The city of Toronto will not file charges at this time after investigating complaints that more than a dozen young players who trained with a hockey school at an Etobicoke arena were dependent on alleged vaccination exemption certificates issued by the same doctor in British Columbia.
“The City of Toronto has completed its investigation into these complaints and, based on the information currently available for the city’s enforcement, no charges have been issued,” a Toronto Public Health spokesman told Global News in an email. .
The decision announced Wednesday followed concerns raised after police received a tip that about 15 young hockey players, using similar exception notes, had been able to access the Westwood Arena in Etobicoke to attend training sessions with Allstar Hockey School, Inc.
Concerns about the alleged vaccination certificates were initially raised in a story reported by TSN.
Proof of vaccination or a valid medical exemption is now required for anyone over the age of 12 to participate in organized sports activities in Ontario, including hockey.
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Westwood Arena general manager John Cook told Global News in an off-camera interview that his staff noticed the series of alleged exceptions written by a doctor practicing outside of Ontario and was concerned.
“It seemed really strange,” Cook said.
“When every hockey player came in (a customer service representative) noticed it was from the same doctor, so yeah … we recognized that it was weird.”
Cook told Global News he was cooperating with police. He said officers interviewed him and a representative of the Allstar Hockey School at the arena.
Cook said the alleged vaccination exemption documents appeared to be signed by the same doctor in British Columbia.
“What we found really strange about the exceptions is that they came from a doctor outside the province, and we were not aware that a doctor outside the province can do that,” Cook said.
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The letters of exemption were allegedly signed by Dr. Stephen Malthouse, a BC doctor who has been publicly critical of the government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
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“The rules created for the people of British Columbia are causing a great deal of harm,” said Drs. Malthouse to Global News in February.
In a protest, he challenged the science behind mask wearing, social distancing and lockdowns.
Global News could not see and was unable to examine the documents. Westwood Arena staff were not allowed to copy them, Cook said.
“The hard part about it is that we are not allowed to keep these exceptions, so we were not allowed to pass them on to anyone,” including police, Cook said.
Allstar Hockey School is run by Jason Ricci, a former professional hockey player.
Contacted by Global News, Ricci vehemently denied that his 20-year-old company was doing anything wrong.
“As far as I know, Allstar Hockey does not skate anyone with vaccination exemptions,” he wrote in an email to Global News.
“Neither Toronto police nor public health have ever contacted Allstar hockey with any of these allegations,” Ricci maintained just before the City of Toronto announced its decision.
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While Global News had not charged the company with any misconduct, Ricci said all allegations would be “false, discriminatory and defamatory.”
“We’re dealing with a nearly two-year-old pandemic, and those are the stories of interest? Merry Christmas seems to have no meaning anymore,” Ricci concluded in an email to Global News.
He did not respond to a request for an interview on camera.
Westwood Arena’s manager said that although his staff were concerned about the alleged letters of release, there was not much they could do.
“I can not prevent people from using the arena as long as they follow government rules, and that’s what we did,” Cook said.
In the new year, Ontario is tightening the rules on vaccination exemptions.
“As of January 10, 2022, a written medical exemption will no longer be accepted to access companies and organizations that require proof of vaccination,” a spokesman wrote in an email to Global News.
“Medical records from jurisdictions other than Ontario are not eligible for trial at this time.”
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