The fight to combat systemic abuse in Canadian hockey is set to take another step Nov. 14-18, as a motion for certification will be heard in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice in a class-action lawsuit, led by former NHLer Daniel Carcillo and former Western Hockey League player Garrett Taylor, against the Canadian Hockey League.
According to the website of Koskie Minsky LLP, the lawyers for the plaintiffs, the “claim alleges widespread and ritualized hazing, racism, homophobia, sexual and physical abuse in the Canadian major junior hockey leagues,” including the OHL, WHL, and QMJHL.
The certification hearing is a necessary step in identifying the lawsuit as a class action.
As co-host of The Broadscast and lawyer Samantha Chang clarified, “In order for a class action to proceed, the court has to determine or certify that an action should proceed as a class action, appoint a representative plaintiff (or representative plaintiffs), and certify the common issues or questions of fact and law to be determined at trial.”
“Certification is a procedural step to weed out cases that aren't properly class proceedings, and it doesn't determine the merits of the case,” Chang told Yahoo Sports Canada. “The judge will be focused on whether the representative plaintiff and the proposed action meet the legislative requirements to proceed as a class action.”
According to court files, Carcillo, who is the probable representative plaintiff, and a large group of former CHL members allege leagues and teams “acted in concert in perpetuating a toxic system which condones violent, discriminatory, racist, sexualized, and homophobic conduct, including physical and sexual assault.”
Carcillo hopes this lawsuit and the truth it seeks will allow more victims to safely come forward, and inevitably create safer reporting systems and environments within the sport.
“I think it’s important to ensure that there’s an avenue for victims to be able to come forward and share their stories, and to create a safer environment moving forward for minors to come up in a positive culture and hopefully to not have to experience what has traditionally gone on for several decades,” Carcillo told Yahoo Sports Canada.
This is not the first class-action lawsuit the CHL has faced in recent years. In 2020 the league settled a trio of lawsuits paying $30 million to former players for minimum wage, overtime, and back pay. The league also faces class-action litigation related to its handling of concussions. With so many issues facing the CHL, coupled with those facing Canada’s governing body for the sport, Hockey Canada, Carcillo hopes this class action leads to meaningful change.
“The truth will come out in the wash,” Carcillo said. “It’s been like that for decades and there were powers at be that didn’t want it to change. You’re seeing people getting more educated and parents aren’t putting their kids in the sport because of past transgressions, so hopefully there is more change to come, because it’s certainly not good enough now. Hopefully it gets better.”
At the certification hearings, the defendants also have a cross-motion tabled to strike claim against certain defendants.
Carcillo, who spent three seasons in the OHL with the Sarnia Sting and Mississauga IceDogs went on to a successful nine-year NHL career, winning two Stanley Cups. Regardless of how this lawsuit plays out, he hopes victims find peace, and that supports become available to help with healing and to create safer environments within the game he loves.
“I hope that people are able to find peace by sharing their story,” Carcillo said.
“The people that have already come forward should feel really good about what they’ve done, because they’ve probably saved some lives and empowered others to speak up not just within hockey culture but abuse survivors in general. There’s some things that should come out of this to support people's ongoing therapy that they need to continue with, and a framework of reporting and a system that allows people to safely report things that may be happening currently and in the future.”
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