London, Ontario. — On an otherwise quiet and gloomy Monday in downtown London, satellite news trucks marked the spots of greatest interest.
They lined up in front of the courthouse entrance on Queens Avenue before most people went to work, with numerous cameras and live broadcasts ahead of the first court appearance of five members of the 2018 Canadian World Junior Team who were charged. I got in line with a reporter. For sexual assault.
The level of curiosity wasn’t dampened by the fact that none of Dillon Dube, Cal Foote, Alex Formenton, Carter Hart or Michael McLeod were in attendance. Their lawyers also chose to come to Courtroom 4 via video for a brief hearing, rather than stand in front of a bench filled mostly with justices of the peace and reporters.
“The circus has come to town,” the locals said, and they were right.
Police speak about 2018 Canada World Juniors investigation
Once the hearing concluded, the satellite truck traveled south to the convention center on York Street and began setting up shop ahead of London police scheduled to make their first public statements on the charges.
This story has captivated a hockey-obsessed nation since it broke in the spring of 2022. The parliamentary hearing was convened amid public outrage over the handling of a civil sexual assault case involving a member of Canada’s 2018 World Junior Hockey Team, and the fallout reached the highest levels of government. These hearings helped dismantle the upper echelons of Hockey Canada’s management structure and shut out major corporate sponsors. Now, as the case progresses through legal proceedings and possible trial, the desire for information will only increase.
At one point during Monday’s press conference, London Police Chief Tai Truong reminded the media that they were not here to debate the merits of hockey culture.
“I’m not a hockey player. I don’t know anything about hockey,” he said. “This is a sexual assault investigation.”
More than 70 members of the media and more than a dozen cameras filled the room as Truong read out the charges against the five men, who all played professional hockey before surrendering to police in London last month. Mr McLeod was charged with two counts of sexual assault and Mr McLeod was charged with one count each of sexual assault. The incidents involving Dube, Foote, Formenton and Hart are said to have taken place in a room at the Delta London Armories hotel after Hockey Canada’s celebration of the team’s gold medal win in June 2018. It emanates from the beginning.
Truong apologized to the alleged victim for taking so long to file charges in the case.
“On behalf of London Police, I would like to sincerely apologize to the victim and her family for the length of time it has taken to get to this point,” Truong said.
He was standing in a room called “Salon E” on the main floor of the London Convention Center. Hockey on June 18, 2018 He was just down the escalator from the ballroom where the Canada Gala was held.
Despite media and public demands for answers, a spokesperson for London’s police force said it was unclear why they chose to reopen the investigation in July 2022 after originally closing it in February 2019. refused to reveal much.
Mr Truong and Detective Sergeant Katherine Dunn evaded questions on the matter. They reiterated that sharing too much information with the public could jeopardize litigation.
“That’s a great question. And it’s a question that everyone wants to know. And right now, we can’t answer that question,” Truong said. “That would really jeopardize the current process. There’s a time and a place.”
At another point in the press conference, Dunn added: “I can’t provide specific details about what happened over the past year and a half or so, because that’s the evidence in the case.”
A Night in London: Sexual Assault Allegation and Hockey Canada Reimbursement
Truong and Dang said the reopening of the criminal case should not be seen as unusual.
“I don’t think it’s unusual for us to reopen the case,” Dunn said. “If someone contacts our police department and says they had a bad experience during the reporting process or there was a problem with the conclusion of the investigation, we will definitely take another look.”
“When we are talking about criminal offenses, it is not uncommon for an investigation to be closed until further information or evidence is found,” Truong added.
And while London police have gone out of their way multiple times to identify the process as one ongoing investigation rather than two separate investigations, Truong said he first filed a complaint in 2018. Police officers who investigated the case have confirmed that they are no longer actively working on the case.
“As we speak, I can tell you that they are not part of this investigation team,” Truong said.
Earlier Monday, lawyers for the five players appeared on behalf of their clients in the Ontario Court of Justice in London. The court appearance was short, lasting about 15 minutes, and consisted mainly of procedural matters. The court issued a publication ban to protect the confidentiality of the alleged victim, referred to in court documents as “EM,” and two witnesses, and set his next court appearance for April 30.
Justice of the Peace Tara Oedekerke presided over the court appearance, with Heather Donkers representing the DA’s office.
Mr Donkers said the Crown was proceeding with prosecution and Meghan Cunningham and Christina Mildred would also be working on the case. Cunningham chairs the Sexual Assault Advisory Group, according to the Attorney General’s Office.
Donkers said the Crown will soon send discovery materials to defense attorneys, including audio/video components and paper-based documents. The next court date is expected to include consideration of that disclosure and a royal resolution conference.
Hart, Formenton, Dube and Foote are all charged with one count of sexual assault. McLeod is charged with two counts of sexual assault and an additional charge of being a party to a crime.
According to Dunn, “One of the charges levied against him relates to his own conduct, and the alleged party to the crime is related to aiding and abetting another person to commit the crime.” Asked how he “assisted” in the attack, Dunn said he could not provide further details.
London police would not comment on whether more people might be charged in the future.
“I just want to say that we have presented charges that have a reasonable basis at this time,” Dunn said.
At Monday’s press conference, Dunn read a statement from Karen Belhumeur, the attorney representing EM. The statement said the alleged victim strongly hopes that this legal process will move forward.
“It takes incredible courage for victims of sexual assault to come forward to the police and engage the criminal justice system,” the statement said. “While that is certainly true of EM, she remains determined to see this process through to the end. We ask that you respect our privacy and dignity.”
In a statement released Monday afternoon, Hockey Canada said it had “fully cooperated” with London police throughout the investigation.
“All players from the 2018 national junior team remain suspended by Hockey Canada” pending the completion of the appeal process as part of its own review, the governing body said.
When they appear in their next court appearance in London, the defense will have a better understanding of the nature of the evidence they are facing. Over the next 12 weeks, lawyers for the five players will have the opportunity to consider evidence collected by London police. They use this time to strategize the best approach to protect their clients from these accusations. All five players have pleaded not guilty through their lawyers.
But even if the next hearing is scheduled for April 30th, a potential trial date is still far in the future, with experts saying these hearings could start anywhere from 18 to 24 months from now. I predict that.
Given the high profile of this case and the fact that the investigation has temporarily closed, scrutiny of London police’s handling of these charges is likely to continue. The lack of a clear answer Monday could lead to further calls for accountability and transparency on behalf of the department when it comes to sexual assault cases in the region.
And Truong and his department know they will be under the microscope for allowing such long delays in this matter.
“I’m not happy that it took me six years as police chief. I really don’t have any satisfaction with this. I don’t think there’s any member who is satisfied with this,” Truong said. . “That is why I have apologized to the victims and their families. But I am confident that something like this will never happen again.”
(Photo: Peter Power/AFP via Getty Images)