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The Globe and Mail

Former coach charged in sexual assaults of boys

Darryl Dyck/The Globe and Mail

A man who coached minor hockey and baseball in a small B.C. community has been charged in the decades-old sexual assaults of eight boys, prompting the RCMP to ask other possible victims to come forward – a plea echoed by former NHL player and abuse survivor Sheldon Kennedy.

Mounties announced the arrest at a news conference on Friday and revealed that the man who was the target of their investigation was an RCMP officer for 14 years, after the offences are alleged to have taken place.

Superintendent Brendan Fitzpatrick of the B.C. RCMP's major crime section said Alan John Davidson was arrested on Thursday in Calgary and faces eight counts of indecent assault. The allegations have not been proven. His next court appearance is scheduled for early April.

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Supt. Fitzpatrick said a man contacted RCMP in late 2012 saying he was sexually assaulted in the early 1980s by his minor hockey coach.

Mounties interviewed other former players, Supt. Fitzpatrick said, and one alleged his baseball coach sexually assaulted him.

Supt. Fitzpatrick said a total of eight people were identified or came forward. He said the attacks are alleged to have occurred in Clearwater, B.C., between 1976 and 1981.

"Considering the traumatic nature of the allegations, I would like to commend those individuals who came forward after all these years," Supt. Fitzpatrick told reporters. "It takes a great deal of courage for those individuals to speak out about their victimization."

The force has set up a tip line for anyone with information on the case and released an old photo of the accused.

Mr. Kennedy – who played for three National Hockey League teams in his eight-year career and has spoken publicly about enduring abuse from his minor hockey coach – said the most important thing for survivors to know is "you're not alone and that your voice will be heard."

"Many people are suffering when they don't come forward, and I know, because I was one of them. I know where it took me when I didn't come forward. I was one of those people that was in jails and always being arrested and so forth. So I guess if I can carry any message, it's hope," he said in Calgary at a news conference at the Sheldon Kennedy Child Advocacy Centre.

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Mr. Kennedy said it takes courage to come forward with allegations, particularly after many years, because people find ways – "healthy or not" – to survive.

"You could imagine for an individual to get to that point … how many years they were carrying that shame and that guilt and that pain with them. If it was anything like me, a lot of times they're probably on the verge of, 'Will it be today or will it be tomorrow that I exit this world?'"

Mr. Kennedy said the existence of his advocacy centre is a testament to the fact society has recognized such abuse can occur and must be addressed.

Mr. Davidson, 58, had been working as an Alberta sheriff. The province's Ministry of Justice did not return a message seeking comment on his arrest.

Supt. Fitzpatrick said Mr. Davidson joined the RCMP in 1982 and was a constable until 1996. He worked in Lloydminster, Alta., and several Saskatchewan communities. He left the force, Supt. Fitzpatrick said, to pursue another opportunity, but continued coaching until 2008.

Supt. Fitzpatrick said the force is not aware of any allegations involving Mr. Davidson after he became an RCMP officer.

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The superintendent said the fact Mr. Davidson was hired by the force "is a concern," but added the recruitment and screening process has evolved in the past three decades.

Mr. Davidson was charged with indecent assault, Supt. Fitzpatrick said, because the charges date back to before the Criminal Code was revised. He said the Criminal Code of the time is what applies.

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