London party

In London, Ont., site of alleged sexual assault, Hockey Canada’s reopening of 2018 case is good news

Residents of London learned Thursday that Hockey Canada, the national sport federation, is reopening its investigation into an alleged sexual assault in the southwestern Ontario city in 2018.

Hockey Canada had quietly settled a lawsuit in May, prompting Ottawa to freeze its funding, after a woman alleged she was assaulted in London in June, at a gala and golf night, by some members of the 2018 gold medal Canadian junior hockey team.

“I think for me, looking at this whole situation, someone has to step in,” said Trevor Gallant, owner of TAG Hockey, an organization that provides training for London-area youth.

He believes Hockey Canada is “taking the right steps.”

“Maybe they mishandled it a bit at first, but reopening it tells me, hey, you know, it’s a positive step,” said Gallant, a former Hockey League player from Ontario.

In June, Federal Sports Minister Pascale St-Onge announced that the organization’s access to public funds had been suspended due to its response to the alleged sexual assault and subsequent out-of-court settlement.

In an open letter released Thursday, the federation made a series of announcements to Canadians, including that it is reopening a third-party investigation into the alleged sexual assault.

Hockey Canada said the players in question must participate in the investigation and anyone who refuses will be immediately banned from all federation activities and programs. Previously, the organization said it “strongly encourages” players to help investigate the alleged incident, which allegedly happened at a Hockey Canada reception.

“Nothing can 100 percent fix what happened,” Gallant said. “But the fact that reopening and investigating, and looking at what went wrong and how can they improve it, that’s really what hockey is about.

“Nothing is perfect in the world and things will happen,” he added. “It’s how we respond to those who are really going to set the tone for the future of the game and help people understand what’s right and what’s wrong and what’s expected of a young athlete and all that.”

The “good call”

Anna Lise Trudell is a director at London-based Anova, which provides shelter, counseling and other services to people affected by gender-based violence.

She said if Hockey Canada decided to reinvestigate the alleged sexual assault was the “right decision”, it only happened after the organization faced financial and public pressure.

“They’ve had a rude awakening because of a lot of public pressure about this and hopefully a real jolt within the organization that this is no longer acceptable behavior, that the priority given to preventing sexual violence, player accountability and all transparency is what we expect now in this society.”

The complainant in the 2018 sexual assault case will participate in Hockey Canada’s new investigation, her lawyer confirmed in an emailed statement to CBC News.