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Upon hearing that five members of Canada’s 2018 world junior hockey team had been told to surrender to police to face sexual-assault charges, the response of many in the country was undoubtedly: justice, finally.


But we should never forget the degree to which some of those in positions of power and influence attempted to ensure that details of this ugly and disturbing alleged incident never saw the light of day.

Of course, there is the presumption of innocence until proven guilty. That applies here, as well. But the lives of five young men – who, it should be noted, have not yet been formally charged – could soon be changed irrevocably.

It’s worth recalling here the chain of events that led to this week’s incredible developments.

We might never have known any of this if it weren’t for the efforts of the media. It was TSN that first reported Hockey Canada had settled a lawsuit for an undisclosed amount that was brought by a London, Ont., woman seeking $3.55-million in damages for the pain and suffering she allegedly endured at the hands of as many as eight players during a gang sexual assault in a hotel suite in the summer of 2018.

While disturbing to read, it’s important to recall what the young woman, who was 20 at the time, said happened. In the claim, which has not been tested in court, the woman – who conceded she was inebriated – vividly recalled being forced to engage in oral and vaginal sex with several men. She says she was spat on. While crying and attempting to leave the room, she was forced to stay. She says she felt she had to say things on video intended to exonerate the players from any wrongdoing – to say that it was all consensual.


Despite settling the lawsuit, senior officials at Hockey Canada, the national organization in charge of the junior hockey program, claimed they didn’t know who was involved. It was a statement as ridiculous as it was disheartening and sickening. It defies all logic and reason that Hockey Canada officials wouldn’t have looked into who was involved in the alleged incident, when they viewed it seriously enough to offer an undisclosed amount of money to the alleged victim.

The London police initially opened an investigation, and then closed it in fairly short order without any charges being laid. It was only reopened after the initial TSN story sparked other groundbreaking reports, many from The Globe and Mail, which in turn provoked a wave of outrage across the country and in the corridors of the House of Commons.

In October, 2022, London police investigators acknowledged in an Ontario Court of Justice filing that they had reasonable grounds to believe five members of the 2018 team sexually assaulted a woman in a hotel room.

And so here we are today.

We don’t know how this case will ultimately resolve itself – whether people will end up in jail or walk away without penalty. But we do know that this case, this story, has had a profound impact on not just the world of junior hockey, but amateur sports in general.

Since it broke, there have been several stories that have chronicled abuse of athletes and others at the amateur level in this country. We have now arrived at a consensus that abuse anywhere in this country’s sports system can’t be tolerated under any circumstances.

In response to this week’s news about the junior hockey players, Carla Qualtrough, Minister of Sport and Physical Activity, said: “The reckoning that we are seeing in hockey and across the sport system is the result of brave survivors coming forward to share their lived experiences.

“There is a safe sport crisis in our country.”

Indeed there is – and we are at a moment where we need to do something about it, once and for all. It starts with those in leadership positions in sports bodies across the country. We need people who are unafraid to do what’s right, who won’t look the other way when something bad has happened, who will never defend actions by athletes that are indefensible.

In other words, we need sports leaders who are the antithesis of those who inherited positions of authority at Hockey Canada when this sexual-assault allegation first surfaced. (Thankfully, they are now all long gone.)

More than five years after the fact, we may finally see justice served in this matter. Hopefully, it marks a turning point in amateur sport in this country – one in which it is generally acknowledged and accepted that actions have consequences, no matter who you are.

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