MONTREAL — While a Montreal group that helps victims of sexual assault continues to criticize the Montreal Canadiens' decision to draft a player convicted of a sex offence in Sweden, sponsors that earlier expressed concerns say they are sticking with the team.
Rotisserie chicken company Groupe St-Hubert and financial services firm Desjardins Group said on Thursday they are satisfied with an apology issued a day earlier by team owner Geoff Molson.
The corporate sponsors had publicly questioned the Habs' decision to select 18-year-old Logan Mailloux last Friday in the opening round of the NHL draft. The companies announced their decision today to continue their association with the hockey team.
"We appreciate the fact Mr. Molson took responsibility for the decision and apologized for it," St-Hubert spokeswoman Josée Vaillancourt said.
Desjardins said in a statement it is also satisfied with the team's response.
"We contacted the Canadiens on Monday to share our discomfort with this decision," Desjardins spokeswoman Valérie Lamarre said. "We are satisfied with the sincerity of the comments expressed by Geoff Molson."
For Trêves pour Elles, a Montreal-based non-profit group that fights sexual violence, the fact the Montreal Canadiens are not backtracking on their draft pick is a mistake.
"The message remains the same, that the well-being and safety of women are worth less than a man's career," said Genevieve Brochu, a social worker with the group.
The Habs' draft choice was roundly criticized because Mailloux had been fined by Swedish authorities last year after admitting to two charges related to sharing, without her consent, a photo of a woman performing a sexual act.
Molson's statement said Mailloux's actions "do not reflect the values'' of the team, adding that the Canadiens had no intention of harming the victim when they selected him, and they are committed to educating people about sexual consent. He said Mailloux would not take part in rookie and training camps this year.
Groupe St-Hubert said in a statement the company is confident the Canadiens organization will take action to raise awareness about sexual misconduct.
"This will hopefully bring some positive changes to the table," Vaillancourt said. "We continue to disapprove of acts of abuse and reprehensible behaviour, no matter what status a person may have in society."
Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin told reporters on Wednesday he supported Molson's statement, promising the team's actions would speak louder than words. Bergevin, however, declined to describe Mailloux's actions as a crime.
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.
"It's a crime,” Brochu said in an interview with The Canadian Press. "Beating around the bush and using expressions like 'serious mistake' or 'youthful mistake' contributes to the trivialization and culture of rape."
This report by The Canadian Press was first published on July 29, 2021.
— With files from Clara Descurninges
Virginie Ann, The Canadian Press