The complainant at the centre of an alleged group sexual assault that’s shaken Canada’s sports world says she has fully co-operated at all times with a police investigation into her case, despite Hockey Canada originally saying she didn’t.
The woman filed a $3.5-million lawsuit in April that said in 2018, eight hockey players including members of Canada’s World Junior team sexually assaulted, humiliated and degraded her at a hotel room in London, Ont.
The statement of claim, which has not been proven in court, said the hockey players brought golf clubs to the hotel room to further intimidate her, directed the woman to shower after the sexual assault and told her to say she was sober while they videotaped a consent video.
As first reported by the Globe and Mail Tuesday, the complainant’s lawyer Robert Talach released a statement saying that his client was clear to police in June 2018 that she wanted criminal charges pursued.
“This woman has fully engaged and co-operated with all the legal and formal investigations surrounding these events,” wrote Talach in a statement shared with CBC News.
Hockey Canada released a statement in May that initially described the complainant as not being co-operative in the London police investigation.
“The person bringing the allegations forward chose not to speak with either police or with Hockey Canada’s independent investigator and also chose not to identify the players involved,” reads the statement that followed TSN’s reporting on the case. “This was her right and we fully respect her wishes.”
A month later, Hockey Canada corrected that statement and said, “We have subsequently learned through her lawyer that she did in fact make a complaint to the police.” The organization added a correction to the original post Tuesday after media reports about the issue.
Lie detector test results shared with police
Talach said he believes Hockey Canada made an “honest mistake,” but the statement was continually reported in the media “over and over again” and needed to be addressed.
“Earlier media reporting that she did not approach or co-operate with police was inaccurate,” Talach said in the statement.
He provided a series of new details about the case including that his client spoke with a detective within days of the alleged sexual assault and had a physical exam done at a hospital.
His client also later gave her clothing to police to examine and met with officers on two other occasions that summer, Talach said. After seven months, she was told the investigation was closed and no charges would be laid.
Following an eruption of public outrage, London’s police chief announced last month that it would conduct an internal review to “determine what, if any, additional investigative avenues exist.”
Talach said his law firm set up a polygraph test for the woman and that she passed. The results have since been provided to police and Hockey Canada’s investigators and the NHL, which in May launched its own investigation.
Complainant gave statement to Hockey Canada’s investigator
Meanwhile, the well-known criminal defence law firm hired by Hockey Canada to investigate, Henein Hutchison, told a parliamentary committee last week that it closed its investigation because the complainant wouldn’t participate.
“I needed her version of events to push forward in my investigation,” the firm’s partner and lead investigator Danielle Robitaille told MPs.
Robitaille said that the complainant — along with nine hockey players — said they wouldn’t participate in the law firm’s probe until the police investigation is complete.
“Once the criminal proceedings concluded, I focused my efforts on speaking with complainant’s counsel and attempting to facilitate obtaining that statement so that I would be equipped to move forward in my investigation,” she said.
“After 18 months of those efforts not arriving to the place that I had hoped, I closed the investigation without prejudice to reopening at a later date.”
Robitaille said she concluded she should not interview the rest of the players without speaking to the complainant first.
Hockey Canada’s investigation re-opened last month amid intense public scrutiny and said it learned the woman would now provide a statement. Sport Canada froze its funding and several high-profile sponsors including Scotiabank dropped their sponsorship deals.
The woman participated in the investigation by providing a “comprehensive written statement” to Hockey Canada and the NHL on July 21, according to Talach.
Talach confirmed his client will not be sitting down for an interview with Hockey Canada or the NHL’s investigators because she’s already provided an eight-page statement, five pages of photos and 4.5 pages of text messages.
“We ask that her privacy continue to be respected and thank the Canadian public for their concern,” Talach said in a statement.
Law expert says complainant might have feared ‘disbelieving treatment’
Julie Macfarlane, a distinguished professor emerita at the University of Windsor, said the complainant participating in the hockey organization’s investigations would lend credibility to the process.
She said Henein Hutchison is paid by Hockey Canada and known for its work in criminal defence. Robitaille was the co-counsel in the Jian Ghomeshi trial in 2014, in which the firm engaged in cross examination that picked apart complainants’ statements on the witness stand, said Macfarlane.
“The complainant here might reasonably assume she would be subject to the same harsh disbelieving treatment from this investigation,” said Macfarlane.
Listening to Hockey Canada and Henein Hutchison testify at a parliamentary committee last week, Macfarlane said, there was a “clear implication that somehow” the complainant “was at fault for being unco-operative.”
“Which given the dismissive and unsympathetic treatment she has received at the hands of both the police and Hockey Canada, seems designed only to yet again protect Hockey Canada at her expense,” said Macfarlane.
The complainant has signed an non-disclosure agreement (NDA) as part of her settlement which restricts what she can say about the case publicly. Prince Edward Island became the first province in Canada this year to limit NDA use in cases of sexual misconduct cases to prevent complainants from being silenced.
Macfarlane is the co-founder of the campaign Can’t Buy My Silence to end non-disclosures. She said it’s possible the complainant could be asked to sign another one if she was interviewed by Hockey Canada or the NHL.
Robitaille told MPs she hadn’t seen a copy of the NDA the complainant signed as part of her settlement agreement. Hockey Canada’s board of directors agreed to pay the claimant up to $3.5 million, the organization told MPs last week.
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