Whether or not you were a student at the University of Ottawa during February of last year, chances are you were at least somewhat aware of the sexual assault scandal involving members of the university’s men’s varsity hockey team.
On February 24th, just as students were returning from their spring reading week, university sports services were made aware of an alleged sexual assault claimed to have been committed by members of the uOttawa varsity men’s hockey team. The assault was said to have involved members of the team and a female student from Lakehead University, taking place the weekend of February 1st, when the team was attending a tournament in Thunder Bay.
In early March, university president Allan Rock announced that the entire men’s hockey team would be suspended, putting an end to their 2013-2014 season, as well as their 2014-2015 season, after further investigation into the case. On top of this, the team’s coach was dismissed by the university.
What many who did not follow the story over the summer months may not have known, is that this past August, Captain David Foucher, and Assistant Captain Guillaume Donovan, were charged with sexually assaulting a female student at Lakehead University. The assault was reported to have taken place the weekend the team was visiting Thunder Bay in February.
Despite official charges against the team only applying to two of the GeeGee hockey players, the rest of the team remains suspended for the collective allegations made back in February.
It was recently announced that since last year’s suspension, lawyer Lawrence Greenspon has begun to represent all but the two above named players on the men’s hockey team. Greenspon is representing those remaining team members in a combined $6 million lawsuit against the university, for damages caused through the way the university treated and chose to reprimand the players throughout last year’s scandal.
Those players who faced suspension, despite the fact that they were not involved in the alleged assault, claimed that the way the university and Allan Rock treated their case caused damages to their personal and public lives. Some players felt that the scandal left them with a negative public image, caused tensions within their personal lives, and some faced harassment when wearing their team apparel. Other players claimed that their connection to the team and scandal caused them to lose summer jobs and could potentially jeopardize their future academic careers. They also cited negative impacts on their chances of furthering their futures in hockey.
Some team members have chosen to leave the University of Ottawa and transfer to other schools, as well as take on positions on different hockey teams.
Currently, the only publicly named plaintiff in the lawsuit against the university and Allan Rock is kinesiology student and hockey player Andrew Creppin. On February 2nd, the evening the assault is said to have taken place, Creppin has stated that he was in the hospital with a teammate who had gotten sick that evening.
While the university has not yet publicly stated that they have received any official papers referring to such a lawsuit, the position of those players who were not directly connected to the assault, must be taken under consideration. As the scandal remains recent, it also connects with the current case involving a group of male students at Dalhousie University.
The scandal in Dalhousie involves sexually explicit and misogynistic comments about female students, posted on a Facebook page, created by a group of fourth year male dentistry students. Much like the Ottawa hockey team, the members of the Dalhousie dentistry group also faced suspension, alongside demands from fellow students for their expulsion. The identities of those involved Dalhousie students have not been revealed as of yet.
As cases like these reconfirm the overly apparent presence of sexual assault and rape culture on Canadian university campuses, do we question the ways in which universities are handling these cases? Should sexual assault and harassment cases involving university students be put primarily into the hands of the authorities, and should university officials only be permitted to implement pre-established policies for dealing with such cases? With cases involving large groups like the GeeGees hockey team, should universities not be considering the emotional and personal effects publicity and academic disciplinary actions will have on students involved in such cases?
Hopefully answers will be found to questions like these, as more light is shed on the assault charges facing the team’s captain and assistant captain, as well as the remaining team member’s lawsuit against the university.
Until then, students at the University of Ottawa should be aware of their available resources if they feel they have been affected by this scandal, or any other issues which may have caused any physical or emotional anxieties, or any damages to their personal and public lives.
SASS (Student Academic Success Service), offers students a counseling and coaching service, where students can book individual appointments to discuss any personal issues or problems with an assigned counsellor. In other cases, students may also choose to seek out other sources provided by the university, such as Health Services, the Women’s Resource Centre, Pride Centre, and Office for the Prevention of Discrimination and Harassment.
Those students interested can view a complete list of services offered by the university at the following page: http://sass.uottawa.ca/en/personal/services/mental-health-wellness/.