Sexual assault charges against 3 Montreal high school basketball coaches shake sports community

Wednesday's arrests have sent shock waves rippling through Saint-Laurent high school and Quebec's student sports network, as the three defendants are celebrated coaches of competitive teams.

News of Wednesday's arrests was 'like dropping a bomb,' says head of student sports network

Two victims who filed complaints with the police are former members of the Saint-Laurent High School women's basketball team. (Radio-Canada)

The arrests Wednesday of three basketball coaches from Saint-Laurent high school in Montreal's Saint-Laurent borough have sent shock waves rippling through Montreal's student sports network, as the three defendants are celebrated coaches of competitive teams.

Daniel Lacasse, 43, Charles-Xavier Boislard, 43, and Robert Luu, 31, appeared at the Montreal courthouse Thursday to face a total of eight charges, including sexual exploitation, sexual assault, sexual interference and invitation to sexual touching.

The charges involve two victims who are former players on Saint-Laurent High School women's basketball team.

Gustave Roel, executive director of the Réseau du sport étudiant du Québec, says news of the arrests was "like dropping a bomb" in the student sports community because of the men's professional accomplishments.

Lacasse, in particular, brought several basketball players to compete in American leagues.

"Whether the person is well-known or not, it's one situation too many, and it's unacceptable," said Roel. "We don't want it to happen again."

Roel reminded students, parents and staff of the existence of his network's online platform Je porte plainte, where people can go to file complaints about inappropriate behaviour in student sports.

Daniel Grimard, executive director of Basketball Québec, said it's important for sports associations to better educate parents, students and clubs on identifying signs of abuse.

"We don't want kids to be exposed to that," he said. 

Defendant released on bail

Boislard, who is alleged to have committed the assaults between September 2008 and April 2010, was released on bail Thursday under several conditions, including refraining from communicating with the other defendants. Boislard is not allowed to go to public spaces where children under the age of 16 may be present. He cannot contact staff of Saint-Laurent High School nor visit the school, and he isn't allowed to accept work that would put him in contact with minors.

Boislard is expected back in court on March 24 at 9 a.m.

Lacasse faces a single charge of sexual exploitation, alleged to have occurred between September 2010 and April 2012. Luu faces three charges for offences alleged to have occurred between September 2014 and December 2017.

The bail hearings for Lacasse and Luu have been postponed until Friday.

From left to right, Charles-Xavier Boislard, 43, Daniel Lacasse, 43, and Robert Luu, 31, were charged Thursday after Montreal police arrested them for allegedly committing sexual crimes against at least two students who were minors at the time. ((SPVM))

In a news release Thursday, the Montreal police service (SPVM) urged other potential victims to contact the SPVM's sexual assault unit.

"Since many underage girls have played on the sports teams to which the three men are linked over the years, investigators have reason to believe that other girls could have been victims of similar acts, from as far back as 2005 to the present day,'' police said.

The Marguerite Bourgeoys school board, which administers the high school, said the three men do not have criminal records. In a statement, the board said all three men have been suspended, and school authorities are co-operating with police.

"This situation has shaken us all, and we take it very seriously,'' said Dominic Bertrand, the board's director general.

"We will meet with parents and staff members to accompany, support them and refer them to the right resources, if necessary. A team of interveners is also available to support students.''

with files from Jay Turnbull, Radio-Canada and The Canadian Press