A former Winnipeg hockey coach and current lawyer has been charged with sexual assault and child pornography offences after two people came forward to report he assaulted them in their early teens while he was their coach nearly 30 years ago, Winnipeg police say.
Robert "Bob" Donald Joseph Dawson, 57, was arrested at a home on Lake Park Drive in southeast Winnipeg on Wednesday, Winnipeg Police Service spokesperson Const. Dani McKinnon said at a news conference Thursday.
McKinnon said the survivors came forward independently in June to report the alleged assaults they say happened between 1993 and 1995 while they were players in the Assiniboine Park Hockey Association.
Police said they don't believe Dawson is coaching anymore.
Hockey Winnipeg said it doesn't have details about how long Dawson was involved with the organization or what roles he served in while there, since his involvement pre-dates its database system.
In an emailed statement, Hockey Winnipeg executive director Ian McArton called the charges against Dawson "extremely serious and very troubling" and said the organization is "hopeful that justice is served in this case."
McArton said no current staff or executives at Hockey Winnipeg or board members of the Assiniboine Park Hockey Association have any interaction with Dawson.
The board said in a statement that the hockey team Dawson volunteered for was unaware of the allegations until recently and it is now in contact with and supporting the victims.
The team implemented new policies years ago to help protect players, coaches, parents and volunteers, the board said.
"We believe currently that the organization provides a safe environment for all and we remain committed to providing that moving forward."
Dawson is a practising lawyer, Law Society of Manitoba CEO Leah Kosokowsky said in an email, adding that the society has been working with police and Manitoba's prosecution service to make sure his clients' rights are protected.
None of the allegations against Dawson have been proven in court.
Other survivors urged to reach out
The former players who reported the assaults said they were separately invited to Dawson's home, where he gave them money and alcohol and sexually assaulted them, McKinnon said.
They also told police the sexual assaults, which McKinnon described as "an ongoing scenario," had been photographed and videotaped.
McKinnon said it's "remarkable" for sexual assault survivors to come forward so many years later and urged any other possible survivors to contact police.
"I can't speak to why the victims came forward at this time. These type of cases are extremely sensitive. They're very nuanced. They're very personal and private. And I think just the fact that they did come forward when they did is quite remarkable," McKinnon said.
The investigation is continuing, she said.
WATCH | Police spokesperson on decades-old sexual assault reports:
Investigators also executed a search warrant at the home where they arrested Dawson, though McKinnon said it was still too early for police to report anything linked to that search. She also couldn't say whether any images or video of the assaults had been distributed online.
"We're still in the very early stages of the investigation, the collection and the documenting. That's a very intricate procedure," she said.
Because Dawson practised law out of his home, a lawyer independent from him, police and the Crown was appointed to make sure none of the materials seized through the search warrant violate his clients' rights, Kosokowsky said.
That person, known as an "independent referee," will then sift through materials police want to seize and only give them the items not protected by solicitor and client privilege, she said.
Kosokowsky said since Dawson is a sole practitioner, the law society is monitoring his situation and will take steps to protect his clients' interests where necessary.
Dawson remains in custody, McKinnon said. He was charged with one count of possessing child pornography and two counts of making, printing, publishing or possessing for the purpose of publication child pornography.
He was also charged with two counts each of sexual interference, sexual exploitation, sexual assault and forcible confinement.
McKinnon said anyone who has information or wants to speak to investigators is asked to call the sex crimes unit at 204-986-6245 or Crime Stoppers anonymously at 204-786-8477.