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University has refused to publish reports

Photo: Marta Kierkus

The University of Ottawa is refusing to release two investigative reports into the events surrounding the suspension of the men’s hockey team, admitting that the documents were prepared as part of a pre-emptive legal defence.

Following demands by the Canadian Press to see the reports under the province’s Freedom of Information act, a letter to the information commissioner from the U of O’s administration states its primary worry about releasing the files is that they are considered legal advice.

Many of the players, who have now launched a $6-million lawsuit against the university, participated in the investigation, which served to help guard the university against a lawsuit.

The university hired private investigator Steven Gaon to examine the circumstances surrounding the team, which was suspended a year ago following allegations of sexual assault on the part of two players. This January, the university extended the suspension into the 2015–16 season.

Gaon produced two reports, one about allegations of sexual misconduct and one about excessive drinking, which lead to the firing of coach Real Paiement for not informing school officials about the incident. 

The university enlisted the help of the law firm Norton Rose Fulbright Canada, who hired Gaon to prepare the reports for use as legal advice, according to the Canadian Press

At the time, the university said in a press release that “Gaon’s findings reveal that while the events in Thunder Bay represented an isolated incident, the behaviour of some players was unacceptable, did not reflect the university’s values and failed to meet the university’s expectations of its student-athletes.”

They said the reports would not be published to avoid conflicts with the police investigation, and out of respect for the university’s privacy. 

The remaining members of the team have launched a class-action lawsuit against the university for allegedly tarnishing their reputations by suspending the whole team.

“If you’re going to punish somebody for something that you said they did wrong, you have to at least disclose to them the basis for the punishment … it’s fundamental fairness to human beings,” said Lawrence Greenspon, the players’ lawyer, according to Canadian Press.

The U of O has now filed a notice of intent to defend against the lawsuit.