Basketball camp claimed it was endorsed by woman who alleged sexual harassment

Silvia said she was walking into the gym on one of her first days as a counsellor at Young Athlete Saskatchewan camp when she remembers her boss, in front of other employees, telling her, “I’m looking at your breasts…. That makes me look at your breasts when you wear (your duffel bag) like that.”

Silvia was 18 and said she had already been harassed by her 56-year-old boss. She told Global News she had worked in his home office before the basketball camp started, where she said he propositioned her. She said he told her she could live in the apartment but “cleaning and dishes wouldn’t be the only thing I would get you to do to repay me.”

She said he repeated the offer on several occasions and she had no doubt he meant she would have to sleep with him.

The public harassment and humiliation drove her to quit, she told Global News.

But years later, she noted that a review appeared on the camp’s website bearing her name. She told Global News she didn’t write it.

She believes her former boss and alleged harasser, Dennis Robert Hall, did.

Silvia is not her real name and Global News has agreed to protect her identity.

Read more: Former employees allege sexual misconduct at Saskatchewan basketball camp for teenagers

Hall is a convicted sex offender. In 1981, a judge sentenced him to concurrent 18-month jail terms for having sex with two girls between the ages of 14 and 16 and for indecently assaulting two other adolescent girls. Multiple media outlets have reported the federal government granted him a pardon in 1994.

It appears Hall was involved with YAS since it was founded in 1983, shortly after his jail term expired. He was able to do this because there are no regulations in Saskatchewan that prevent anyone, even someone convicted of committing sexual offences against minors, from being involved with a private sports camp.

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Silvia is among about a dozen former employees, players, parents and experts who spoke to Global News about the camp. She and other people who have directly interacted with Hall allege that he has misled the public about his past for years, claiming to have endorsements and sponsors that are not what they appear to be.

‘That is not my language’

Global News reached out to Hall on numerous occasions for this story and to YAS staff. No one responded to any interview requests.

An email from a YAS account to a parent in 2020 stated Hall had not been involved with the camp in more than six years.

The alleged incidents Silvia described took place in 2002 but the testimonial was only recently taken down.

Silvia reported the alleged incident to the Saskatoon Police Service. Internal documents, obtained through a freedom of information request, show officers did not believe there was sufficient evidence to investigate further.

She said she’s emailed Hall for years asking that it be removed, but to no avail. Her father also emailed YAS and shared the messages with Global News.

He received a response from “Brian North” that denied knowing anything about the testimonial. A copy of this response from YAS was also sent to a separate “Hall Comm” email account, with “North” asking the latter if they could provide an explanation.

Silvia’s father responded by accusing Hall of using fictional names and urged him to stop. “North” denied this was the case and referred to himself as Dennis Hall’s stepson, and the “Hall Comm” account wrote a message saying that Denis Hall had not heard from Silvia’s father in years.

(Hall has used both “Dennis” and “Denis” as spellings for his first name.)

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Silvia alleges that when she worked with Hall in 2002, she heard him using aliases such as “Brian Farr” to respond to people who called to ask about the criminal convictions.

Global News emailed the “Brian North” account to ask whether he could confirm that he was a real person, but did not receive a response.

Another former employee, who also alleges Hall sexually harassed her, told Global News someone has posted a testimonial in her own name that she never wrote.

Global News has agreed not to reveal her identity either and has given her the pseudonym Noelle.

She said she worked for Hall, again in his home office, at the end of the summer in 2002. She said she quit when Hall told her she could spend the night if she was tired.

No charges were ever brought against Hall as a result of Noelle’s allegations.

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Within a year of quitting, she noticed a review written on the site that apparently had been written by her.

“I went to look at it and it was like, that is not my language,” she said.

She said she emailed Hall to ask him to take it down. The response came from a name she didn’t recognize, which she thought was odd because she had just worked for the camp.

She believes the email also came from “Brian North.”

Noelle said she had not kept the emails and was unable to provide Global News with copies.

At least one of the organizations listed as a sponsor on the YAS website had no connection with the camp for at least a decade. Another entity, which presents itself as a charity, has no accreditation.

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Two were removed after Global News reached out to the organizations listed as sponsors for comment.

A representative of Canadian Tire JumpStart did not respond to requests for comment, but its own logo disappeared from the site after Global News emailed and called with questions.

The Saskatchewan Indian Gaming Association (SIGA) was also listed as a sponsor, but told Global News it had no records of supporting the camp in the past decade. Its logo was removed from the YAS website after Global News sent it questions in July 2020.

A SIGA spokesperson wrote, “SIGA has not sponsored this event in many years – we’re not sure why our logo/branding is still associated with this and have requested it be removed.”

In a followup email, the spokesperson stated SIGA has not sponsored YAS in the last decade.

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The site listed Hall*Comm Trust as a sponsor. Until April 2021, the site’s Hall*Comm Trust website link connected to a site that stated Hall*Comm Trust “is a charity that was established in 1996 to assist youths attend established summer sports schools or camps.”

The website does not list a registered charity number. In an email, a representative of the Canadian Revenue Agency stated that “Hall*Comm Trust is not currently registered as a charity, nor has it been previously registered as a charity.”

YAS also secured support from a francophone cultural organization that receives federal and provincial support, the Association Canadienne-Français de Regina (ACFR), which rents gym space to YAS at a discount.

Kymber Zahar, the president, in a phone interview told Global News most of the group’s funding comes from Heritage Canada and facility rentals.

She told Global News ACFR had been renting gym space to YAS for more than 15 years.

Over the course of those years, we have built a relationship where they have provided support to the francophone community,” she said.

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A resume Hall submitted during his trial shows he claims to be bilingual.

Zahar stressed there was no official partnership.

ACFR said it co-ordinates with Philippe Bossé, a teacher at École Monseigneur de Laval.

A 2020 Leader-Post article names Bossé as the head coach of YAS in Regina and a school website shows Bossé teaches Grade 2.

Bossé did not respond to Global News’ requests for comment.

There is no evidence of wrongdoing by Bossé.

Bossé’s school board, the Conseil des Écoles Fransaskoises, said it requires every staff member to uphold the highest possible standards of ethical conduct in both professional and personal activities but that “it has no knowledge or involvement in monitoring said activities outside of the workplace.”

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The Community Initiatives Fund (CIF), which the government of Saskatchewan created in 1995 to support community-based programs throughout the province, is another sponsor. The CIF receives a portion of the revenue generated in casinos in Regina and Moose Jaw.

The executive director, Tracey Mann, confirmed the fund donated $88,000 to YAS between 2010 and 2020.

And she said the organization is fully aware of who is involved with the camp.

“Denis Hall submits the application and final reports on behalf of YAS to us. And yes, we are aware of his history,” she wrote.

She said the funding subsidizes registration fees to enable children to attend the camp.

In a followup email, Mann said CIF supports around 100 kids attending the camp annually, though she said the fund did not support YAS in 2021.

She said the board of directors ultimately approves all grants.

‘How quickly can we draft that letter to YAS?’

YAS also listed Sask Lotteries and the City of Saskatoon as sponsors.

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A spokesperson for Sask Sport, the provincial federation for amateur sport, stated YAS received money through the Sask Lotteries Community Grant Program, which provides support to municipalities across the province to fund non-profit organizations.

“In this case, Sask Lotteries provided Community Grant funding to the City of Saskatoon, which in turn delivered grants to community groups in the city,” Jeff Bohach said in an email.

YAS corporate documents show it is a non-profit organization.

He stated YAS indirectly received $6,000 from Sask Lotteries in 2018 and $6,500 in 2019.

“As the funding was provided through the Community Grant Program, Sask Lotteries does not coordinate directly with anyone at YAS, nor is funding provided directly to YAS,” he wrote, though he said the funding arrangement requires YAS to acknowledge Sask Lotteries, “which accounts for the Sask Lotteries logo on the YAS website.”

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When asked the same questions, Mark Rogstad, the media relations manager for the City of Saskatoon, said the city is not a sponsor.

In an email, he said all funding recipients are required to display the Sask Lotteries and City logos on their website as a condition of receiving the money.

He noted a volunteer committee adjudicates applications.

Rogstad also stated that the grant is for general operations, that the receipts YAS issues are usually for facility rentals and that the city provided funding, in 2020, 2019 and 2018 but not 2017 or 2016.

“Essentially, the City rents the space and that’s all,” Rogstad wrote.

Correspondence sent by the city to the camp in July 2020, released to Global News through freedom of information legislation, also reveals that Saskatoon asked the camp to correct how it was characterized on the website, and remove references to it being a sponsor.

This letter was sent after Global News asked the city for comment.

Silvia told Global News she thought the city had banned Hall from its facilities.

An email from the city’s media relations account stated the city must have a current and valid legal reason to ban a group or individual from a public city facility.

“As a public entity we rarely have the authority to ban a group or individual from facilities that are generally open to the public. Any decision to ban a group or individual would be based on legal authority. Legal authority may include a police investigation, conditions of a sentence, other court or correctional orders, active criminal charges before the courts or other such legal authority.”

Internal City of Saskatoon employee emails, obtained by Global News through a freedom of information (FOI) request, show Global’s initial questions set off a flurry of activity to distance the city from the camp.

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“Any idea on how quickly we can draft that letter to YAS?” asked Andrew Roberts, the city’s recreation director, in an email sent on July 29 to the city’s community development manager, Kevin Kitchen.

City staff then circulated a draft of a letter asking YAS to more clearly state the relationship with the city. The documents show the city’s solicitor, Cindy Yelland, was included on almost all exchanges. Though most of her responses are redacted, one email shows she heavily revised the letter, which Kitchen sent to Hall on July 30, 2020, three days after Global News requested comment from the city about its relationship with the camp.

Someone using the name “Robb Hall” responded, stating he would update the phrasing on the website. He also asked what he should do about the “75,000” YAS brochures that “went out across the city and beyond.”

Saskatoon’s freedom of information clerk censored all of the city’s internal emails discussing how to respond.

Several months later, the word “sponsors” has been replaced on the camp’s website. It now shows the emblems for the ACFR, the CIF, Hall*Comm Trust, Sask Lotteries and the City of Saskatoon under a header that says “Thank You.”

Other email correspondence released to Global News shows that city officials also discussed Hall’s prior convictions. In one email, Rogstad included a link to the Star-Phoenix article announcing Denis Hall’s 2016 candidacy for the GSCS board trustee chair, titled “Convicted sex offender Denis Hall running for Greater Catholic schools board trustee.”

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In April 2021 the link directs the reader to an article called “Catholic school trustee candidate withdraws after backlash over past sex crimes,” and explains how Hall withdrew his election bid.

In another email, Rogstad copied and pasted paragraphs from the article, explaining Hall’s conviction, his history of coaching and teaching and his pardon.

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The article states the teenage girl whom he allegedly impregnated sued him in November 1981. The reporter, Charles Hamilton, wrote Hall settled out of court with her and her family, paying $3,500.

Hall has denied impregnating the girl in previous reports.

Global News also obtained Hall’s applications for the city and Sask Lotteries funding through freedom of information legislation.

The city addressed most correspondence to Robert or Robb Hall, but not all.

In 2019 the city emailed seven receipts for YAS’s rental of the Cosmo Civic Centre, a city facility, to Denis Hall.

Global News arrived at the Lakewood Civic Centre, where the camp was moved during the pandemic, in late August 2020 looking for Hall. The camps had concluded and the city employee directed questions to the city media relations team. The city employee later emailed a superior. That email, also included in the FOI request, states Global News “showed me a picture of Dennis (Robb) Hall and asked if he was on site.”

An April 2021 blog post on the YAS site stated Hall*Comm Trust is a charity supported by Saskatchewan Lotteries and the City of Saskatoon.

In an email, Bohach stated Sask Sport has no knowledge of Hall*Comm Trust and has no relationship with it.

An email from the city media relations account said YAS received a $6,000 grant for 2021 and the city has no connection with Hall*Comm Trust.

“The City has no … relationship with the entity/organization named in your inquiry.”

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