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London, Ont. police to review probe of alleged sex assault at 2018 Hockey Canada gala




An internal review has been ordered into the London Police Service’s initial investigation of an alleged sexual assault at a 2018 Hockey Canada gala that has embroiled the national sport body in controversy.

Chief Steve Williams said in a statement Wednesday that he ordered the review “to determine what, if any, additional investigative avenues may exist” in the case, which resulted in no criminal charges at the time.

Williams said the review will begin immediately, adding “no predetermined timeline” is set for when it will conclude.

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Hockey Canada has been under intense scrutiny since news broke in May that it quietly settled a lawsuit filed by a woman who alleges she was assaulted while intoxicated by eight unnamed players, including members of the country’s 2018 world junior team, following a gala event in London, Ont., four years ago.

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The organization’s leadership testified to the House of Commons heritage committee last month that both an independent investigation by law firm Henein Hutchison LLP and a London police probe were initiated within hours of the alleged incident.

However, outgoing CEO Tom Renney and his replacement, then-COO Scott Smith, told parliamentarians that because the woman who made the allegations did not wish to speak to investigators or police at the time, the names of the players alleged to be involved were never revealed and those players were not disciplined or charged.

The woman later settled a $3.5-million lawsuit filed against Hockey Canada and the eight unnamed players for an undisclosed sum.

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‘Hard for anyone in Canada to have faith or trust in anyone at Hockey Canada,’ Trudeau says

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In his statement, Williams confirmed a “lengthy and detailed” sexual assault investigation began in June 2018 — the same month the incident was alleged to have taken place — and concluded in February 2019.

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The statement did not say if that investigation will be reopened, and did not name or allude to Hockey Canada or any member of the 2018 world junior team.

A spokesperson for the London Police Service confirmed to Global News that Williams was referring to the same alleged incident at the Hockey Canada Foundation-hosted gala, which was held at the Delta London Armouries hotel on Dundas Street on June 18, 2018.

Hockey Canada announced last week that Henein Hutchison is reopening its own investigation into the matter. Unlike the initial probe — which Renney and Scott said players were “encouraged” but not required to cooperate with — the organization said participation will be mandatory for all those involved.

A lawyer for the woman who made the assault allegation told Global News in an email last week his client “will be participating in the Hockey Canada investigation and will not be commenting to media at this time.”

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During their testimony last month, Renney and Scott gave conflicting answers on how many players spoke with investigators. After Renney suggested only four to six of the 19 players from the 2018 world junior team cooperated, Smith said the number was likely “12 or 13.”

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Following the executives’ testimony, Global News reached out to every player on the publicly-available roster for the 2018 team, many of whom are now playing in the National Hockey League.

Only six players responded directly or through their agents to deny their involvement and confirm they cooperated with investigators. A lawyer who said he spoke on behalf of six other players, as well as the agent for a seventh, denied wrongdoing in a statement to Global News while also alleging that naming the players in the context of the story would be defamatory.

Following publication of that article, four players — NHLers Robert Thomas, Jordan Kyrou, Conor Timmins and Taylor Raddysh — have since issued public statements denying they took part in the alleged incident.

While the lawyer who spoke to Global News did not identify his clients, he said he was authorized to speak on behalf of Kyrou and Raddysh as well as four other players when he alleged defamation in his statement.

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Seven members of the 2018 roster have not responded to multiple requests for comment or have refused to comment publicly, citing the ongoing investigation.

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On Tuesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said it was “hard for anyone” in the country to have trust or faith in “anyone” at Hockey Canada, following revelations the organization has maintained a fund to pay for uninsured liabilities, including sexual abuse claims.

The federal government has frozen funding to the organization pending what Trudeau said were “significant reforms and transparency and accountability.” A number of high-profile sponsors, including Tim Hortons, Esso and Canadian Tire, have also suspended their support.

Hockey Canada on Wednesday said it would no longer use its National Equity Fund to settle sexual assault claims.

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Smith and Renney are due to appear again in front of the Canadian heritage committee on Wednesday to face more questions about Hockey Canada’s handling of the assault claim, the independent investigation and the settlement with the alleged victim.

They will be joined by the heads of the Canadian Hockey League and the country’s three major junior circuits — the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, the Ontario Hockey League and the Western Hockey League — as well as the leaders of the Hockey Canada Foundation and insurance provider BFL Canada.

Also appearing Wednesday will be former Hockey Canada vice-president of insurance and risk management Glen McCurdie, whose sworn affidavit from July 2021 revealed the existence of the reserve fund.

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Danielle Robitaille of Henein Hutchison LLP is expected to appear Tuesday along with Minister of Sport Pascal St-Onge and officials from Sport Canada and the Department of Canadian Heritage.

— with files from The Canadian Press

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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