Four adult children of Vancouver Canucks owner Francesco Aquilini have all alleged that he physically and psychologically abused them when they were young, a B.C. Supreme Court judge heard Tuesday.
The disturbing allegations came to light during a hearing over whether Aquilini is obliged to continue paying child support and covering university expenses for three of his children. They include claims he beat a sleeping child and threw a five-year-old across a bedroom.
Aquilini has denied the allegations of abuse, the court heard.
Tuesday’s hearing concerned an application from his ex-wife, psychotherapist Tali’ah Aquilini, seeking an order saying the three youngest remain “children of the marriage,” according to the settlement agreement.
That would compel Francesco Aquilini to continue supporting his children, even though his ex-wife has been redacting the names of the universities they attend and other personal information in receipts submitted for reimbursement. She says she has made those redactions at the request of the children.
Tali’ah Aquilini’s lawyer Claire Hunter read out portions of a letter the eldest Aquilini sister allegedly sent her father in March 2020 on behalf of the three younger siblings, outlining why they want their personal details withheld.
“Your relationship with us is a direct consequence of your treatment toward us, whether you’d like to acknowledge it or not. We all hold many individual accounts of your abuse towards us,” she wrote.
“I would like to formally state that myself and my siblings … wish to have no contact with you, nor would we like you to have access to any of our contact, medical information or other information regarding our lives.”
The eldest sibling is already considered an adult and does not need support from her father, the court heard.
Although Hunter said Francesco Aquilini has denied the abuse allegations, his lawyer Ken McEwan did not address them in court, except to say they’re “irrelevant” to the matter at hand. He said the only question is whether his client has access to enough information to decide if there is a legal obligation to continue supporting the children.
McEwan said Francesco Aquilini would consent to having the unredacted receipts provided to his legal counsel without seeing them himself.
“The redactions of personal information are really a bit of a side issue to matters such as, are the children in appropriate programs for them?” McEwan told the court.
He said he needs to be able to see more information about the children’s education, including whether they are regularly attending class and passing or failing, as well as justification for things like student housing, unexplained breaks from class, airline flights and a $48,000 computer.
A statement released on Aquilini’s behalf, first published by the Vancouver Sun, said he is “outraged” by his ex-wife’s accusations in family court and that he categorically denies ever abusing his children.
“The couple were divorced and reached a settlement in 2013. Mr. Aquilini has met and will continue to meet any child support obligations required by the law, but he has concerns about the veracity of the information provided in support of financial demands,” the statement says.
“It is unfortunate that allegations without merit are brought forward for a collateral purpose. He will have nothing further to say at this time as the matter is before the courts.”
The Aquilinis’ highly contentious divorce was settled out of court in 2013, just before a trial was set to begin. 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.
Affidavits from children describe alleged abuse
The three younger children are now 20, 22 and 24, the court heard. One is attending a graduate program overseas. One is studying mechanical engineering, and the third is in medical school.
Hunter said each of the children has disclosed physical and psychological abuse to their mother, though many of the specifics weren’t revealed until after the separation.
Each of the children has submitted an affidavit to the court outlining their allegations of abuse. As is common in family law, the court file has been sealed from public access, but Hunter read out excerpts for the court.
One child recalled an incident in which they say their father began beating them while they were sleeping and continued to beat them until they woke up. Another remembered being punched in the stomach by Francesco Aquilini.
In the most lengthy passage Hunter read for the court, one child described their father becoming angry with the children because they were being too loud in the family rec room.
“The respondent [Francesco Aquilini] then forced all of us upstairs into our individual rooms, went to each room to physically abuse each child. I saw the respondent throw another child — at that time five years old — across the room,” the affidavit says.
“I locked myself in my bathroom. The respondent broke the lock and was throwing his body at the door to come in and beat me. I called the claimant [Tali’ah Aquilini] and asked her to hurry home, stating I was scared the respondent would kill me, and I was worried that he had already killed my younger siblings.”
Both parties agree that Francesco Aquilini has paid his obligated support up until August 2022.
However, Hunter said the intervention of the court has been required a number of times over the years for those payments to be made, and Francesco Aquilini now owes $140,000 in additional university expenses.
McEwan, on the other hand, suggested his client does not owe anything and has actually overpaid on child support.