Toronto school sexual assault allegations bring back dark memories for McGill alumnus

A former St. Michael's College School student who reported that he was sexually assaulted during a hazing ritual at McGill University more than a decade ago says he was shocked to learn these types of initiations may still be happening.

D'Arcy McKeown speaks out after 6 boys charged in alleged hazing ritual at St. Michael's College School

Toronto police announced Monday that six students from St. Michael's College School have been arrested and charged in connection with an alleged gang sexual assault. (Farrah Merali/CBC)
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A former St. Michael's College School student who reported that he was sexually assaulted during a hazing ritual at McGill University more than a decade ago says he was shocked to learn these types of initiations may still be happening. 

Police have charged six students in connection with an alleged gang sexual assault at the Toronto school that was captured on camera and shared on social media.

All six teenage boys, whose identities are protected under the Youth Criminal Justice Act, are facing charges of assault, gang sexual assault and assault with a weapon. 

The Canadian Press spoke with police sources who confirmed that the charges filed Monday involved a group of students on the football team allegedly pinning down another student in a locker room and sexually assaulting him with a broom handle.

D'Arcy McKeown, who attended St. Mike's during his final two years of high school, says he experienced a similar sexual assault during a so-called hazing ritual when he was a freshman football player at Montreal's McGill University in 2005. 

Here is part of his conversation with As It Happens host Carol Off.

What happened to you at McGill and allegedly happened at St. Michael's College School is described as hazing, or hazing that went bad. What do you think when you hear it described as hazing?

To be perfectly honest, I think it's something that people who don't want to admit the severity of these actions ... used to kind of cover tracks because it can be more easily chalked up to kids messing around, boys will be boys ... when in reality … most of these different hazing events are really assaults of various types.

Insp. Dominic Sinopoli said while no child pornography charges have been laid in connection with this incident, police haven't ruled that out as a possibility. (Tijana Martin/Canadian Press)

What happened to you at McGill — and you've talked about this very generously, because I know it must be horrible to re-live — but your teammates had been joking about something they called a "proctological exam" they called "Dr. Broom." Did you understand what they are talking about when you heard those words?

I was able to gather together what they were trying to convey. But when I was in the moment before the night of the initiation and hazing, I just kind of chalked it up to, like, mental warfare.

You told your dad before you left, you said you had a bad feeling about this. What would compel you to do something to override your gut instinct on that?

Definitely heavy coercion and pressure from the veterans. While I had a bad gut feeling, I couldn't believe that this would actually go forward.

While I had a bad gut feeling, I couldn't believe that this would actually go forward.- D'Arcy  McKeown

Why was no one ever charged with what happened to you?

I was told by McGill University that if I involved the police that they would not pursue anything further. They would step aside and the police would handle everything.

I wanted McGill to be in the spotlight, to make change, to make a difference.

You attended St. Michael's College School in high school. You've played on the football team before you went to McGill. Did you ever experience anything like that ... when you were there?

No, that was never a part of my time at St. Mike's, but one thing I've learned is that these hazings seem to kind of be worming their way through different groups at different times.

So the fact that this is going on has just brought a ton of different feelings and emotions back, which kind of made it a bit hard to grasp.

St. Michael's College School principal Greg Reeves says there is a problem at his school and that it needs to do better. (CBC)

Deep down I'm afraid that the reason that these kids came up with that as a hazing initiation is because of my ties to St. Mike's and the fact that I went there and went through that and because it was public knowledge.

And, you know, the fact that these kids think it's appropriate. It's so inherently against everything that is taught at St. Mike's. It's unbelievable.

 What do you want to see them do to make sure this never happens to anyone again?

Unfortunately, I think that there needs to be a harder stance taken, not just at St. Mike's level ...  to implement mandatory anti-hazing and anti-bullying training.

I think, unfortunately, there needs to be some stricter policies ... especially regarding teen sports. If something like this happens as part of the junior football team, then that program gets shut down for years.

Whether it's sexual assault, assault or being pressured, coerced or forced into drinking to the point of alcohol poisoning — these are all very dangerous acts and really need to be nipped in the bud.

Written by Sarah Jackson with files from CBC News and Canadian Press. Produced by Imogen Birchard. This Q&A has been edited for length and clarity.