The culture of hockey needs to change, Canada’s sports minister said Tuesday in response to news that two former Quebec Major Junior Hockey League players have been charged with sexual assault.
Everyone involved in hockey — including teams, parents and provincial associations — must do more to prevent sexual violence, Pascale St-Onge told reporters in Ottawa.
Her comments came shortly after Radio-Canada reported that two former QMJHL players and another young man had been charged with sexually assaulting a 15-year-old girl in 2016 in Drummondville, Que., about 100 kilometres northeast of Montreal.
“It’s horrifying every time we hear these stories,” St-Onge said. “These aren’t stories that we like to hear, but I think that everyone also understands that this is not anecdotal and that this is really part of a culture that is ingrained in the hockey world.” Players need more education about consent and healthy sexual lifestyles, she added.
The allegations are the latest in a series of sexual assault scandals involving junior hockey players. The CEO and board of Hockey Canada resigned in October amid criticism for the way the organization handled allegations that eight players with Canada’s world junior team sexually assaulted a woman in 2018 and revelations that the organization maintained a secret fund for settling sexual assault lawsuits. In 2021, two players with the QMJHL’s Victoriaville Tigres were charged with sexual assault.
The QMJHL said Tuesday it only recently learned of the alleged 2016 assault involving two former members of the Drummondville Voltigeurs and another young man, adding that the league would co-operate with the judicial process and any further police investigations.
“Our first thoughts go to the alleged victim, and we remain very sensitive to her situation,” the league said in a statement. “This explains why the league will continue to fulfil its critical mission of raising awareness and educating its players about sexual misconduct and its consequences.”
Radio-Canada said two of the accused — who were minors at the time of the incident and cannot be named — have pleaded guilty in youth court to sexual assault.
Court documents show that the third accused, 24-year-old former Voltigeur Noah Corson, pleaded not guilty in 2020 and is scheduled to return to court in Drummondville in mid-June.
Corson, who was 18 at the time of the alleged assault and is identified in court documents by his legal name Noah-Lee Jetté Corson, faces a charge of sexually assaulting a person under 16 with another person. The charge carries a mandatory minimum sentence of five years in prison.
Asked about the allegations, Corson’s agent, Nick Riopel, said he couldn’t comment on the matter, citing the ongoing legal procedures.
Corson’s current team, the Adirondack Thunder of the professional ECHL, did not immediately return a request for comment. Corson is the son of Shayne Corson, who played 19 seasons in the NHL, including with Montreal, Edmonton and Toronto.
Lambert Drainville, a spokesman for Quebec’s minister responsible for sport, Isabelle Charest, said she is always disturbed to hear about allegations of sexual assaults related to sports.
He wrote in an email that the minister’s office encourages victims to come forward and has taken steps to make it easier for people to report allegations of assault, abuse and harassment in sports.
“If there is a positive element, it’s that fewer and fewer victims are hesitating to report and file a complaint. We are seeing a culture change in the sport community, and in society in general, and this culture change is more necessary than ever,” he wrote.
Jacob Serebrin/The Canadian Press