University of Ottawa begins investigation into hockey program

The University of Ottawa confirmed it has suspended its hockey coaching staff while an external investigator looks into why school officials only learned of an alleged sexual assault three weeks after the incident.

Head coach suspended with pay while investigator looks into Thunder Bay incident

University of Ottawa hockey program under investigation

9 years ago
Duration 2:23
Head coach and assistant coaches suspended while review is conducted.

The University of Ottawa has confirmed it has suspended its hockey coaching staff while an external investigator looks into why school officials only learned of an alleged sexual assault three weeks after the incident.

On Monday the school announced the hockey program was suspended as Thunder Bay Police investigated a third-party complaint of a sexual assault believed to have occurred on the weekend of Feb. 1. The hockey team was in Thunder Bay for two games against the Lakehead University Thunderwolves.

University president Allan Rock said on Thursday that senior administrators at the school learned of the alleged incident on Feb. 24 through a third party and reported it to police before suspending the program.

The University of Ottawa men's varsity hockey program has been suspended after allegations of "serious misconduct" came to light last week. (Richard A. Whittaker/University of Ottawa)
He said the decision to suspend the hockey team was made because of the more than three weeks that passed between the alleged incident and when it was brought to the attention of administrators, along with information that came up during interviews with the coach.

Head coach Réal Paiement was with the team during the road trip and has been suspended with pay, the university confirmed Friday. Paiement's voicemail says he'll be out of the office indefinitely.

The rest of the coaches are volunteers who are given honorariums. They have also been suspended but retain their honorariums.

Incident blown out of proportion, says one coach

CBC News spoke with several assistant coaches who don't normally travel with the team and weren't with the team in Thunder Bay.

One assistant coach said the situation has been blown out of proportion, but another said the decision to suspend the team was the right one, as it reflected the seriousness of the allegation.

As a result of the suspension of the program, hockey team members are not allowed to use the school's rink or transfer to another university to play.

However, the governing body for university sports, Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS), said they have made exceptions in the past.

University of Ottawa president Allan Rock announced a task force into respect and equality on campus Thursday, March 6, 2014. (CBC)
In 2010, a doping scandal forced the University of Waterloo to suspend its football team for a year. CIS made an exception and exempted more than 20 players from having to sit out one year.

The schedule for next year's hockey season has already been drawn up. If the University of Ottawa decides to withdraw they would have to notify Ontario University Athletics before April 6 to avoid a fine.

Kids summer hockey camp cancelled

The University of Ottawa also announced this week it has cancelled its kids summer hockey camp and has offered parents refunds or help finding another program.

In addition to hiring an external investigator to review the incident, the University announced it was also launching a new "Task Force on Respect and Equality" that will report back in the fall with specific recommendations on how to promote respectful behaviour on campus.

The university has also been dealing with both internal and external criticism after five male student leaders participated in an explicit online chat about Anne-Marie Roy, the head of the university's student union.

Chancellor Michaëlle Jean said these types of incidents are the tip of an iceberg when it comes to society as a whole.

“What we were just brutally reminded of this week is the pervasiveness of misogyny," said Jean.