The parent of a former Rocky Mountain Raiders player says she and other parents submitted a letter of complaint about a coach who is now facing charges in Winnipeg over a sexually exploitative relationship with a minor.
Madison Biluk was charged following an investigation from the Winnipeg Police Service and is alleged to have sexually exploited a teen between 2019 and 2021.
The 28-year-old is facing 15 charges including sexual assault, luring a Person Under 16 years of age, possession of child pornography, and assault with a weapon in relation to the alleged relationship which occurred between 2019 and 2021 while Biluk was coaching the survivor, who was a minor at the time.
Biluk coached for the U18AA Rocky Mountain Raiders in Okotoks for the 2021-2022 season.
Stacey Running Rabbit, whose daughter played on the team during that time, recalls what she describes as bullying behaviour that took a toll on her daughter's mental well-being.
"It was probably one of my daughter's toughest hockey seasons ever. As a parent, you want to go and enjoy the sport your child really wants to play, but I'd go to these games and I'm watching her have mental breakdowns in the middle of games. It was an emotional and mentally tolling season. In light of everything now, it makes sense as to what was going on behind the scenes."
She says she confided in Biluk to support her daughter's mental health and feels the coach used the information to do the opposite.
"I had shared with the coach at the beginning of the season some of my own daughter's struggles with mental health, so this coach knew the vulnerabilities of my daughter and she turned that basically into a weapon that she used against her."
Running Rabbit also describes seeing behaviour that she believed was pushing the boundary of appropriate interactions between a coach and young players.
"It seemed inappropriate, as a parent you're like 'Okay that's a red flag,' it doesn't sit right with you. You're not sure if you're seeing what you think you're really seeing... You're watching her playing games on their phones and you're like 'That kind of goes beyond a player/coach interaction. It's something players would do with players, but not a player and a coach."
Running Rabbit recalls one specific incident surrounding a team bonding trip to Banff. She says her daughter had another sporting event she was going to attend that weekend and wasn't originally planning to join her team in Banff.
"I'd told her coach that we would be there. The coach, Madi, then basically guilted my daughter into going, saying it was mandatory and if she didn't go, she would potentially lose ice time because it was a team bonding event. I had a conversation with Madi and said 'Fine, she can go but I do need to pick her up on the Sunday because she does have to go to this other commitment. Sunday morning comes and I'm texting my daughter to say "Where are you? I'm coming to pick you up,' and she said, 'Mom you're not allowed to come get me.' I'm like 'What do you mean? I'm a parent.' 'No, Madi said you're now allowed to come get me, that I have to stay with the team.' I had a conversation with my husband going 'I'm not allowed to go to pick up my daughter? Does that seem okay? That just seems like you're again trying to isolate my child from me on this trip.'"
Running Rabbit and other parents submitted a letter of complaint to the Okotoks Minor Hockey Association (OMHA)/Okotoks Oilers Athletic Association (OOAA) in March of 2022, after the season had concluded.
"At the end of the season, there was a letter I was a part of that highlighted some of our concerns as parents. It kind of highlighted some inappropriateness that we'd witnessed and that the girls had shared with us, it highlighted some general unprofessionalism she bestowed as a coach, and overall concerns about her ability to coach at that level with this age group," explains Running Rabbit.
She says there was concern at the notion of Biluk coaching a second season with the Raiders.
"My understanding is that they are two-year contracts, and what was felt by this group of parents was that we need to voice our concerns to the board because there couldn't be a second season, you're going to lose too many players... We did lose players that didn't return after that season because they couldn't manage. The mental toll on some of those girls was horrific. You've taken their love for sports that they've worked for, and you've turned it into something they want nothing to do with anymore. That's sad when we're trying to keep girls in sports."
Biluk did not coach the Raiders for the following season and returned to Manitoba to coach the U18 female AAA Winnipeg Ice.
It's unclear if Biluk's departure was the result of action from local officials. Running Rabbit, not wanting to speak on behalf of other parents, says she personally isn't aware of a response to the letter.
The OOAA and OMHA did not respond to a request for comment as to whether any action was taken in response to the complaint.
Both organizations released a joint statement on November 14 stating they were "not aware of any complaints which are similar in nature to the charges brought against Ms. Biluk by the Winnipeg police in connection with her coaching of the U18AA Raiders Team."
On November 21, they released a second statement saying that all information regarding Biluk from her time coaching the Raiders, including the complaint letter, has been submitted to The Independent Third Party (ITP), a group which, according to their website, "hires external mediators, investigators and adjudicators for the complaints within its jurisdiction."
The Foothills School Division (FSD) has also released a statement regarding Biluk, saying she had conducted workout sessions after school hours with Raiders players at the Foothills Composite's fitness rooms.
FSD's statement goes on to clarify that Biluk "did not work with any other students, that we are aware of, and has at no time been an employee of the division."
The statements from the OOAA/OMHA and FSD recommend anyone with concerns about interactions with Biluk to contact the Okotoks RCMP.
Running Rabbit says she hopes to see the trust between parents and hockey organization go in both directions moving forward.
"Organizations have to understand that as parents, when red flags are going up and if we're coming to you, whether it's in person or over email, it's not always necessarily about us trying to get our child more ice time. It's about, as a parent, 'This doesn't sit right.' Just trust and listen to us instead of fighting us and telling us kids need to be resilient. We're entrusting our children in elite organizations; we're entrusting our children with coaches... Don't brush us off, listen to us once in a while. This might have been prevented or it could've stopped much sooner."
In response to Canada's Online News Act and Meta (Facebook and Instagram) removing access to local news from their platforms, HighRiverOnline and OkotoksOnline encourage you to get your news directly from your trusted source by bookmarking this page and downloading the HighRiverOnline or OkotoksOnline app.