Quebec junior hockey players accused of group sexual assault

Two young men, one of them a former member of a junior hockey team in Quebec, have pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting a 15-year-old girl and another player faces a sexual assault charge stemming from the same incident.

The two young men who pleaded guilty were minors in 2016, when the assault took place.

One of them played for the Drummondville Voltigeurs, a junior hockey team that is part of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL).

The third, who is challenging the allegations in court, Noah Corson, was of age. Corson, also a Drummondville Voltigeurs player at the time, is the son of former Montreal Canadiens center Shayne Corson.

Corson has been charged with sexually assaulting a complainant under 16. He has waived his preliminary hearing and is scheduled to appear at the Drummondville courthouse in June. He has not yet entered a plea.

Noah Corson when he played for the Voltigeurs. (Radio Canada)

Through his agents, Nicola Riopel and Etienne Lafleur, Corson declined a Radio-Canada interview request.

“Considering that there are charges pending in court and that the file should proceed somewhere next summer, we will refrain from commenting. Noah denies the allegations of sexual assault and he intends to defend himself adequately in court,” Lafleur said.

The Youth Criminal Justice Act forbids the identification of the other two young men involved in the assault. They pleaded guilty last year to sexual assault charges in youth court.

According to the agreed statement of facts, the complainant did not know the two Voltigeurs players before meeting them on the night of the assault. She had been seeing the third young man for a few weeks but was not in a relationship with him.

After spending part of the evening at a restaurant, the group went to the victim’s home. Sexual acts were then initiated with the victim and escalated to group sexual activity to which the victim did not consent.

During the assault, one of the underage accused captured a video on his cell phone.

One by one, according to the agreed statement of facts, the three young men then left the victim’s room and one of the two underage accused noticed that the victim was crying.

Now 24, Corson is continuing his professional career in the minors. He plays for the Adirondack Thunder in the ECHL, a mid-level professional hockey league based out of New Jersey.

The complainant, whose identity is the subject of a publication ban, was a high school student at the time. She said she had an extremely difficult time after the assault. To this day, she still feels the aftermath.

“I tried to erase it from my memory at first,” she said in an interview with Radio-Canada.

She said she recognized two of her attackers several weeks later at the Marcel-Dionne Centre, an arena in Drummondville. She had just attended a Voltigeurs game when she passed in front of a wall which featured pictures of the team’s players.

“I identified them like that, otherwise I would never have known they were hockey players […] I started crying right away. I guess realizing that they were right there, that I had just cheered them on to win … it just seemed to bring it all back,” she said.

The Drummondville Voltigeurs play their games at the Marcel-Dionne Centre. (Radio Canada)

In the spring of 2017, struggling with suicidal thoughts, the victim said she was admitted to a psychiatric facility in Montreal.

It took more than a year before she felt able to talk about the assault with her loved ones.

“After what happened, I developed a kind of social phobia,” she said. “I went into a bar for the first time this fall and it was hard.”

To this day, she said, “when I go into a public place like a restaurant, I have to be able to see everyone in the room. I can’t feel like something is going to happen to me from behind. It was the same thing at school. (After the attack), I had to sit in the back of the classroom all the time.”

Both the current and former management of the Drummondville Voltigeurs said they were never informed about the allegations, the investigations or the legal proceedings. The charges were only laid after Corson and the other player had left the team.

The Voltigeurs released Corson and placed him on waivers in January 2017. The Baie-Comeau Drakkar then claimed him.

the Drummondville newspaper L’Express reported at the time that the Voltigeurs coaches were not satisfied with Corson’s attitude and work ethic. In an interview with Radio-Canada Sports, the coach and general manager at the time, Dominique Ducharme, corroborated that version of events.

“Never, ever, was anyone in the organization made aware of this. I was stunned, I still can’t believe it,” said Voltigeurs president Éric Verrier. “It is against all the values ​​of the organization. We denounce situations like this and if they need us to cooperate with the investigation, we will cooperate.”

The QMJHL said it was also unaware.

“If we had heard about this story, we would have quickly contacted the Drummondville Voltigeurs and made a plan,” said QMJHL Commissioner Gilles Courteau. “But we never knew.”

“It’s inexcusable that a situation like this happened and my thoughts are with the young woman who had to go through this.”

Isabelle Charest, the Quebec minister responsible for sports, recreation and the outdoors, said she was troubled by the story.

“If there is a positive element, it is that fewer and fewer victims are reluctant to report and file a complaint,” she said. “We are seeing a change in culture in the sports world.”

Since May of this year, Canadian hockey culture has come under intense scrutiny after the heads of Hockey Canada, most of whom have since resigned, reached an out-of-court settlement, with a confidentiality clause, with a young woman who said she was sexually assaulted by eight Canadian world junior players in June 2018.

“Again, the stories that came out of junior hockey this morning are horrific,” said Pascale St-Onge, the federal minister responsible for sport.

“There is a toxic culture problem that is ingrained in hockey in this country, and it needs to change. At all levels, leaders, coaches and parents need to do more to prevent sexual abuse.”

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