An ex-Winnipeg hockey coach and practising lawyer faces charges for sexual assault and child pornography offences after two individuals came forward to reveal he assaulted them in their early teens while coaching them nearly 30 years ago, Winnipeg police state.
At a Thursday news conference, Winnipeg Police Service spokesperson Const. Dani McKinnon said that Robert “Bob” Donald Joseph Dawson, who is 57, was taken into custody from a home on Lake Park Drive in southeast Winnipeg on Wednesday.
McKinnon revealed the survivors independently came forward in June to report the alleged assaults they claim happened between 1993 and 1995. This was while they were players in the Assiniboine Park Hockey Association.
Police state they don’t believe Dawson is actively coaching any longer.
Hockey Winnipeg disclosed it doesn’t have information about how long Dawson was involved with the institution or what roles he played while there since his presence pre-dates its database system.
In an emailed statement, Hockey Winnipeg executive director Ian McArton called the charges against Dawson “extremely serious and very troubling” and said the organization is “hopeful that justice is served in this case.”
McArton claims no current employees or executives at Hockey Winnipeg or board members of the Assiniboine Park Hockey Association have any engagement with Dawson.
The board declared in a statement that the hockey team Dawson volunteered for was unknowing of the allegations until recently and it is now is contacting and supporting the victims.
The team put in place new policies several years past to assist in protecting players, coaches, parents, and volunteers, the board stated.
“We believe currently that the organization provides a safe environment for all and we remain committed to providing that moving forward.”
Dawson is an active lawyer; Law Society of Manitoba CEO Leah Kosokowsky revealed in an email, adding that the society has been collaborating with police and Manitoba’s prosecution service to ensure his clients’ rights are protected.
None of the claims against Dawson have been proven in court.
Other survivors urged to reach out
McKinnon said the former players who narrated the assaults revealed they were separately invited to Dawson’s home, where he accorded them money and alcohol and sexually assaulted them.
They also disclosed to the police that the sexual assault, which McKinnon described as “an ongoing scenario,” had been videotaped and photographed.
McKinnon noted that it’s “remarkable” for sexual assault survivors to come forward decades later and encouraged any other survivors to contact police.
“I can’t speak to why the victims came forward at this time. These types of cases are extremely sensitive. They’re very nuanced. They’re very personal and private. And I think just the fact that they did come forward when they did is quite remarkable.”
The investigation is ongoing, she stated.
Investigators also enforced a search warrant at the home where they took Dawson into custody, though McKinnon revealed it was still too early for police to report anything connected to that search. She also couldn’t disclose whether any images or video of the assaults had been uploaded online.
“We’re still in the very early stages of the investigation, the collection, and the documenting. That’s a very intricate procedure.”
Kosokowsky stated that because Dawson practised law out of his home, a lawyer independent from him, police, and the Crown was appointed to make sure none of the materials seized through the search warrant violated his clients’ rights.
She said an individual, known as an “independent referee,” would then go through materials police want to seize and only issue them the items not protected by solicitor and client privilege.
Kosokowsky said that because Dawson is a sole practitioner, the law society is keeping an eye on his situation, and will take steps to protect the clients’ interests where needed.
McKinnon said Dawson would remain in police custody. He faces the charges of one count of possessing child pornography and two counts of making, printing, publishing, or possessing for the purpose of publication child pornography.
He also faces two counts each of sexual interference, sexual exploitation, sexual assault, and forcible confinement.
McKinnon urged anyone with information or want to speak to investigators to call the sex crimes unit at 204-986-6245 or Crime Stoppers anonymously at 204-786-8477.