The third-party investigation into the alleged group sexual assault case involving Canada’s 2003 men’s World Junior team in Halifax is “progressing well,” a person familiar with the investigation told Sportsnet.
The investigation, being conducted by Ottawa-based investigator and lawyer Jennifer White, began July 22. In a statement issued to Sportsnet, White said the investigation is intended to find out what happened, “what Hockey Canada knew at the time” of the alleged incident, and if any Hockey Canada policies were violated.
“My mandate is to make factual findings in respect of the allegations and to determine whether there has been a violation of any applicable Hockey Canada policies,” the statement reads. “My mandate also includes a determination of what Hockey Canada knew at the time and what steps were taken by the organization. Although I am a lawyer, I have not been retained to provide legal advice to Hockey Canada or to the ITP. My role is that of an independent and neutral investigator and fact finder.”
White has been retained by Hockey Canada’s independent third-party (ITP) investigation mechanism, which is part of the organization’s recently unveiled action plan. Overseeing the ITP and reporting the findings to Hockey Canada are Ottawa-area lawyers Erin Durant and Brian Ward. This extra layer of removal is a change in approach from how Hockey Canada is pursuing the investigation into the alleged group sexual assault involving the 2018 Canadian world junior team, which was launched in June 2018 and reopened earlier this summer, and is being conducted by Toronto law firm Henein Hutchison for Hockey Canada.
No official timeline has been set for the completion of the 2003 investigation. The source said the results will be shared strictly with the ITP. Halifax police and the NHL are also conducting separate investigations.
A TSN report in July cited three sources having viewed a video that allegedly contains “roughly a half-dozen players taking turns having sex with a woman who was non-responsive.” TSN said the video was taken during the 2003 world junior championship in Halifax.
The CBC reported on Aug. 24 that two players who may be in the video have been identified to Halifax police.
White has been independently conducting harassment, sexual harassment and sexual misconduct investigations in workplaces, universities and in sport for the last six years. She has completed a number of safe-sport investigations for the Sport Dispute Resolution Centre of Canada and is also part of the Office of the Sport Integrity Commissioner investigation team, which began operating in June.
Since news broke earlier this year about a settlement surrounding the alleged 2018 incident, Hockey Canada has had its federal funding suspended by Minister of Sport Pascale St-Onge. One of the conditions for lifting that suspension was that the organization sign on as part of the Office of the Sport Integrity Commissioner. Hockey Canada has yet to sign on to the office but said in its action plan it is committed to doing so.
During White’s investigation, she said she is asking anybody with information to contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org and that she “will do my utmost to protect any source’s identity.”
Hockey Canada is facing increased scrutiny in the wake of the two alleged assaults and news that the governing body had a fund using membership fees to pay out sexual abuse claims, with widespread demand for a change in leadership — including from survivors’ advocate Sheldon Kennedy and all four federal political parties on Canada’s Committee on Canadian Heritage.