MONTREAL — Hundreds of people rallied in front of Montreal’s courthouse on Sunday to denounce a light sentence imposed on a man who pleaded guilty to sexual assault and voyeurism.
Protest co-organizer Alexandra Dupuy said the decision to grant a conditional discharge in a sexual assault case shows how inadequate the justice system is when it comes to handling such cases.
“It’s very disturbing, but is it surprising … no,” Dupuy said in an interview on Sunday. “The justice system has been working that way for a long time.”
Protesters carried signs with slogans including “Don’t tell me rape culture doesn’t exist,” and “Rapers everywhere, justice nowhere.”
Judge Matthieu Poliquin in Trois-Rivières, Que., opted last week to give Simon Houle probation and a conditional discharge, partly because a conviction would make it hard for Houle to travel as an engineer.
Poliquin said the 2019 assault happened “all in all quickly,” adding that Houle had taken therapy seriously and sincerely regretted his actions.
Houle pleaded guilty to sexual assault and voyeurism after assaulting an acquaintance and taking photos of the intimate parts of her body as she slept in 2019.
Both Dupuy and Marie-Maxime Gaumont, one of the other protest co-organizers, said while most people are criticizing Poliquin, it’s the legal process that ought to be questioned and revisited.
“It’s so disgusting, we can’t just stay there without doing anything, we need to denounce our deep anger toward the justice system that protects aggressors,” Gaumont said. “I feel like we are going in a circle and that nothing is being done to change it; we had the proof with Poliquin’s sentence.”
Quebec’s Crown prosecutors office said it will appeal the judge’s decision.
Several demonstrators drew comparisons between Houle’s case and that of Gilbert Rozon, founder of the Just for Laughs festival, who pleaded guilty to sexual assault in 1999 but received a light sentence so he wouldn’t have a criminal record.
Rozon received a conditional discharge that allowed him to continue travelling to the United States and do business.
For protester Patricia Tulasne, Rozon’s ruling played a part in shaping Houle’s sentence.
“We’re in 2022, after #MeToo, it’s unacceptable that a judge gives such a sentence,” said Tulasne, who was part of a group who denounced Rozon years ago.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published on July 10, 2022.
This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Meta and Canadian Press News Fellowship
Clara Descurninges, The Canadian Press
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Hockey Canada trying to ‘salvage’ World Juniors amid scandal, low ticket sales – Global News
The tournament got underway on Tuesday in Edmonton, Alta., with thousands of tickets still available. It was postponed late last year as a result of the Omicron variant surge.
In the months since, the national organization has become embroiled in condemnation and controversy over its handling of the allegations. As a result, regional tourism body Explore Edmonton, told Global News, it paused promotion of the tournament in July.
“As the host city for the upcoming tournament, we continue to have discussions with Hockey Canada officials about their plans to address the need for change,” said Traci Bednard, CEO of Explore Edmonton.
Thousands of tickets still up for grabs for World Juniors Championship games in Edmonton
For sports culture expert Dan Mason, that’s not a huge surprise.
“Hockey Canada is hurting because they’re lacking sponsorship and the usual promotion that they get. I don’t think it’s necessarily something that they would really want to be doing anyway, given the circumstances that they’re in,” said Mason, a professor of sport management at the University of Alberta.
“I think they’re just trying to salvage this opportunity to have some player development.”
The World Juniors is the international championship for players aged 20 or younger competing for spots on teams run by the national hockey league.
It is run by the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF), which confirmed last week it is now among the growing number of official bodies investigating Hockey Canada over its handling of sexual assault allegations. The Zurich, Switzerland-based world governing body for ice hockey said it wants more information amid a continued storm of criticism and condemnation, which has rocked Hockey Canada to its core.
“These are deeply troubling incidents that the IIHF takes extremely seriously,” the organization told Global News on Aug. 1.
TSN first reported in May that Hockey Canada had settled a lawsuit in which a young woman, “E.M.”, alleged she was sexually assaulted by eight hockey players including members of the 2018 Canadian World Juniors team following a gala organized by the organization.
In the months since, Hockey Canada has been engulfed in scrutiny including: three parliamentary committee meetings focusing on the matter, a funding freeze ordered by the federal sports minister, a financial audit, a renewed criminal investigation by police in London, Ont., and an NHL probe.
The organization has lost multiple major sponsors for the World Juniors tournament including Tim Hortons, Telus, Canadian Tire and Scotiabank, and faced a revolt from provincial hockey organizations vowing to withhold funding. The chair of the board of directors is gone — though the president Scott Smith remains. Former Supreme Court justice Thomas Cromwell is leading a governance review due in November.
Whether Smith will remain in the role after that review remains uncertain.
Meanwhile, Canadian parents are furious, particularly over the revelations of a slush fund used to pay out sexual assault claimants using registration fees paid by parents for their children to play what Stompin’ Tom Connors once called “the good ol’ hockey game.”
Abuse survivors react to Hockey Canada executives’ testimony
Mason said he expects the impact of the revelations will play out in youth enrolment numbers.
At the same time, some locals who planned to attend the World Juniors said they trust that the problems in the organization are being taken care of and don’t want to penalize the players.
Randy Thompson spoke to Global News outside the Rogers Centre in Edmonton. He said he plans to catch a few games, and after years of COVID-19 disruption watching the World Juniors feels like a return to a “nice tradition.”
“I think it’s on all of our minds and we hope that there’s a positive resolution to that,” he said of the allegations and the outcry facing Hockey Canada.
“But hockey still is what it is and we shouldn’t let that affect us too too much. I think we need to stay true to our hockey culture or hockey tradition, and I know that the right people will take care of things.”
‘More diversity’ needed at Hockey Canada following Brind’Amour resignation
The Canadian team is set to face off against Latvia on Wednesday in their first game of the tournament.
Team Canada’s head coach André Tourigny said leaders have been emphasizing to players that they are under the spotlight, but kept his remarks to the media brief about the outcry facing Hockey Canada.
“We’ve addressed that. We recognize that there’s steps to be taken,” said Tourigny earlier this week. “We did a sexual violence thing, we did a code of conduct thing.”
Brenda Andress, who was commissioner of the Canadian Women’s Hockey League for 12 years, told Global News she still sees a “code of silence” in Canadian sports when it comes to sex abuse and sexual allegations.
She said in an interview last week that many still have trouble wrapping their heads around the extent of the problem.
“Being in the sports world as long as I have been, there is a code of silence. There’s a culture that we have created, and I think most of us can’t handle the truth that’s out there — that’s really going on in our sports world,” Andress said.
“It’s time that we take a look at it in a lot deeper avenue than we’re currently doing.”
— With files from Global Edmonton’s Morgan Black.
© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
Sask. woman, accused of faking own death, says she had 'no choice' but to flee – CBC.ca
The Saskatoon woman accused of staging the disappearance of herself and her son has issued a statement to CBC News from an Oregon jail.
Dawn Walker, 48, was the subject of an extensive missing persons search after she disappeared with her son about two weeks ago. She was found and arrested in Oregon City on Friday and has been detained in the U.S. since.
“I left Saskatoon because I feared for my safety and that of my son,” Walker said in a written statement to CBC News. She didn’t name the person she said she fears, but Walker has previously made domestic violence allegations against her ex, who is the father of her seven-year-old son.
Police have said the domestic violence allegations were investigated, but no evidence was found to support them.
Walker’s friend, Eleanore Sunchild, recorded Walker’s statement during a visit at the Multnomah County Jail in Portland on Monday.
Walker is charged in the U.S. with aggravated identity theft, which, if convicted, would lead to a minimum prison sentence of two years. She has also been criminally charged with parental abduction and public mischief in Canada.
U.S. prosecutors allege that Walker faked her and her son’s deaths as part of an elaborate scheme that involved stolen identities and a fraudulent bank account. Police were able to locate Walker and her son last Friday by following bank transactions for gas, food, Netflix and Airbnb rentals.
Walker says justice system failed
Walker said she was “failed by the Saskatchewan Justice system, the family law system and child protection.”
She said she previously filed domestic abuse reports with Saskatoon police and RCMP and has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.
“The police services did nothing to assist me. I reported my concerns to the child protection authorities and again nothing was done. I am fighting systems that continuously fail to protect me as an Indigenous woman and protect non-Indigenous men,” Walker said.
“So many women and children before us have had to run for their lives to protect their children. The SPS and RCMP only cared when they thought I was dead and the pressure they were under because of their blatant failures.”
Before Walker was located by police, her friends and family suggested foul play or interpersonal violence could be involved in her disappearance. Saskatoon police were asked Monday about the allegations.
“Any potential or any previous allegations made by Dawn Walker were thoroughly investigated and no charges resulted as a result of those investigations,” Saskatoon police Deputy Chief Randy Huisman said.
The allegations of domestic abuse were also put directly to her ex, the father of the seven-year-old, by CKOM before Walker and her son were found.
Andrew Jansen told CKOM he “would never hurt Dawn or [her son]. There’s no truth to any of that, and that’s all I can say.” CBC News contacted Jansen about the allegations. He declined to comment, saying he is taking time to focus on his son and family.
Walker says she had ‘no choice’
In her statement, Walker had a message for the dozens of family members, friends and others who prayed and searched for her in the days after she was declared missing.
“I apologize to anyone I hurt. I was left with no choice. No one heard me. I love my son so very much. He is my only child…I was motivated out of my immense love for [him],” she said.
She said she witnessed something involving the boy “that scared me to the core,” but did not elaborate.
“More will come out as I further tell my story upon my return to our Treaty lands,” she said.
Sunchild and Walker’s family also emailed written statements to CBC News. They are pressing for Walker’s extradition to Canada and encouraging others to do the same.
“We, her supporters, urge the Canadian and Saskatchewan governments to commence extradition proceedings immediately so Dawn can return to Canada to deal with her matters there,” said Sunchild, a Cree lawyer in Saskatchewan who is in the U.S. supporting Walker as a friend.
The family said Walker “deserves our compassion and understanding.… It’s not easy being an Indigenous woman in Saskatchewan. All she wanted to do was raise her son in peace.”
Saskatoon police said the criminal investigation into Walker — and those who may have helped her — is ongoing. They said there could be more criminal charges laid depending on the outcome.
A rally is being held Tuesday evening at the Legislature building in Regina in support of Walker, who appears back in court next month.
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