the year-long investigation into regulations around sports camps and the allegations against Hall.

A spokesperson said Moe was unavailable. The Ministry of Parks, Culture and Sport once again sent Global News a statement.

Jamie Toth wrote that Sask Sport serves as the federation for amateur sport in Saskatchewan and that the organization has implemented a number of mechanisms to increase awareness and prevention of harassment, abuse and discrimination.

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“Not every instance of amateur sport falls within this system (such as a privately run sport camp),” he said.

“Neither Sask Sport nor its members have any authority over these organizations.”

‘We were very disturbed to learn of the allegations’

Global News also reached out to the organizations listed on the YAS website — the Association Canadienne-Francaise de Regina (ACFR), Hall*Comm Trust, the Community Initiatives Fund (CIF), Sask Lotteries and the City of Saskatoon.

The president of the ACFR, Kymber Zahar, did not respond to Global’s request for comment for this story.

She previously told Global the ACFR had helped book gym space for YAS in Regina for more than 15 years.

She did not suggest she knew of Hall’s involvement with the camp.

The Hall*Comm Trust website only lists contact information for YAS. As mentioned, Global News contacted YAS and has not received a response.

Tracey Mann, the executive director of the CIF, previously stated the fund provided $88,000 to YAS from 2010 to 2020 and that Denis Hall coordinated the applications.

She also stated CIF coordinated applications with Denis Hall and that they were aware of his history.

(Hall has used both “Dennis” and “Denis” as spellings for his first name.)

“It is our understanding that Mr. Hall serves in an administrative role only with YAS,” she said in an email on Tuesday.

“We were very disturbed to learn of the allegations of harassment and CIF would not have provided grants to YAS had we been aware of them.”

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

She said the CIF currently does not require applications to undergo anti-harassment training or similar measures in order to qualify for funding. She said the organization will work closely with the Ministry of Parks, Culture and Sport to identify any new measures to be implemented.

Jeff Bohach, a Sask Sport spokesperson, responded on behalf of Sask Lotteries. Sask Sport operates the latter as a fundraiser for recreation activities in the province, including Provincial Sports Organizations (PSOs).

He previously stated Sask Lotteries and the City of Saskatoon administer the Community Grant Program.

Funding from that program has gone to YAS in recent years.

There is no evidence Sask Sport or Sask Lotteries were aware of Hall’s involvement.

On Tuesday he stated “Sask Lotteries is not involved in community decisions on Community Grant Program applications” and that Sask Lotteries relies on communities to administer the grant.

He said it isn’t practical to require all groups to require anti-harassment training to qualify for funding because it wouldn’t be feasible for some recipients. He said a local quilting club would be an example of that.

He stated Sask Lotteries understands YAS received funding through the City of Saskatoon in the past and was approved for a grant in 2021.

“Sask Lotteries is in contact with the City of Saskatoon to review that decision in light of the concerns being raised in the community,” he said.

‘They need to make some kind of response’

The City of Saskatoon is another entity displayed on the YAS website.

Global News asked Saskatoon Mayor Charlie Clark for an interview. He declined and directed Global to previous statements from the city’s media department.

The city’s media department previously told Global that YAS was awarded $6,000 in 2021 and $6,000 in 2020 through the grant program.

Internal documents, obtained through a freedom of information request, show YAS received $6,500 in 2019 and $6,000 in 2018.

Those documents also show the city provided receipts to Hall for YAS renting the Cosmo Civic Centre, a city facility, in 2018.

An email from Mark Rogstad, the city’s media relations manager, in July 2020 stated the city is not a sponsor and that YAS is required to display the City of Saskatoon and Sask Lotteries logos because it received funding.

“The City administers the grant on behalf of Sask Lotteries,” he wrote, and “a volunteer committee adjudicates applications.”

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

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“Essentially the city rents space and that’s all.”

Other internal emails show city staff were aware of Hall. After Global News contacted the city in July 2020 with regards to Hall’s involvement Rogstad circulated a link to other employees that connects to a Saskatoon Star-Phoenix article that outlines Hall’s conviction. They also prepared a letter to YAS telling the camp to clarify that the city provides funding but is not a sponsor.

When asked for comment on Tuesday, city officials said they would expect any organization that rents facilities from the city to act responsibly.

“Each organization is responsible for its actions and the actions of people involved with the entity,” the city said in an email.

The email was signed “City of Saskatoon.”

Global News also asked Councillor Cynthia Block for an interview.

Internal city emails, obtained through a freedom of information request, show city staff sent Block an email on July 31, 2020, with the subject line “YAS Update: Media Inquiry.” The note explains there has been some media request based on media posts. What the media posts were about is redacted but the email goes on to say Rogstad was coordinating the response with Cindy Yelland, the city solicitor.

“Just wanted you to be aware as this has been running somewhat parallel to work being done to provide access for YAS programming,” Andrew Roberts, the recreation and community development director, wrote.

Six days later an email from a YAS account thanked city staff, including Block, for helping secure a new city facility for the camps that summer.

Block declined an interview and also referred Global News to previous city statements.

There is no evidence Clark or Block knew of any accusations against Hall or of his involvement with YAS.

Silvia and the woman named in Hall’s conviction both said they wanted elected leaders to answer questions about the camp and the lack of regulations surrounding private sports camps.

“It’s absolutely ridiculous and to not come forward and even speak on it when I think Saskatoon’s citizens and the kids and the families deserve better,” Silvia said.

“How can another parent trust a (city) program that they’re going to sponsor if ones that they have sponsored are a bit sketchy,” the woman named in the conviction said.

“They need to make some type of response.”