University’s statement says some players ‘played a role in the activity’

The University of Ottawa has filed a statement of defence in response to a $6-million lawsuit, filed last January, by former players of the 2014 men’s hockey team. The university is alleging that three members of the team had sex with a woman, while several other players were present in the room, watched, played a role in the activity, or touched the woman.   

The suit came after the university suspended the team in March, 2014, following an alleged sexual assault during a road trip in Thunder Bay on Feb. 1-2, 2014. Two players, former team captain Guillaume Donovan and former assistant captain David Foucher, were charged with sexual assault. The suit, led by Andrew Creppin, alleges the university tarnished the reputations of the rest of the players who weren’t charged.

HockeyLawsuitPressRelease_MartaKierkus_WEB

Lawyer Lawrence Greenspon (left), and former U of O hockey player Andrew Creppin. Photo: Marta Kierkus

The university’s statement of defence tells a very different story, suggesting that many players besides Donovan and Foucher may have seen or participated in the alleged sexual assault.

The statement says that “several other team members, in various states of undress, watched while Foucher and Donovan engaged in sexual activity with (the woman), or were present in the room while the activity was occurring.”

It continues, “some of these players may have played a role in the activity or touched (the woman). Other players overheard the sexual activity through the open connecting door to the adjoining hotel room.”

The statement also alleges that many players were very inebriated at the time of the incident, to the point that one player, Stephen Blunden, was sent to hospital. After hearing about it, Head Coach Réal Paiement sent Creppin and teammates Patrick Burns, Austin Krahenbil and Matt White to assist Blundin. Foucher claimed to have no memory of the night’s event.

The statement goes on to allege that Paiement knew about the “alleged sexual assault” and “alleged incidents” and failed to report it, and that he acknowledged this fact in a meeting with university officials. According to the statement, “Coach Paiement chose to treat the events in Thunder Bay as an internal Team discipline issue.”

None of the university’s claims have been proven in court. Charges against Donovan and Foucher have also not been proven. Their next court date in Thunder Bay is scheduled for Feb. 2.

The university received much of its information from an independent investigator, whom they sent to Lakehead University, where the alleged sexual assault took place, and who interviewed 10 of the players. The investigator also interviewed coach Paiement and those staff members who agreed to be interviewed, a Lakehead student who was a friend of the victim (and who originally reported the incident), and RCMP constable Jean Juneau. At the request of the RCMP, the investigator did not interview the victim.

The investigator determined that the sexual activity between the victim and a rookie player was consensual, but was unable to determine if intercourse with Donovan and Foucher was consensual.

Screen-Shot-2014-08-27-at-7.28.41-PM

Guillaume Donovan (left) and David Foucher (right). Photo courtesy of geegees.ca

The statement says the university suspended the whole program as opposed to individual players because “the suspension was consistent with past practices at other post-secondary institutions, and in any case the team’s overall conduct contravened the university’s expectations of appropriate behaviour by student athletes.”

The statement denies any negligence on the part of the university, and that its actions were “fully within the university’s discretion and authority to manage its own affairs in a manner it deemed necessary and advisable under the circumstances. Accordingly, the plaintiff’s action is an abuse of process and should be struck.” It also states that the university does not owe these players “a duty of care.”

The university did not wish to comment further, stating in an email that the the statement of defence “speaks for itself”.

According to the Ottawa Citizen, Creppin’s lawyer, Lawrence Greenspon filed a reply with the court. The university’s statement “effectively clears” his client and other members of the team who weren’t on the trip or were at the hospital, reads Greenspon’s reply, but it carries on damaging the reputations of the remaining members of the team.