Probe finds 'major shortcomings' at Montreal high school where basketball coaches face sex-related charges

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Joelle Martina, one of the founders of the group Coalition of Big Sisters in Sport, said the Education Ministry's report on the basketball culture at Saint-Laurent high school lacks detail and offers few concrete solutions. (John Ngala/CBC News - image credit)
Joelle Martina, one of the founders of the group Coalition of Big Sisters in Sport, said the Education Ministry's report on the basketball culture at Saint-Laurent high school lacks detail and offers few concrete solutions. (John Ngala/CBC News - image credit)

The Marguerite-Bourgeoys school service centre is promising to act on all recommendations stemming from a provincial investigation that found "major shortcomings" in the basketball program at Montreal's École secondaire Saint-Laurent, in the wake of February's arrest of three coaches on sex-related charges.

Daniel Lacasse, Charles-Xavier Boislard and Robert Luu are facing various charges, including sexual exploitation, sexual assault, sexual interference and invitation to sexual touching.

Their arrests touched off several investigations, including one ordered by the Quebec Education Ministry. The ministry released a summary of its findings Tuesday.

"The investigation made it possible to identify major shortcomings in terms of supervision and controls related to the basketball program at École Saint-Laurent," the ministry said in a news release.

"In light of the information gathered, the dignity of several athletes was compromised during their time at Saint-Laurent school," it said.

That echoes the results of a CBC investigation in February that uncovered a rampant toxic culture in the basketball program, where coaches routinely bullied and insulted female students.

The provincial investigation makes several recommendations, including:

  • improving controls over sports programs at the school.

  • mandating an independent  firm to "carry out an intervention on the climate and incivility" at the school and report back to the ministry.

  • appointing  an independent accounting firm to conduct a financial audit of sports programs at the school.

  • making bystander intervention training mandatory in schools and raising awareness of the bystander effect.

The Marguerite-Bourgeoys school service centre, which oversees the school, turned down CBC's request for an interview but released its own statement today in response to the ministry's investigation.

"We will spare no effort to ensure that the school's women's basketball program meets expectations and reflects the values of respect and dignity that we uphold," the school service centre said.

It also said some changes have already been made but did not offer any details.

'Waste of time'

Grace Ngoyi's daughter played basketball at the school in 2018 and witnessed Lacasse yelling at players during games and practices.

St-Laurent Express Basketball/Facebook
St-Laurent Express Basketball/Facebook

Ngoyi complained to both Lacasse and the school before the arrests, but her complaints were ignored.

"This report is a big waste of time, and it's disrespectful to the victims," said Ngoyi in an interview with CBC Wednesday.

She noted the report recommends hiring an independent firm to look further into the culture at the school.  She said she and other parents called for that last winter.

"They wasted five months to realize they need an independent firm?  The victims will have to retell their stories again and again," Ngoyi said.

She also questioned the recommendation for bystander intervention training.

"There are already people who tried to speak up and weren't listened to," Ngoyi said. She said she thinks the school's principal should have been suspended during the investigation.

Joëlle Martina is a former basketball player who helped found a group called the Coalition of Big Sisters of Sports after the arrests. The group's goal is to improve the culture of amateur basketball and make sure young players are safe.

"We were waiting a long time for this report, and there's only six recommendations. So it felt very thin," Martina told CBC in an interview Wednesday.

"I was looking for a little bit more, like specific strategy, budget, timelines — like true concrete ways, not just words," Martina said.

Ngoyi also questioned the lack of detail. She wondered why the Education Ministry released a one-page news release instead making its entire report public.

"The report cannot be disclosed since it is still a situation that is the subject of a legal process," Bryan St-Louis, a spokesperson for the ministry, told CBC in an email.

"Out of respect for the ongoing process, the ministry will not be issuing further comments," he said.

Martina said she's still hoping to hear more from the ministry.

"Until I know that every child can go to school or play sports and be safe, it'll never be enough," she said.

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