Canadian world junior player asked woman whether she had gone to police after alleged sexual assault

JOE FRIESEN, COLIN FREEZE AND ROBYN DOOLITTLE
PUBLISHED 15 HOURS AGO
UPDATED 10 HOURS AGO

A day after an encounter in a hotel room that led to a sexual-assault lawsuit, a player with Canada’s world junior hockey team exchanged text messages with the woman involved.

The player began by asking the woman whether she had gone to the police.

The woman said she had spoken to her mother and her mother had called police against her wishes.
“You said you were having fun,” the player wrote.

“I was really drunk, didn’t feel good about it at all after. But I’m not trying to get anyone in trouble,” she replied.

“I was ok with going home with you, it was everyone else afterwards that I wasn’t expecting. I just felt like I was being made fun of and taken advantage of.”

The text messages, sent a little more than a day after the sexual encounter, were shown to The Globe and Mail by lawyers for seven unnamed members of Canada’s 2018 world junior hockey team. The team has been at the centre of allegations surrounding a multimillion-dollar lawsuit that was settled by Hockey Canada in May for an undisclosed sum. The matter is now under investigation by Hockey Canada, the National Hockey League and Parliament.

The lawyers also showed The Globe two video clips recorded that night that they say show the sexual contact was consensual and that the complainant was not fearful, intimidated or intoxicated, as she claimed.

The woman’s lawyer declined to comment, citing the continuing investigations. In her statement of claim, filed in April, 2022, the woman alleged that she was directed to state that she was sober while being video recorded.

The lawyers for the players say they provided the text messages and two videos shown to The Globe to the London police in 2018. The police investigation concluded without charges in February, 2019, the lawyers said, after the lead detective said he didn’t have reasonable grounds to believe a sexual assault had been committed. London police declined to comment on investigative details.

Hockey Canada’s decision to settle the lawsuit was made without notice to the players, who deny wrongdoing, according to their lawyers.

A public outcry has blown up around the case, leading the federal government to freeze funding to Hockey Canada and several major corporate sponsors to temporarily withdraw their support. Hockey Canada’s investigation, led by the law firm of Henein Hutchison, was never completed, but in an open letter last week the organization promised to reopen its probe and clean up a toxic culture in the sport. Hockey Canada representatives will return to Parliament later this month to answer committee questions about its handling of the sexual-assault investigation.

In her statement of claim, the woman alleged she went to a hotel room in London, Ont., with one player and engaged in sexual acts with that player on June 19, 2018. Seven other Canadian Hockey League members are alleged to have later entered the room without her consent and engaged in a range of sexual acts to which she did not consent, the claim states. She alleges she felt an imminent fear of physical harm and at times was crying and tried to leave the room, but was “directed, manipulated and intimidated into remaining, after which she was subjected to further sexual assaults.” The allegations have not been tested in court.

The lawyers for the seven players declined to say which player sent the messages, and would not reveal which individual players they represent, adding that the information will be addressed in continuing investigations.

In the text message exchange on the day after the incident, the player made clear his view that the woman should revisit the situation with the police.

“You need to talk to your mother right now and straighten things out with the police before this goes to far. This is a serious matter that she is misrepresenting and could have significant implications for a lot of people including you,” the player wrote.

The woman apologized for any trouble it might have already caused.

“Can you please figure out how to make this go away and contact the police,” the player asked. He texted a few times over the next few hours to check whether anything had been done.

“I appreciate that your going to put an end to this I know this must not be easy for you to have to call the police and say this was a mistake,” he wrote.

Finally that evening the woman said, “Told them I’m not going to pursue it any further and that it was a mistake. You should be good now so hopefully nothing more comes of it,” she wrote.

In her statement of claim, the woman alleged she had been under pressure from the defendants, who are referred to as John Does one through eight, not to report them to police and not to co-operate with the criminal investigation. The woman and the seven players who have retained counsel all either gave statements or interviews to London police, according to the lawyers for the players.

The lawyers did not reveal the woman’s identity and said the text messages and videos were shown to Hockey Canada’s investigators.

The first video clip shown to The Globe is six seconds long and was recorded at 3:25 a.m. on June 19, 2018, the lawyers said. It shows a woman from the neck up. A male voice can be heard saying “You’re ok with this?”

“I’m ok with this,” the woman says.

The second clip is 12 seconds long and taken about an hour later at 4:26 a.m. The same woman appears to be covering herself with a towel in a hotel room, with a closed door to the hallway visible in the background.

“Are you recording me?” she asks. “Ok, good. It was all consensual. You are so paranoid, holy. I enjoyed it, it was fine. It was all consensual. I am so sober, that’s why I can’t do this right now.”

It’s not clear who filmed the videos or why they did so. It’s also not clear what the woman is discussing.

The Globe described the contents of the videos to Elizabeth Sheehy, one of the country’s leading experts on Canadian sexual-assault law. Prof. Sheehy said that while she won’t comment on the specifics of this case, generally speaking, videos like these aren’t useful in proving consent, because in Canada consent can only take place at the time of the sexual activity – not before or after. It must be continuous and it must connect to a specific type of activity, she said.

However, the footage could be used to attack the complainant’s credibility, Prof. Sheehy said, or it could be used to support a defence that the players believed she had consented and that they took reasonable steps to ascertain her agreement.

Prof. Sheehy said there are also ways to refute those interpretations of the videos.

For example, the Criminal Code explains that no consent is obtained where the complainant submits through force, threats or fear of force, she said.

“In other words, if it can be proven she submitted by reason of fear of the seven men in the room, then she would not have given a valid consent in law,” Prof. Sheehy said. “The fact that she’s still in the room with these men when she’s making these statements is really important.”

Hockey Canada said last week it intends to reopen its investigation into the 2018 incident. It had been paused while the police investigation was under way and then put aside because the female complainant did not wish to speak with the investigators from Henein Hutchison. The female complainant has said she will co-operate with the new probe.

Henein Hutchison said 10 players voluntarily complied with their investigation in 2018, two declined to participate and seven declined pending the completion of the police investigation.

Lawyers for the seven unnamed players say their clients are willing to co-operate with the renewed Hockey Canada investigation but “have yet to learn of the scope of procedures that will be employed.” The players will participate in another investigation into the incident being carried out by the National Hockey League, where some of the players now play as professionals.

https://www.theglobeandmail.com/canada/article-hockey-canada-sexual-assault-lawsuit-police/