Quebec Major Junior Hockey League facing proposed $15M class-action suit over alleged hazing
Application names league, teams and Canadian Hockey League
WARNING: This article contains graphic content and may affect those who have experienced sexual violence or know someone affected by it.
A former player with the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League has filed an application for a class-action lawsuit of more than $15 million against the league and its teams over alleged hazing abuse.
Carl Latulippe played in Quebec's main junior league between 1994 and 1996 and claims he was abused during hazing rituals with two teams.
Latulippe, 45, says that during training camp he was forced by veteran players of the Chicoutimi Saguenéens to undress and masturbate in front of teammates on a team bus, with full knowledge of the coaches. He also alleges that team veterans assaulted rookies with soap wrapped in towels.
The plaintiff's accusations were made public last month in an article in Montreal's La Presse, at which time the league said it had already opened investigations into sexual and physical abuse among its franchises.
Latulippe was Chicoutimi's first-round pick in the 1994 QMJHL draft. He was 16. After the masturbation incident on the bus, he left the team without saying why, but the head coach convinced him to return. Latulippe said he discussed the behaviour of veteran players with his coach, who allegedly replied that the hazing would only last a year and that it helped to build character. Latulippe played six regular season games with the Saguenéens.
His application for a class action says he was later traded to the Drummondville Voltigeurs and was also abused by members of that team during hazing rituals. Latulippe alleges that Voltigeurs rookies were required to cover themselves in shampoo to make it difficult for veterans to grab and assault them in the shower.
One Voltigeurs veteran allegedly tore the anus of a rookie by shoving a hanger inside him. Latulippe also describes being forced to binge drink at a team initiation event in Drummondville, Que.
After the Voltigeurs, the plaintiff played for the Beauport Harfangs — who have since become the Quebec City Remparts. He said no abusive hazing incidents occurred while he was on that team.
Suit would cover 1969 to present
The class action seeks to represent "all hockey players who have experienced abuse while they were minors and playing in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, starting from July 1, 1969."
Latulippe says he suffered from several psychological consequences as a result of the alleged abuse. He says he became addicted to drugs and gambling, which prevented him from maintaining his income.
As well, he says he hasn't been able to set foot in an arena since his time in the Quebec major juniors and refuses to allow his son to play hockey out of fear the child would suffer similar abuse.
The request to launch the class action dated Tuesday was filed at the Quebec City courthouse, and a Superior Court judge must authorize the case before it can proceed.
Latulippe's application targets the Quebec league, its member franchises and its umbrella organization — the Canadian Hockey League — and seeks $650,000 for the plaintiff in damages, including pain, suffering and humiliation, as well as lost productivity and therapy. Another $15 million is to be shared among other alleged victims.
The proposed lawsuit notes that both the CHL and QMJHL have codes of conduct in which teams have the obligation to supervise players. A bylaw for Quebec's league states that players must evolve "in a safe and formative environment to prepare them for their life as an adult."
Latulippe's lawsuit says that the defendants, "when they had an obligation to protect the members of the class and to look after their well-being, witnessed the abuse, encouraged it, neglected, tolerated, covered up or ignored it."
He filed his application after the Ontario Superior Court in February denied authorization for a class action in that province involving players in Canada's three major junior hockey leagues — including the QMJHL — dating back to 1975.
Ontario Superior Court Justice Paul Perell accepted evidence that former players suffered "horrific and despicable and unquestionably criminal acts" at the hands of teammates and staff during initiations. But the judge said the plaintiffs failed to present a workable plan to litigate.
The plaintiffs can still appeal that decision or launch individual lawsuits against the leagues and teams.
The Quebec filing excludes anyone who participates in any individual lawsuits in Ontario.
In a statement issued Wednesday evening, a spokesperson for the QMJHL said the league had launched an independent investigation into Latulippe's allegations.
"The QMJHL takes allegations of maltreatment very seriously and condemns the conduct of any perpetrators or teams that have acted inappropriately and outside the expectations and standards of the QMJHL," wrote Maxime Blouin, the league's communications director.
Support is available for anyone who has been sexually assaulted. You can access crisis lines and local support services through 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.
With files from CBC News