The organization behind the Montreal Canadiens has unveiled its “consent and respect action plan” Wednesday after facing backlash this summer over its decision to draft a player convicted of a sex offence in Sweden.
Groupe CH said the program will allow the company to “act both internally and externally to raise awareness and educate its employees and the public about respect and consent and the serious consequences of sexual cyberviolence.”
The plan includes launching training on consent, respect and online sexual violence within the Habs ranks, hiring women in the organization’s hockey operations and helping create a prevention program targeting young hockey players.
The franchise said it will also give financial support to other groups that strive to “prevent, raise awareness, and educate in schools about sexual cyberviolence.” Group CH will also make a contribution to an organization that helps abuse survivors and their families.
“We want to ensure that our actions will be part of a concerted approach that will bring about positive changes within our company and in the hockey community,” team owner Geoff Molson said in a statement.
The initiative comes after the Canadiens were widely criticized by sponsors, politicians and groups that help victims of sexual assault for drafting defenceman Logan Mailloux. He was convicted of sharing non-consensual sexually explicit images of a young woman in 2020.
In Canada, non-consensual publication of an intimate image is an offence under the Criminal Code and, in the most serious cases, is punishable by imprisonment for up to five years.
Molson has since apologized for the “offensive” decision to draft Mailloux — who had previously asked the NHL not to draft him.
The team has not backtracked on its draft selection, though Mailloux will not participate in the Canadiens’ rookie or main training camp this fall.
Earlier this month, the Ontario Hockey League suspended the defencemen indefinitely for violating the league’s expectation for appropriate conduct by a player.
‘Real desire to change their culture’
Mélanie Lemay, the co-founder of Québec contre les violences sexuelles and survivor of sexual assault, is part of the advisory committee on the plan.
After Mailloux was drafted, she said her team reached out to the Canadiens to offer advice. Lemay said she was impressed by how fast the organization accepted it.
“I think it shows a real desire to change their culture,” she said.
The committee will be holding meetings in the coming weeks in order to “work towards a change of culture,” she added.
“But also seeing how we can make sure that those steps are going to be really important and meaningful in the player’s life as well,” Lemay said.
The Habs’ action plan has prompted questions from experts, though. Dr. Walter Dekeseredy, director of the West Virginia University Research Center on Violence, said he wants to know how long the programs will be and if they’ll continue each year.
“Is it a one-shot initiative? These types of things are unclear,” he said. “Are they just going to do it at the start of the season and then not do anything else after that? Because this is what we see at colleges and universities across North America.
“They have programs in place, but they’re often not ongoing.”
Rob Ramage, director of player development for the Montreal club, said he received a second chance after spending time in prison for driving crash that killed his friend in 2003.
In 2007, the former NHL player was found guilty on all five charges he faced including impaired driving causing death. Former Chicago Blackhawk Keith Magnuson died in the crash.
Ramage said that after his conviction, he gave talks in prison about drinking and driving. He told reporters than he has since spoken to hockey teams and first responders about the issue.
“I’m a guy who was given a second chance, and that’s why I’m here today,” he said.
Ramage said he never would have that opportunity otherwise. The team wants to help Mailloux “get there,” he added.
“It’s one day at a time, one step at a time,” Ramage said. “But he’s motivated and I believe he’s going to get there.”
—with files from Global News’ Alessia Simona Maratta and The Canadian Press
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