WARNING: This article contains graphic content and may affect those who have experienced sexual violence or know someone affected by it
Five former 2018 world junior hockey players have been told to surrender themselves to police in London, Ont., to face sexual assault charges in a high-profile case that has embroiled the sport’s governing body in controversy, the Globe and Mail reports.
London Police declined to comment publicly on the status of the case Wednesday.
In a social media post, the department said police “anticipate” holding a press conference on Feb. 5 to discuss “a sexual assault investigation dating back to 2018.”
CBC News has not independently verified the Globe and Mail report.
Court documents in 2022 revealed London Police believed they had reasonable grounds to accuse the players of sexually assaulting a young woman in a London, Ont., hotel room in June 2018.
London police closed the case in 2018, then re-opened it in 2022 in response to public outrage following a lawsuit.
CBC’s The Fifth Estate has reported that the first investigation was described as “cursory at best” by experts.
Sports Minister Carla Qualtrough said in a media statement Wednesday that she is “aware of recent developments” regarding the London police investigation.
She said “abuse, in all its forms, has no place in our sports system, whether on our fields, in our rinks, in locker rooms or elsewhere.”
“There is a sports safety crisis in our country,” Qualtrough said.
“My top priority is to embed accountability, integrity and safety into everything we do within the sport system.”
The alleged victim, known only as “E.M.” in court documents, sued eight unnamed players, Hockey Canada and the Canadian Hockey League for more than $3.5 million. Hockey Canada settled that lawsuit.
E.M.’s statement of claim alleged the woman, who was 20 at the time, met the players when the World Juniors champions were in London for the Hockey Canada Foundation Gala and Golf event.
Players’ responses to alleged sexual assault investigation The statement of claim alleged she went to a player’s hotel room afterward and engaged in sexual acts with him.
The statement of claim alleged that at some point, the player allowed seven others to enter the room without her “knowledge or consent.”
The statement of claim also said the men brought “golf clubs with them, knowing it would further frighten and intimidate her.”
Over several hours, according to the statement of claim, the group of hockey players engaged in a series of degrading sexual acts, including placing genitals on the victim’s face, slapping her buttocks, spitting and ejaculating on her and engaging in vaginal intercourse while she was too intoxicated to consent.
The young woman reported that at some points she was crying and tried to leave the room, but was “directed, manipulated and intimidated into remaining,” the statement of claim said.
The claim said that after the alleged sexual assault ended, the players filmed the young woman, instructed her to say she was sober and told her to shower.
The statement of claim also alleged the players pressured the young woman not to report the allegations or cooperate with a police investigation.
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Anatomy of a Scandal 2Allegations about misconduct at Hockey Canada
Court filings written by London Police and unsealed by the Globe and Mail in 2022 revealed more details of the investigation.
CBC News obtained the documents, which include requests by police for a judge to approve warrants and production orders in connection with the investigation.
The court filings say E.M. told police in 2018 she met one of the players at Jack’s Bar during a night of drinking, and that she also recalled an “older gentleman” buying rounds for the group and pouring a “Jagerbomb in her mouth.”
That man praised the player she was with and told E.M. to “take care of him,” the court filings said.
The court filings said a player referred to as “player #1” was the one who took E.M. back to a hotel room at the Delta Armouries.
Police interviewed “player #1” and a number of other players who allegedly were involved in the incident.
Player #1 told police that he thought E.M.’s sobriety “was fine” when they left the bar and headed to the hotel, the court filing said. Player #1 also said in his account to police that he had consensual sex with E.M. and confirmed he texted other players afterward to come to his room, the court filing said.
The court filing said that, based on the players’ interviews, one player reported that player #1 asked if any of them wanted specific sex acts in his room, and two players said yes.
WATCH | Court documents reveal details about alleged junior hockey sexual assault:
Documents reveal new details about alleged junior hockey sexual assaultRecently filed court documents lay out why police are seeking search warrants to further their investigation into five members of the 2018 World Junior hockey team they believe were involved in an alleged sexual assault of a woman in London, Ont. None of the police allegations have been tested in court and no charges have been laid.
The court filings also alleged player #1 was responsible for filming two videos of E.M. in the hotel room in which he asked if she was OK.
In one of the videos, the woman is seen wiping her eyes and slurring her words, the documents said.
E.M. told police she believed the video was taken at the end of the night and she had no recollection of it.
Sex and shame in Canada’s national game “The two video clips made by Player #1 were created, according to E.M., to protect against her going to police,” wrote London Police Sgt. David Younan, who prepared the court application.
“Player #1 even asked her if she was planning on going to the police … and asked she fix things with police.”
The court filing includes a text message exchange between E.M. and Player #1 in which he repeatedly asks E.M. to make the matter “go away.”
The Delta Armouries in London, Ont. Police have asked for a search warrant to the room where the alleged sexual assaults took place. (Amanda Margison / CBC News)”Ok so can you please figure out how to make this go away and contact the police,” Player #1 texted E.M., according to the court filing.
“What can you do to make this go away … Ok so you are putting an end to this right?”
None of the allegations have been proven in court.
In a statement sent to CBC News, Beckett Personal Injury Lawyers, the London-based law firm that represented E.M. in previous legal proceedings, said the prospect of a criminal prosecution in the matter “should be welcomed by anyone wishing to get to the truth.”
The firm said its lawyers do “not know the identities of the five players of interest nor are we in a position to share identities of anyone involved” in the matter.
E.M. has been “consistent in her desire for privacy,” a spokesperson for the firm said.
“We hope that renewed coverage of this case will result in renewed conversations about sexual assault, about institutional cultures, and about how best as a society we can address such with the goal of reducing both the occurrence of sexual crimes and also the resulting harm when they do occur,” the spokesperson said.
“Our hearts go out to victims and survivors everywhere as they struggle with their own individual circumstances, which news like this can aggravate.”
There are two other investigations tied to the alleged group sexual assault that are separate from the criminal case.
Hockey Canada hired a private law firm to conduct an investigation of the incident. It then set up an “independent adjudication panel” which completed a confidential hearing behind closed doors and issued a final report to determine whether the players allegedly involved should be sanctioned.
But the hockey organization hasn’t released the results because it says the panel’s conclusions are under appeal.
On Wednesday, Hockey Canada said it does not have an update to share on the “ongoing appeal process.”
The NHL is also conducting its own investigation and has not yet released its findings.
For anyone who has been sexually assaulted, there is support available through crisis lines and local support services via this Government of Canada website or the Ending Violence Association of Canada database. If you’re in immediate danger or fear for your safety or that of others around you, please call 911.