Abuse in the QMJHL | “Everyone knew and no one did anything”

(Quebec) The Quebec Maritime Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) and its teams, as well as the Canadian Hockey League, knew that abuses were being committed against some of their rookie players. They “ignored or tolerated” this situation. And the class action lawsuit is the best vehicle to assert the rights of victims of this “systemic negligence,” attorney David Stolow, who represents former hockey player Carl Latulippe in this lawsuit, argued Tuesday.

On the contrary, class action “is not the appropriate procedural vehicle” in this matter, M replied.my Mathieu Leblanc-Gagnon, representative of the QMJHL.

All parties met in Quebec court before Judge Jacques G. Bouchard as part of the hearing to authorize the class action lawsuit brought by Mr. Latulippe on behalf of all QMJHL players who were abused as minors. of age in the QMJHL, since 1969. present. So far, the collective action request has not been judged on its merits. Instead, Judge Bouchard must determine whether or not he allows the proceedings to move forward.

Press presented in April 2023 The story of Carl Latulippe. The man said he had been a victim of physical, psychological and sexual abuse among the Chicoutimi Saguenéens after being selected as the first pick in the 1994 draft.

Mr. Latulippe, who was also allegedly a victim of abuse with the Drummondville Voltigeurs, filed a class action request in May 2023. He seeks from the defendants $650,000 and $15,000,000 in class-action punitive and exemplary damages.

“Unfortunately, tragically, (Mr. Latulippe) is not the only one,” Mr. pleaded.my Stolow, who criticizes the QMJHL and other defendants for having “failed to establish effective procedures in a timely manner to prevent abuses.” “Everyone knew and no one did anything,” he said.

More than 21,000 players have played in the QMJHL since 1969, but it is too early to determine exactly how many people would be targeted by the class action if it is authorized.

According to memy Stolow, Mr. Latulippe’s case “meets the criteria to be authorized” as a class action. According to him, the Canadian Hockey League (CHL), the QMJHL and their teams demonstrated “systemic negligence” by tolerating “a culture of abuse and silence.” “We are talking about a lack of omission (…) Everyone knew it and no one said anything,” the lawyer argued.

Equipment that has changed ownership

The QMJHL’s lawyer, Mathieu Leblanc-Gagnon, believes instead that the request for authorization of collective action should be rejected, among other things because “it unites everyone in the same claim and demands their joint and several liability regardless of their concrete actions (. ..) It is an indefensible thesis.”

The lawyer recalled that “of the 18 teams that are the subject of the appeal, 13 did not exist at the time of the events.” He criticizes that the action seeks to hold all teams jointly responsible for the abuses, “without taking into account the changes in ownership” that have occurred over the years. For memy Leblanc-Gagnon, “culture goes with the operators.” “Here we have 18 different legal entities with different cultures (…) We cannot assume that they were all the same,” he argues.

Ontario’s spectrum of procedures

Lawyers for both sides also discussed the “Carcillo matter,” a similar proceeding that has been going on in Ontario for months. There, a request for authorization of a class action lawsuit filed by three former hockey players who claimed to have been victims of abuse, including Daniel Carcillo, was rejected in February 2023 by Judge Paul Perell. The decision was appealed. But at the same time, Judge Perell offered the parties another vehicle to resolve the dispute: individual actions brought for each team by groups of plaintiffs.

For memy Stolow, “the usefulness of the Carcillo file for this (Quebec) court is limited.” The requirements for class actions in Ontario and Quebec are different, she argued. Regarding the idea of ​​​​submitting individual procedures, Mmy Stolow believes that collective actions exist precisely to avoid this type of multiplication of procedures. According to memy Leblanc-Gagnon, we must instead consider Carcillo’s appeal and reject Mr. Latulippe’s request for collective action, which would be “an ineffective use of judicial resources.”

Leaving the courtroom, Carl Latulippe said he did not want to join the Ontario process and would “prefer that his case be heard here.” “For people to talk about it (the abuse in the QMJHL), for people to be aware of what’s going on, that’s good,” he said. Judge Bouchard made the decision under advice.

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