Two former University of Ottawa hockey players were charged Friday after a lengthy police investigation into an alleged sexual assault which took place when the now-suspended team was in Thunder Bay, Ont., for a game earlier this year.
Guillaume Donovan, 24, and David Foucher, 25, both of Gatineau, Que., were each charged with one count of sexual assault.
According to their team profiles, Donovan, who played as a forward, was in the university’s geography program, while Foucher, a defenceman, studied human kinetics.
The varsity hockey team was suspended in March after the university’s president announced a police investigation was underway into the alleged incident which took place when the University of Ottawa Gee Gees were in Thunder Bay to play the team from Lakehead University.
The news rattled the university’s students, particularly as it came just days after revelations of a sexually explicit online chat about the head of the student union.
On Friday, Thunder Bay police, who had previously remained tight-lipped on the case, released basic details of the incident.
The alleged assault involved a 21-year-old female victim and allegedly took place in a hotel early on February 2, they said.
Police, however, were only made aware of the incident on Feb 25, when a third party came forward with a complaint.
What followed was months of careful investigation which involved police in Thunder Bay, Ottawa and even members of the RCMP.
Investigators also travelled to Ottawa in March to conduct interviews with members of the hockey program.
“It was a very complex investigation given the two locations and the fact that the incident occurred here in Thunder Bay but these individuals had travelled from Ottawa,” said Thunder Bay police spokesman Chris Adams.
“The work in actually being able to track down essentially as many people as possible from the hockey team or anyone connected to that hockey team in Ottawa, took quite a bit of leg work. And then of course there’s the logistics involved afterwards, reviewing the case — so it was quite extensive.”
Donovan and Foucher have been released from custody and are set to appear in court in Thunder Bay on Sept. 30.
The police investigation was separate from a probe by the university, which resulted in the firing of head coach Real Paiement and the suspension of the program through the 2014-2015 season.
Certain members of the hockey team complained that they were being tarred by the scandal sparked by the action of a few individuals — a situation that university president Allan Rock acknowledged in June.
“The shadow cast by the allegations of misconduct has affected all members of the team, some unfairly,” he had said, while adding that the university could not single out certain players as it was waiting for the police investigation to conclude.
On Friday, the university said the charges announced don’t alter the suspension of the hockey program, or the firing of its head coach.
“That decision followed our review of an independent investigator’s report about the events in Thunder Bay,” university spokeswoman Caroline Milliard said in a statement.
“The university’s focus was not on whether a criminal offence had been committed or whether a conviction could be secured. The university’s focus was on whether the players’ behaviour met the standards that the university community is entitled to expect from those who have the privilege of wearing the university’s colours.”
The university said that it was rebuilding its men’s varsity hockey program, with plans to hire a new coach and implement new behaviour guidelines.