A ‘living hell’: More disturbing allegations as QMJHL bullying lawsuit filed

Warning: This story contains sensitive and graphic content that may be disturbing to some readers who have experienced sexual violence or abuse. Discretion is advised.

Five other players have given detailed descriptions of humiliating, insulting and violent traumas they say they suffered as minors during hazing rituals in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League between 1970 and 2000.

A long-awaited lawsuit, formally filed in Quebec court on Tuesday after being greenlit in April, details five other men, in addition to Carl Latulippe, a former Quebec hockey star who went public last year with allegations he was a victim of abuse while playing for two teams in the mid-1990s.

The five players, who were debutants at the time and known as members A through E, played for different teams in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s and were around 17 years old at the time.

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According to court documents, the five players allege they suffered disturbing sexual and physical humiliation, as well as emotional and psychological degradation and distress, leaving them with decades of unresolved trauma, anger, addiction, alcohol and drug abuse, and significant self-esteem issues.

The class action describes these events as a “living hell” for the players.

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The 58-page legal filing details numerous alleged disturbing incidents, including several painful and prolonged instances of sodomy in which players were held down by team members, being forced to perform dehumanizing acts in public while naked, being subjected to painful procedures on their genitals that left them with burns, and being forced to swallow objects inserted into the anuses of other players.

For some former players it was also difficult to continue with the sport, their careers declined, they lost their productivity and they experienced problems in their personal relationships.

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Several members indicated that they could never find the same ambition and motivation as before their time at the QMJHL.

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None of the allegations made in the lawsuit have been proven in court.

In a statement sent to Global this week, the league said it read the new allegations “with great compassion” but could not comment because the legal proceedings are ongoing.

“At this time, we at the League are doing everything we can to properly educate and guide our players and staff. They know that good behavior on and off the ice is essential, and that no form of abuse will be tolerated,” the statement said.

Class action attorney David Stolow said in an interview with Global that it’s important to emphasize that while much of the abuse was committed by veteran players who were in their early 20s at the time, they too were victims of the same abuse.

The lawsuit details how the league’s coaches, managers and staff were constantly aware of the hazing, often witnessed it, and sometimes even had a willful and collusive audience. It alleges that they did nothing to stop the attacks.

The document says that during “Member E’s” first season, he discussed the abuse with friends on other teams and understood that it was happening and known throughout the league. “While everyone on the team knew about the abuse, no one spoke about it,” the lawsuit alleges.

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Stolow stressed that the goal is to have the league take responsibility.

The case names the league, its teams and its umbrella organization — the Canadian Hockey League — as defendants and is currently seeking $15.65 million in damages, including $15 million in punitive damages to be shared among the class members. Monetary compensation is also sought for any player who suffered moral or financial harm as a result of the abuse they experienced as minors while playing in the league.

The lawsuit argues that while the defendants “had a duty to protect the members of the group and provide for their well-being, they witnessed, encouraged, neglected, tolerated, covered up or ignored the abuse.”

Stolow added that more players have come forward after seeing the media attention and talking to each other.

“Someone who has spoken to us will encourage someone else. When they are ready, they will reach out,” he said, adding that people are expected to come forward in phases.

Last week, Judge Sophie Lavallée dismissed the QMJHL’s appeal against the authorization for the lawsuit, saying the proceedings did not meet the strict criteria for ending the lawsuit.

As for Latulippe, the first plaintiff in the case and a former player with the Chicoutimi Saguenéens, the Drummondville Voltigeurs and the Beauport Harfangs, which have since become the Quebec City Remparts, he is seeking the remaining $650,000 in damages, including pain, suffering and humiliation, as well as lost productivity and therapy costs.

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Latulippe was allegedly abused with bars of soap, wrapped in towels, and forced to watch porn and masturbate on a team bus in the presence of adult coaches.

“He has accepted and continues to accept the tremendous responsibility of advancing this cause on behalf of all who have suffered as he has and who have suffered in silence for many years,” Stolow said of his client.

The court file shows that the players who decided to join Latulippe did so to “break the culture of silence” and prevent similar abuse from ever happening again.

Those covered by the class action are all hockey players who experienced abuse as minors and played in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League beginning in 1969. The league was renamed the Quebec Maritimes Junior Hockey League in 2023 and is one of Canada’s three major junior hockey leagues.

Kugler Kandestin Law Firm encourages victims to contact their lawyers to be informed of their rights. Furthermore, all communication with the legal team will be free and confidential.

Support is available for people who have been sexually assaulted or abused. You can access crisis lines and local support servicesVisit the Ministry of Justice website Victim Support Directory for a list of resources in your area.

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–with files from The Canadian Press

© 2024 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

Alessia Simona Maratta

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