Attorney says player interviews imminent in reopened Hockey Canada investigation – TSN | Region & Cash

A lawyer hired by Hockey Canada to investigate allegations of alleged sexual assault involving players from Canada’s 2018 World Juniors ice hockey team testified Tuesday that she is overseeing a reignited investigation and is in the process of scheduling interviews with players.

During her hour-long appearance, attorney Danielle Robitaille, of the Toronto law firm Henein Hutchison, told the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage that she left a hotel room on Ontario, 21, two days earlier after an Ice Hockey Canada event.

Hockey Canada has settled a $3.55 million lawsuit related to the allegations that have not been proven in court.

Robitaille testified that between June 30 and July 11, 2018, she interviewed 10 of the team’s 19 players who attended the event, as well as seven team coaches and staff. Nine other players declined to be questioned immediately because they wanted to wait until London Police had completed their criminal investigation, Robitaille said.

Robitaille also said she was unwilling to interview the remaining players without a statement from the victim.

In February 2019, after a London Police investigation concluded without charge and the alleged victim decided not to work with Henein Hutchison, Robitaille gave up further interviewing the players.

“For reasons of due process, I could not interview players without telling them fairly what they were accused of,” said Robaille.

Now that the woman is cooperating with the resumed investigation, Robitaille said she is resuming player interviews.

“We now have the benefit of the complainant’s detailed version of events,” Robitaille testified.

Robitaille also testified that players who refused to participate in the investigation could be banned from representing Hockey Canada for life. The organization would also publish the names of those who refuse to participate.

It is unclear how many of the nine players who have not yet been interviewed will agree. Robitaille testified that the players and their attorneys have concerns about their investigation following comments from Hockey Canada politicians and officials.

“They have concerns that the matter has been preempted,” Robitaille testified. “I’m trying to address those concerns and allay those concerns. I hope that you will voluntarily consent to my investigation.”

Robitaille’s testimony opened two days of summer hearings by the House of Commons committee investigating Hockey Canada’s response to the 2018 sexual assault allegation. The hearings come a month after Hockey Canada officials Scott Smith and Tom Renney first testified before the Ottawa committee.

In the days since the June 20 hearing, the federal government has frozen public funding of Hockey Canada, and several of the organization’s key corporate sponsors have severed their ties with the organization.

Sports Minister Pascale St-Onge was the last witness to testify on Tuesday, questioning whether Hockey Canada’s current leadership is qualified and able to deliver the organizational changes promised.

“Hockey Canada, all of Canada is watching you,” St-Onge said.

After Tuesday’s hearing, former NHL player Sheldon Kennedy, a sex abuse survivor and advocate, called on Smith, his “executive team” and the Hockey Canada board to resign.

Robitaille testified that she first learned of the allegations on the morning of June 19, 2018, when Glen McCurdie, Hockey Canada’s senior vice president of risk management and insurance, called her hours after the alleged attacks.

Robitaille testified that she advised McCurdie to contact the police immediately. McCurdie responded that he needed to consult with Hockey Canada executives before he could do so, Robaille said at the hearing.

Smith testified on June 20 that police were first contacted in the late afternoon or evening of June 19.

Robitaille declined to answer some of the MPs’ questions.

When Conservative MP Richard Martel asked her for details on the interim report and recommendations she had made to Hockey Canada on the 2018 incident, Robitaille said Hockey Canada had exercised attorney privilege on the issue.

After Liberal MP Anthony Housefather asked her if she had “a good idea” of the identities of the eight players allegedly in the hotel room with the alleged victim in June 2018. Robitaille declined to answer, saying she didn’t want to spoil future interviews with eyewitnesses.

When asked how many of the team’s coaches and staff had been questioned, Robitaille again invoked attorney-client privilege. After being directed by committee chair Hedy Fry to answer the question, Robitaille told the committee that seven coaches and staff had attended.

Several members of the committee asked Robitaille to drop her investigation after the applicant refused to cooperate. Robitaille told the committee that there was “a gold standard” in her field of work.

“I appreciate that it’s very frustrating for Canadians that we don’t have a result yet,” said Robitaille. “My investigations take time, but justice and fairness sometimes take time.”

The hearing also included testimony from Michel Ruest, an executive director of Sport Canada, who said that while the federal organization was notified of the alleged sexual assault in late June 2018, it did not follow up with Hockey Canada to inquire about the status of its investigation for four years.

Ruest also told MPs that Sport Canada, a branch of Canadian Heritage, failed to inform then Sports Secretary Kirsty Duncan. St-Onge, who was appointed sports minister in September 2021, said she was unaware of the allegations until earlier this year.

Several MPs challenged St-Onge and Ruest as to why Hockey Canada’s funding wasn’t cut sooner.

Conservative MP Kevin Waugh said that in 2018 Sport Canada staff should have briefed and instructed the Sport Minister to investigate.

“You can point the finger at Hockey Canada all you want,” Conservative MP Kevin Waugh told St-Onge. “I’m pointing the finger at Sport Canada.”

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