Hockey players file $6 million lawsuit against U. of Ottawa
Hockey players with the University of Ottawa have launched a $6 million lawsuit against the school on Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2015. (Errol McGihon/QMI Agency)
University of Ottawa hockey players have filed a $6-million lawsuit against their school and its president, Allan Rock, over allegations of sexual assault they say have ruined their reputations and cost them jobs.
Two members of the Gee-Gees hockey team face charges of sexual assault stemming from an alleged incident involving a 21-year-old woman during a road trip to Lakehead University in Thunder Bay last February. When the university found out about a month later, it suspended the hockey program and fired the coach.
The players say they've all been tarred with the same brush.
"Sexual assault is a serious crime but since offenders carry a huge stigma it's particularly important to make sure that innocent people aren't accused," lawyer Lawrence Greenspon said Tuesday in a news conference announcing the lawsuit. "It's unconscionable for the university to tarnish the reputation of student athletes in the manner that they did when they knew that these students were not involved."
As of Tuesday afternoon, the university had not been served with legal documents and will not comment before reviewing any legal papers, said spokeswoman Caroline Milliard.
The team is suing for $4 million or breach of fiduciary duty, negligence and misfeasance in public office and $2 million for punitive, exemplary and aggravated damages. Greenspon said the lawsuit could take up to several years to settle.
Player Andrew Creppin said the actions of the university have put his reputation and future in question. Other players claim to have lost summer jobs and co-op placements.
The lawsuit also says members of the team were filled with anxiety and could no longer attend class, which affected their grades. Others were allegedly harassed and shunned from athletic activities. A few claim they were barred from their own graduation ceremonies.
"There is a right way and a wrong to way to go about investigating sexual assault," said Greenspon. "This was the wrong way."
The two accused, David Foucher and Guillaume Donovan, had been scheduled to appear in court in Thunder Bay Tuesday, but Ottawa lawyer Christian Deslauriers, who represents Donovan, said he has asked the Crown for further disclosure of evidence against his client.
The Crown is expected to respond with a time frame for disclosure, but Deslauriers said he doesn't expect another court date until mid-February.
-- With files from Aedan Helmer