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McGill backtracks, decides to testify before committee studying hockey hazing

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McGill University has reversed its decision and agreed to testify at a parliamentary committee in Quebec City in the wake of the revelations of violent hazing acts in the junior hockey league.

The Montreal university was invited to participate in the hearings but withdrew on Monday.

MNAs were perplexed by the decision and criticized the insitution for refusing to testify, as they had wanted to learn how McGill handled a similar hazing situation in the mid-2000s involving its football team.

On Tuesday afternoon, the hearing scheduled for the Committee on Culture and Education was updated. It showed McGill is scheduled to participate at approximately 4:40 p.m. on Wednesday, after other participants, including Hockey Quebec, the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, the Canadian Hockey League, and the Quebec Student Sports Network.

In a statement provided to CTV News, McGill said it initially declined the invitation because of the length of time that has passed since the institution faced its own hazing problem and the "very short" timeframe between the invitation and the hearing date.

"That said, McGill University has informed the committee secretariat today that it will make itself available at the convenience of the committee's members," said a university spokesperson Shirley Cardenas.

The committee is currently studying "the revelations of violence during hazing in the junior hockey league and the potential situation in other sports."

An Ontario Superior Court ruling, uncovered by Radio-Canada, exposed the abuse, sexual violence and discrimination suffered by former junior hockey players.

The players were tortured, forcibly confined, shaved, stripped, drugged, intoxicated, physically and sexually assaulted and forced to drink urine, according to the ruling. The premier called the hazing abuse detailed by the judge "disgusting" and told reporters that the league must address it. 

On Tuesday, Quebec Solidaire, one of the opposition parties that was critical of McGill's decision, said it was "pleased" the university has now agreed to testify.

"We didn't invite them to put them on trial, we invited them to learn from their experience and to find solutions to put an end to abusive initiations in sport. That's what we're going to work on together tomorrow," said MNA Vincent Marissal, the party's sports critic.

Before the university had changed its mind, Parti Québécois MNA Joël Arseneau had said the added value of McGill's testimony was "obvious" due to the lessons learned from 2005. At the time, McGill cancelled the remainder of the football season after an 18-year-old rookie football player reported he was sexually assaulted with a broomstick during "Rookie Night."

The university later launched a zero-tolerance policy against hazing, however, another incident made national headlines after a former basketball player claimed he was taken to a basement apartment with a pillowcase over his head in September 2015, where he was forced to drink large quantities of alcohol and perform embarrassing sexual acts.

"Given the massive public funds that are also invested in that university, their part of the social pact would be to share their experience with us," Arseneau said Tuesday morning.

- With files from The Canadian Press 

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