Saying "I have no one to blame but myself," an emotional Marcel Aubut announced he is taking a "time out" from his business and public life.
The former head of the Canadian Olympic Committee – he resigned last weekend, days after the Globe and Mail revealed he was the subject of a sexual harassment complaint from an employee – has decided to leave behind his lucrative Quebec City law practice and seek expert counseling help in the aftermath of a raft of allegations of inappropriate behaviour toward women.
The COC, which was made aware of allegations regarding its former president as long ago as 2009, has hired a Toronto law firm to conduct an independent investigation into how that behaviour was allowed to continue.
Reading from a prepared statement during a seven-minute appearance at a downtown Montreal hotel, Mr. Aubut appeared to fight back tears as he apologized for his actions and vowed to change. He has variously been accused of fondling, verbal harassment and forced kisses.
Since news of the initial allegation surfaced, several more women have come forward, the latest a former Quebec Nordiques hostess (Mr. Aubut was the club's principal owner), who alleges she was groped on multiple occasions; she told the TVA network on Thursday she was 15 at the time of the incidents.
In a subdued voice, Mr. Aubut says he plans to "undertake a full introspection" and that he has already sought help in understanding his behaviour.
At the same time, he repeated a contention his allies and friends – including high-profile Journal de Montreal columnist Réjean Tremblay – have made since a storm of accusations began to envelop the 67-year-old: that he is, in a sense, the victim of changing social mores.
"Society has changed, greater respect is required among individuals, and more specifically between men and women," he said.
Known for his bombastic manner, sprawling web of contacts and his justly-earned reputation as a financial rainmaker, Mr. Aubut is leaving behind his partners at BCF, the firm he joined after being swept up in the demise of legal giant Heenan Blaikie, because "the interests of the firm must come before my own."
Nevertheless, Mr. Aubut said he intends to maintain "a productive and fruitful professional life."
The father of three daughters also thanked his family for being stalwart over the past 10 days, saying after a heavy sigh that "they have succeeded in convincing me the love that binds us is absolutely indestructible."
Clad in a dark suit and standing behind a lectern – it was roped off from the assembled media – Mr. Aubut said he was sorry.
"To all those I hurt or disappointed, I reiterate my unreserved apology . . . and I pledge to do everything I can to become a better person," he said.
With a quick thank you, he bowed his head and strode purposefully into an adjoining room without taking any questions.