Toronto Police investigate sexual assault allegations involving Humber rugby teams

Oct 5, 2015 | Campus News

Humber College’s men’s rugby team in action against Mohawk College.

Humber College’s men’s rugby team in action against Mohawk College.

Nick Westoll and Nick Beare

Toronto Police have launched an investigation into sexual assault allegations involving members of Humber’s men’s and women’s varsity rugby teams.

The news follows a stunning announcement late Friday that both OCAA championship teams were suspended due to undisclosed violations of the college’s code of expectations governing athletes’ conduct.

Toronto Police Const. Jenifferjit Sidhu told Humber News 23 Division officers were called to Humber’s North campus on Thursday to investigate an incident that reportedly took place on Sept. 25.

“Someone became aware of the situation and relayed it to school security, who in turn called police,” Sidhu said Monday.

Officers determined through an investigation that members of both teams were allegedly involved, according to Sidhu.

However, she added a victim has not come forward and there is no word on any suspects.

Humber College saying very little

Andrew Leopold, director of communications for Humber College, would not confirm the allegations when asked by a Humber News reporter.

“We put out our release on Friday … and I don’t have anything new or updated from Friday,” Leopold said. “We’re continuing to do our investigation.”

Humber has launched an internal investigation, but details have been limited.

“Ultimately, it’s going to be looking at what happened [and] who is involved,” Leopold said when asked for details on the scope of the inquiry. “That’s to happen and when we know more, we may or may not release a statement at that time.”

Leopold added he needed to seek approval before saying who is leading the investigation.

When asked if this might be construed as showing preferential treatment for athletes, Leopold referenced points from Friday’s press release. But he added athletes aren’t treated differently.

“Athletes do not get any sort of preferential treatment,” Leopold said. “I think varsity sports are a privilege. All students are students first and we want to ensure that we have a campus and a college environment to ensure student success at every level.”

Leopold said it hasn’t been determined by those involved with the internal investigation if a campus-wide call for information on this incident is warranted.

Humber rugby promotional materials have been removed from the Athletic Centre.

Humber rugby promotional materials have been removed from the Athletic Centre.

Reaction: Silence to shock

Members of both the varsity men’s and women’s rugby teams declined to discuss the suspension of both teams as a cone of silence has fallen over players and officials.

Humber News contacted more than a dozen varsity rugby players from both teams.

At the time of publication, team members approached for this story had refused to comment.

Athletes are required to sign a Humber Varsity Code of Expectations document when they join the college’s sports team. Here is a partial list of requirements:

• Deescalate situations to the best of one’s ability. Any violence, including fighting, will not be tolerated.

• Refrain from using any illegal drugs or banned substances

• Refrain from excessive use of alcohol. Incidents at the Pub involving Humber Athletes will lead to swift disciplinary action. Walk away!

• Teams found to be involved in any forms of hazing may lead to immediate suspension from further play.

• Attend all practices, games, and tournaments. An athlete must speak with their coach ahead of time to sort out any issues.

• Follow all rules and guidelines set out by the College, Humber Athletics and Coaches

Men’s rugby Head Coach Fabian Rayne also declined to comment, directing Humber News to look for answers elsewhere.

“At this point we’re basically on hold right now. I’m not sure what’s going on, you’d have to speak to Andrew,” Rayne said, referring inquiries to Leopold.

According to Jim Bialek, OCAA Men’s Rugby Convenor, both teams have defaulted on their games scheduled for Oct. 6 (women’s) and Oct. 7 (men’s) against Conestoga.

Conestoga will be awarded a win and bonus points in Humber’s absence.

The suspension sparked reaction among the OCAA community.

“I was shocked,” said Georgian College Coach John Daggett, whose team is one of 11 on the OCAA rugby circuit. “It will throw the league in turmoil and it will open up opportunities for other teams.”

“All they’ve done is default these games to further investigate,” Bialek said. “Both teams are scheduled to play their next games on the 18th of October. So they would have to make a decision (on the teams’ future) prior to the 18th.”

Cara Coutts, a former Humber rugby player and current Humber cross-country athlete, said that she believes that the code of conduct is in place for a reason.

“Athletes are role models. Guidelines are good for the school and for the athletics program,” she said.

With files from Charlotte Morritt-Jacobs, Domenic Loschiavo, Mathew Hartley, Matthew Pariselli, Sam Juric, David Tuchman, Christina Romualdo and Mahnoor Yawar