Hockey Canada says 2018 sex assault investigation complete, report to stay private

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Hockey Canada says its third-party investigation into an alleged 2018 sexual assault of a woman involving members of that year’s world junior team is complete, but the report will remain confidential.

A statement from the organization’s new board chair Hugh Fraser says law firm Henein Hutchison LLP has delivered its report to an independent adjudication panel, which will determine “what sanction, if any, to impose” on anyone involved in the alleged incident.

The adjudication process is also being held in private, Fraser said.

“As this proceeds, all information concerning the contents of the investigator’s report, the adjudication, and any appeal are held in the strictest confidence,” he said.

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Fraser added the report’s findings are being kept private so as not to jeopardize the ongoing London, Ont., police investigation into the allegations. Hockey Canada and Henein Hutchison are cooperating with that probe, he said.

The board of directors is also “still being briefed” on the report’s findings, he added.

Court documents first reported by the Globe and Mail on Sunday and confirmed by Global News revealed London police say they have “reasonable grounds” to believe five members of the 2018 world junior team allegedly sexually assaulted a woman after a Hockey Canada gala in June 2018.

The records include a 94-page information to obtain (ITO) order filed in Ontario provincial court on Oct. 17, 2022. While redacted in parts, the ITO offers the most detail yet from police about the state of their investigation, reopened earlier this year, into the June 19, 2018, alleged sexual assault of a woman identified only by the initials E.M.

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No charges have been filed and none of the allegations included in the court documents have been proven.

Fraser said in his statement he was “disturbed” to read those details.

“On behalf of the newly elected Hockey Canada Board of Directors, I wish to reassure Canadians that Hockey Canada is committed to pursuing its investigation and to collaborating fully with the London Police Service,” he said.

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Henein Hutchison was contacted by Hockey Canada the day after the alleged incident occurred and began an independent investigation into E.M.’s claims that she was sexually assaulted by five players in a London hotel room following a Hockey Canada gala. London police also opened an initial investigation around the same time.

Both probes were closed months later with no charges or sanctions against any of the players alleged to have been involved.

After TSN revealed last May that Hockey Canada had quietly settled a lawsuit brought by the alleged victim, top executives with the organization told the House of Commons standing committee on Canadian heritage that players from the 2018 world junior team were not required to cooperate with investigators, and only a small number of team members were interviewed.

Hockey Canada then reopened its investigation in July, once again contracting Henein Hutchison and making it mandatory for players from that team — many of whom have since gone on to NHL careers — to participate. London police reopened its own case days later.

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Danielle Robitaille, Henein Hutchison’s lead investigator in the case and a partner in the firm, told the Canadian heritage committee in July that the complainant did not initially provide a statement during the earlier probe.

Robitaille said the complainant has since given a “detailed version of events,” enabling investigators to interview nine more players who were at the event and had declined to be interviewed in 2018. She said she interviewed 10 of the 19 players on the 2018 team that year.

Hockey Canada has faced a reckoning over its overall handling of sexual assault cases involving players. The organization has revealed it maintained a reserve fund, fueled by membership fees, that was used in part to settle sexual misconduct cases. Hockey Canada says the fund will no longer be used for that purpose.

Top sponsors including Tim Hortons, Canadian Tire, Scotiabank and Esso pulled their sponsorships not only for the recent world juniors but the entire 2022-23 season, demanding change within the top ranks of the organization.

After months of pressure, the entire board of directors as well as president and CEO Scott Smith resigned in October.

Fraser and a new board of directors were elected last weekend, and have promised to reshape the culture within the sport and remain transparent with Canadians on their progress.

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