Quebec City police reopening probe into 2014 Gatineau Olympiques alleged group sexual assault, league says

The Gatineau Olympiques have faced two alleged sexual assault investigations that did not lead to criminal charges being laid. (Alexander Behne/Radio-Canada - image credit)
The Gatineau Olympiques have faced two alleged sexual assault investigations that did not lead to criminal charges being laid. (Alexander Behne/Radio-Canada - image credit)

Warning: This story contains graphic details that may be disturbing to some readers

Police in Quebec City are reopening their investigation into an alleged group sexual assault eight years ago involving four players with the 2014 Gatineau Olympiques, according to the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.

Karl Janhke, the hockey league's chief marketing officer, said in a statement to CBC News that "we will offer our complete co-operation throughout the process."

The Quebec City Police Department (SVPQ) would not confirm or deny that it was reviewing the case in a statement issued Friday to Radio-Canada.

The league announced in 2015 that police had closed the case without laying any charges and noted that the allegations reported in the media "were serious and that this type of behaviour should at no time be trivialized."

This is the latest case of police in Canada re-examining their investigations in the wake of Hockey Canada's controversy over its handling of group sexual assault allegations. This review is also the third group sexual assault allegation involving Canadian hockey players between 2003 and 2018 that's currently under investigation by police.

The allegations in the Quebec City case involve a woman alleging she went to meet one of the players at his hotel room in January 2014 and was later held down and sexually assaulted by three players at one time, Le Soleil newspaper reported in 2015, when it spoke to the complainant.

One of the players told her it was "an initiation," the newspaper said. The woman told the newspaper a fourth person allegedly sexually assaulted her in the bathroom of the hotel room. The woman's and the players' names have not been made public.

The allegations have not been proven in court.

Alexander Behne/Radio-Canada
Alexander Behne/Radio-Canada

The woman said she attempted suicide after becoming depressed and receiving harassing text messages and emails from the players involved, according to the Le Soleil report.

2nd alleged incident

The woman reported her allegations to Trois-Rivières police after learning about another alleged incident involving Gatineau Olympiques players in February 2014 at a Boston Pizza restaurant in Gatineau.

Gatineau police announced in April 2015 that no criminal charges would be laid after internally investigating media reports about allegations of a "public sex act" allegedly involving several players and an intoxicated woman in the washroom of the restaurant on Boulevard des Grives.

Janhke said his understanding is that the Quebec City police are not considering looking into public sex act allegations at the restaurant.

TSN first reported that police in Quebec City are looking to re-examine their investigation into the alleged group sexual assault involving four players in 2014 after speaking to Sébastien Lemire, the Bloc Québécois sports critic.

Sean Kirkpatrick/The Canadian Press
Sean Kirkpatrick/The Canadian Press

In a statement to Radio-Canada, Lemire said he asked the commissioner of the QMJHL, Gilles Courteau, about the alleged incident in 2014 in Quebec City and was told if police reopened the investigation the league would co-operate.

"There was a previous investigation into this matter," said Courteau at a parliamentary committee on July 27. "However, if the police service expresses interest in reopening this investigation, we will certainly co‑operate with the investigation."

Lemire wrote in French he told police about this comment and received acknowledgement from police that it had been sent to the investigator in charge to consider.

Parliamentary committee looking at Hockey Canada

The parliamentary committee is probing Hockey Canada's handling of a 2018 group sexual assault allegation involving eight Canadian Hockey League players, including some members of the 2018 world junior team.

The woman filed a lawsuit in April that also alleges the players pressured her not to report the allegations or co-operate with a police investigation.

Hockey Canada's board of directors approved a settlement of up to $3.5 million and paid for it using a fund in part made up of players' registration fees.

London police closed the investigation into the 2018 allegations in February 2019 without laying any criminal charges.

Following an eruption of public outrage, London's police chief announced last week that the force would conduct an internal review to "determine what, if any, additional investigative avenues exist."

Police in Halifax have also opened an investigation into an allegation of a separate group sexual assault involving hockey players in 2003.

TSN reported that a source contacted Conservative MP John Nater and described a video showing about six players who were with Canada's world junior team at the time having sex with a woman who was non-responsive and lying face up on a pool table.

Hockey Canada has come under intense public scrutiny and has launched a plan to overhaul "toxic behaviour" on and off the ice. MPs from multiple parties are continuing to call on Hockey Canada's leadership to resign. The Minister of Sport Pascale St-Onge is calling for an overhaul of the board of directors.

The chair of the parliamentary committee probing Hockey Canada's handling of sexual misconduct said there are outstanding witnesses they want to hear from. A date for the next meeting has not been scheduled.

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