OTTAWA – The University of Ottawa suspended its men’s varsity hockey program on Monday over allegations several players were involved in a sexual assault in Thunder Bay, Ont.
The alleged sexual assault is believed to have happened over the weekend of Feb. 1, when the hockey team was in Thunder Bay for two games against Lakehead University.
The criminal investigation branch of the Thunder Bay Police Service is leading the investigation with help from Ottawa police.
Ottawa police referred questions to their Thunder Bay counterparts.
“This investigation is in its initial stages,” Thunder Bay Police Service said in a statement.
The force declined to release any further details about the alleged sexual assault.
The University of Ottawa says it decided to suspend the hockey team after receiving information from a third party on Feb. 24 about an incident involving members of the team.
The university contacted police the next day.
No specific details were immediately available but the statement said the information included allegations of serious misconduct.
The university has also launched an internal review.
“The incident occurred several weeks ago,” the school said in its statement. “The university is deeply concerned that senior management was only informed about these allegations on Feb. 24, and then by a third party.
“This will be among the matters examined in the review.
“The university has high expectations of all our students and staff. The alleged misconduct is not in keeping with the values that are at the heart of athletics and student life on campus.”
University of Ottawa spokesman Patrick Charette said the school is taking the allegations very seriously.
“This is our top priority,” he said. “As I indicated, we are launching an internal review that will look at all the questions.
“This is serious. This is a serious allegation. You will also appreciate that there are all kinds of legal rights, including privacy rights of all innocent parties involved. This is why I’m not going to comment any further.”
The team last played in Thunder Bay on Jan. 31 and Feb. 1, winning both games.
Head coach Real Paiement, who coached both Thunder Bay games, is listed as being on leave.
The hockey team’s suspension comes as the university deals with an unrelated matter involving a group of male students and their sexually graphic banter in an online conversation about a female student union leader.
The male students threatened legal action against the student union leader, Anne-Marie Roy, who received an anonymous copy of the private Facebook conversation last month and decided to make it public.
Roy says she spoke out because she wanted to draw attention to what she saw as a perpetuation of “rape culture.”
Four of the five men were elected student representatives and resigned over the weekend. They have also dropped their plans for legal action.