Four grown children of Vancouver Canucks owner Francesco Aquilini have all alleged he physically and mentally abused them when they were young, a BC Supreme Court judge heard Tuesday.
The disturbing allegations emerged during a hearing on whether Aquilini is obligated to continue paying child support and covering college expenses for three of his children. They include allegations that he hit 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 by his ex-wife, psychotherapist Tali’ah Aquilini, seeking an order that the three youngest remain “children of the marriage,” according to the settlement agreement.
That 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 in receipts submitted for reimbursement. She says she made these edits at the request of the children.
Tali’ah Aquilini’s attorney, Claire Hunter, read portions of a letter the oldest Aquilini sister reportedly sent her father in March 2020 on behalf of the three younger siblings, explaining why they want their personal information withheld.
“Your relationship with us is a direct consequence of your treatment of us, whether you want to admit it or not. We all have many individual accounts of your abuse of us,” she wrote.
“I would like to formally state that I and my siblings … do not want to have contact with you, nor do we want you to have access to any of our contact information, medical information, or any other information about our lives .”
The oldest sibling is already considered an adult and does not need support from his father, the court heard.
Although Hunter said Francesco Aquilini has denied the allegations of abuse, his lawyer Ken McEwan did not address them in court, other than to say they are “irrelevant” 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 having the unredacted receipts delivered to his legal counsel without seeing them himself.
“Personal information edits are really kind of a side issue to things like, are the kids 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 attend classes regularly and pass or fail, as well as justification for things like student housing, unexplained breaks from classes, airlines and a $48,000 computer.
The Aquilinis’ highly contentious divorce was settled out of court in 2013, just before a trial was due to begin. The settlement gave Tali’ah Aquilini 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 detail alleged abuse
The three younger children are now 20, 22 and 24, the court heard. One is participating in a master’s program abroad. One is studying mechanical engineering and the third is at medical school.
Hunter said each of the children has disclosed physical and psychological abuse to their mother, although many of the details were not revealed until after the separation.
Each of the children has provided a statement to the court detailing their allegations of abuse. As is common in family court, the court file has been sealed from public view, but Hunter read excerpts to the court.
One child recalled an incident where they say their father started beating them while they were sleeping and continued to beat them until they woke up. Another recalled being punched in the stomach by Francesco Aquilini.
In the longest passage Hunter read to the court, one child described their father becoming angry with the children for being too loud in the family living room.
“The respondent [Francesco Aquilini] then forced us all upstairs into our individual rooms, went to each room to physically abuse each child. I saw the respondent throw another child – five years old at the time – across the room,” the affidavit reads.
“I locked myself in my bathroom. The defendant broke the lock and threw his body against the door to come in and beat me. I called the plaintiff [Tali’ah Aquilini] and told her to hurry home saying that I was afraid that the respondent was going to kill me and I was worried that he had already killed my younger siblings.”
Both parties agree that Francesco Aquilini has paid his committed support until August 2022.
However, Hunter said court intervention 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 college expenses.
McEwan, on the other hand, suggested his client owes nothing and actually overpaid in child support.