Sex assault trial begins in Nanaimo for junior hockey league player

Sex assault trial begins in Nanaimo for junior hockey league player
Damon James

A BC Supreme Court trial has begun at the Nanaimo courthouse for a junior hockey player accused of sexual assault.

Kenneth Boychuk, who is now 19, was playing with the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League‘s (VIJHL) Nanaimo Buccaneers when he was accused of sexually assaulting a girl in her home.

The teenage girl, whose identity is protected by a publication ban, had watched Boychuk play for the Buccaneers before coming across his profile on a dating app. They both swiped right and were soon chatting on Snapchat.

While they discussed going out for a first date, they hadn’t met in person.

The girl testified Tuesday that on January 31, 2023, she told Boychuk she was home alone. According to the girl, he later surprised her when he showed up at her door.

The girl says when she opened the door, Boychuck brushed by her, pulled her to her room and sexually assaulted her. She testified he slapped her and punched her to the point that she blacked out and was left with bruising. She says she did not consent to any of the sexual activity, and she “bawled her eyes out after he left.”

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When she saw Boychuk play at a hockey game a few days later, prompted by friends, she brought it to the team’s attention.

“She came to us after a game. I had a conversation with her immediately. Made it very clear to her sorry to hear this is what happened in your eyes,” said Tali Campbell, who owned the Nanaimo Buccaneers at the time. “I’d go speak with the RCMP.”

She then filed a complaint with Nanaimo RCMP. The Buccaneer’s owner at the time says he also launched an internal investigation during which Boychuk missed several games.

“My job was to determine whether the player in question was a threat to our community. Was he a threat to the community that this could be an ongoing situation?” said Campbell.

Boychuck was put under a strict curfew and eventually traded to the Kerry Park Islanders in January of this year. Campbell says the team was made aware of the allegations.

Campbell says he believes the team dealt with the issue properly, unlike the incidents back east where Hockey Canada paid settlements to victims with non-disclosure agreements.

Sexual violence has come under the microscope since those Hockey Canada settlements with sex assault victims without thorough police investigations. One 2018 case involving five players just landed in court this year.

One of the signatories of the open letter sent to Ottawa in 2022 about sexual violence in men’s hockey says more severe penalties are needed.

“This is an issue that’s deep within the sinew of these hockey leagues themselves, and the leagues are faced with an issue that’s harder to sort of grapple with, and that is how do you put a name and specific cause to this notion of culture or rape culture or toxic masculine culture? That’s the big problem,” said Taylor McKee of Brock University’s Sport Management Program in St. Catharines.

The court heard Boychuck was also not-supervised that day as his host family wasn’t home. Boychuk is from Edmonton.

When asked if he’d be testifying in the trial, Boychuk was staying silent Tuesday. He has pleaded not guilty, and none of the allegations have been proven in court.

The trial is expected to last up to five days.

Kendall HansonKendall Hanson

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