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U of O suspends team as Thunder Bay police lead investigation into incident that occurred last month

Photo by Marc Jan

The University of Ottawa has suspended its men’s varsity hockey program due to allegations that certain members of the team were involved in a gang sexual assault.

According to police, some team members were allegedly involved in the sexual assault of a female university student in Thunder Bay several weeks ago, the Ottawa Citizen reported, though the incident was only reported to the U of O administration by a third party Feb. 24.

The university reported the incident to police the following day and said they will be cooperating with the investigation and launching an internal review. The review will be conducted by a third party outside the university.

The team played two games in Thunder Bay on Jan. 31 and Feb. 1.

Until the review is complete, it is unknown whether the team will participate in the 2014–15 season. In the interim, members are suspended from all team-related activities, but are still able to attend classes.

The investigation is being led by Thunder Bay police, and Ottawa police will assist in any follow-up investigation necessary. The female involved in the assault is now cooperating.

“These are serious allegations,” Patrick Charette, director of corporate communications, said at a press meeting. “You will also appreciate that there are all kinds of legal rights, including privacy of all innocent parties involved.”

Charette said the university was asked by police not to communicate publicly about the investigation until March 3.

The university will not reveal how many of its student athletes were involved in the incident.

According to the Citizen‘s report, police notified administrators at Lakehead University of the incident, saying it did not take place on campus and that none of the Thunderwolves players are alleged to have been involved.

Nicole Desnoyers, vp equity for the Student Federation of the University of Ottawa (SFUO), said the federation has very little information about the incident at this point.

She said the SFUO, joined by the Graduate Students’ Association and other student groups, is launching a taskforce to look at how to improve and build upon support structures currently in place, as well as how to engage students in the discussion surrounding rape culture.

“This is pointing to a much larger, systemic issue on campus,” she said. “It is extremely pervasive.”

The Gee-Gees’ season ended Feb. 21 after the Gee-Gees lost to the Queen’s Gaels in the provincial playoffs.