Canucks owner’s estranged children say he beat and psychologically abused them, court hears
Four adult children of Vancouver Canucks owner Francesco Aquilini have all alleged he physically and emotionally abused them when they were young, a British Columbia Supreme Court judge heard on Tuesday.
The disturbing allegations came to light during a hearing on whether Aquilini is obligated to continue paying child support and covering college expenses for three of his children. They claim in particular that he beat a sleeping child and threw a five-year-old across a bedroom.
Aquilini denied the abuse allegations, the court heard.
Tuesday’s hearing concerned a request by his ex-wife, psychotherapist Tali’ah Aquilini, for an order declaring that the three youngest remain « children of the marriage, » according to the settlement agreement.
This would force Francesco Aquilini to continue supporting his children, even though his ex-wife has redacted the names of the universities they attend and other personal information from the receipts submitted for reimbursement. She says she made these redactions at the children’s request.
Tali’ah Aquilini’s attorney, Claire Hunter, read excerpts from a letter Aquilini’s older sister allegedly sent to her father in March 2020 on behalf of the three younger siblings, explaining why they want their personal information is not disclosed.
« Your relationship with us is a direct result of your treatment of us, whether you want to acknowledge it or not. We all hold many individual accounts of your abuse of us, » she wrote.
« I would like to formally state that I and my siblings … do not wish to have any contact with you, nor would we want you to have access to our contacts, medical information or other information regarding our lives. »
The older brother is already considered an adult and does not need his father’s support, the court heard.
Although Hunter said Francesco Aquilini denied the abuse allegations, his attorney Ken McEwan did not address them in court except to say they were « unrelated » to the current case. He said the only question is whether his client has access to enough information to decide whether there is a legal obligation to continue supporting the children.
McEwan said Francesco Aquilini would consent to the unredacted receipts being provided to his attorney without seeing them himself.
« Personal information deletions are really a bit of a side issue to questions like, are the children in appropriate programs for them? » McEwan told the court.
He said he needed to be able to see more information about the children’s education, including whether they were regularly attending classes and passing or failing, as well as justification for things like student accommodation, breaks unexplained in class, plane thefts and a $48,000 computer.
The Aquilinis’ highly controversial divorce was settled out of court in 2013, just before the trial began. The settlement provided Tali’ah Aquilini with sole custody and guardianship of her children.
The four children have had very little contact with their father since the divorce, Hunter said.
Child affidavits describe alleged abuse
The three youngest children are now 20, 22 and 24, the court heard. One is following a graduate program abroad. One is studying mechanical engineering and the third is in medical school.
Hunter said each of the children disclosed physical and psychological abuse to their mother, although many details were not revealed until after the separation.
Each of the children submitted an affidavit to the court outlining their allegations of abuse. As is common in family law, the court record was sealed from public access, but Hunter read excerpts for the court.
A child recalled an incident in which he said his father started beating him while he was sleeping and continued beating him until he woke up. Another remembers being punched in the stomach by Francesco Aquilini.
In the longest passage Hunter read for the court, a child described his father getting angry with the children for making too much noise in the family playroom.
« Respondent [Francesco Aquilini] then forced us all upstairs to our individual rooms, we went to each room to physically abuse each child. I saw the respondent throw another child – at the time five years old – across the room, » the affidavit reads.
« I locked myself in my bathroom. Respondent broke the lock and threw his body against the door to come in and beat me. I called Plaintiff [Tali’ah Aquilini] and asked her to hurry home, stating that I was afraid the respondent would kill me, and I was afraid he had already killed my younger siblings. »
Both parties agree that Francesco Aquilini has paid his child support until August 2022.
However, Hunter said court intervention has been needed many times over the years for those payments to be made, and Francesco Aquilini now owes $140,000 in additional college expenses.
McEwan, on the other hand, suggested that his client owed nothing and had in fact overpaid for child support.