Statement of defence calls allegations against University of Lethbridge coach and Pronghorns executive director ‘scandalous and frivolous’

A statement of defence obtained by Global News is calling for a civil case against a University of Lethbridge coach and sports and recreation executive director to be dismissed.

Former members of the Pronghorns women’s hockey team alleged bullying and harassment against sport and recreation executive director Ken McInnes and the hockey team’s head coach Michelle Janus.

The four women — Olivia Alexander, Alannah Jensen, Chelsea Kasprick and Brittney Sawyer — are named as plaintiffs in the suit.

They’re seeking more than $1 million in damages. Read the full statement of defence below

The statement of claim filed in Court of Queen’s Bench on Aug. 21 details an alleged pattern of bullying and harassment dating back to 2015.

In the statement of defence, university officials deny the allegations, saying in part:

“Generally, the university defendants state that there is no merit to the allegations contained therein, and that this action should be struck as it is scandalous, frivolous and vexatious and an abuse of process.”

The plaintiffs’ lawyer takes issue with that statement.

“If you look at them, I almost find them abusive in nature, because these girls have actually suffered physical, emotional and psychological harm,” Diann Castle said. “It’s almost clear to me that they want to continue that message that it’s OK to promote abusive behaviour by their institution.”

The plaintiffs’ allegations include being asked by Janus and McInnes to vote on whether a teammate should be allowed to continue to play on the team following a suicide attempt. They also allege a pattern of verbal abuse by the head coach.

These are accusations that the statement of defence denies.

“The university defendants deny that the events and actions and statements of McInnes and Janus set out therein occurred or were spoken, as alleged, or at all…”

The statement of defence ends with how the defence hopes the civil case will be resolved.

“The university defendants pray that this action be dismissed with costs.”

But, Castle doesn’t believe that will happen.

“They’re not getting that,” Castle said. “If we cut a deal and it becomes confidential, maybe. But no. They’re not getting that, it’s not right.”

Global News reached out to university officials for comment on Tuesday, but they said they will not be commenting while the case is before the courts.

None of the allegations has been proven in court. A court date hasn’t been set in this case.

Read the full statement of defence below

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