A four-year-old document is raising new questions about exactly when the Canadian Olympic Committee knew about sexual-harassment allegations concerning Marcel Aubut, the organization's head, and what it did about them.
The Globe and Mail reported this week that an employee of the COC's Toronto-based charitable foundation has lodged a formal complaint against Mr. Aubut, 67, who has voluntarily left his post pending its adjudication.
It is now clear that the organization's leadership has been aware of incidents involving Mr. Aubut since at least 2011, and that in one case it vowed to undertake "great efforts to keep the matter confidential."
In a letter hand-delivered to Mr. Aubut and dated June 13, 2011, Jean Dupré, then chief executive officer of the COC, details a meeting on June 3 of that year involving Mr. Aubut; Mr. Dupré; Chris Overholt, now the CEO; and the COC's lawyer at the time, Jolan Storch, to discuss an incident of "inappropriate comments about the individual becoming your 'girlfriend' … but also included inappropriate touching and a kiss on the lips."
The incident was alleged to have occurred after a COC event in Moncton, and was apparently witnessed by three Olympians. The letter adds: "[W]e had received non-detailed information from other sources indicating this was not an isolated incident."
The letter, obtained by La Presse and viewed by The Globe and Mail, indicates that no formal complaint was made against Mr. Aubut. It outlines conditions to which Mr. Aubut apparently agreed, including the ceasing of all sexual innuendo, touching and kissing ("other than air kisses toward the cheeks in greeting").
It also contains an admonition not to discuss the meeting or the incident. "You are to pretend that this conversation never happened, other than by changing your behaviour," the document reads.
Mr. Aubut is the first francophone head of the COC. He was elected to the presidency in 2009 – and formally took over the job in the spring of 2010 – but had been a board member since 2000.
He is also a well-known corporate lawyer in Quebec and continues to practise in Quebec City.
Mr. Aubut stepped down temporarily on Wednesday evening. The organization has appointed François Rolland, a former chief justice of the Quebec Superior Court, to investigate the matter. He is expected to report on or around Oct. 15.
At least three other women have since come forward with allegations of unwanted advances.
The COC said in a statement on Friday afternoon that it has also launched a search for "an independent third party" to conduct a separate probe into the allegations of misconduct.
"The Canadian Olympic Committee finds the allegations that have appeared recently in the media extremely disturbing. As such, we are expanding our investigations to fully examine any complaints, formal or otherwise, that are brought to our attention," the statement said.
The committee said it will "examine every possible way" to beef up its harassment policy, and said it is concerned "about the well-being of those who may be affected."
The 2011 letter refers to the COC's harassment policy (which was sent in appendix) and also states that Mr. Dupré, Mr. Overholt and Ms. Storch (the COC's in-house general counsel from 2011 until 2014) would meet with the unidentified staffer to provide assurances that it would not happen again and that harassment "will not be tolerated in our workplace."
"We wanted to let you know that we will have this discussion at the earliest opportunity and will handle this appropriately and with great efforts to keep the matter confidential," it continues. "After this conversation has occurred, it is our intention to finalize this matter and that no further actions or conversations referring to the alleged incident will take place."
The two-page letter concludes with: "Thank you for your commitment Marcel. We have many big things to achieve – let's refocus our efforts on making the Canadian Olympic Committee the best possible organization it can be and work together to achieve this."
Mr. Dupré, the document's signatory, left the COC a few months after Mr. Aubut was elected as president of the board of directors. He is now head of Montreal's Orchestre Métropolitain. Attempts to reach him this week were unsuccessful.