Nanaimo’s Allison Forsyth during her time skiing with Alpine Canada’s national team. NEWS BULLETIN file photo

B.C. Olympic skier sues Alpine Canada after coach’s sex offences

Bertrand Charest was convicted in 2017 on 37 charges

A former Olympic skier from B.C. has filed a class-action lawsuit against Alpine Canada, alleging the skiing organization failed to investigate allegations of sexual abuse by a coach.

Allison Forsyth, who competed in the 2002 Winter Games, is seeking to become the representative plaintiff of a certified class of former elite skiers who claim they were psychologically, physically and sexually assaulted, harassed and abused by their coach, Bertrand Charest, while they were members of the Canada’s national junior skiing team.

Alpine Canada is the national governing organization for alpine, para-alpine, and ski-cross racing in Canada. Charest was employed by Alpine Canada as coach from 1996 until 1998.

In 2015, Charest was arrested and charged with 57 counts of alleged sexual offences – including 23 counts of sexual exploitation of minor while in a position of authority or trust – against 12-18-year-old female skiers between 1991 and 1998. In 2017, Charest received a 12-year sentence after he was convicted by the Superior Court of Quebec of 37 charges. He is appealing the decision and has been released on bail.

According to a notice of civil claim filed in B.C. Supreme Court, Forsyth claims that between 1996 and 1998 she and other female members of the ski team were subjected to “systemic abuse, harassment and assault” by Charest and that Alpine Canada is “vicariously liable” for his sexual misconduct.

At the age of 17, Nanaimo’s Forsyth joined the national ski team and was coached by Charest during the 1996-97 and 1997-98 seasons. According to court documents, upon joining the team, Forsyth claims she quickly learned Charest “had a reputation of inappropriate interactions” with female athletes.

In the summer of 1996, while at a training camp in Whistler, Forsyth claims Charest “frequently” slapped her buttocks and commented on her appearance. She claims that in 1997, after hearing a rumour that Charest was involved a relationship with an unnamed athlete, who was a minor at the time, she confronted him. She claims he admitted to the relationship but “wanted it to end.”

RELATED: Ex-B.C. Olympian Allison Forsyth says Bertrand Charest affair was covered up

Forsyth alleges Charest “immediately” began paying more attention to her, telling her that he could develop her into “a great athlete” and eventually began favouring her and touching her an “intimate manner.” Forsyth claims that as a highly competitive 18-year-old who wanted to be the best, she believed the only way to receive the best coaching was to agree to Charest’s pressure to have sexual interactions with her.

Forsyth’s civil claim goes on to detail numerous instances of alleged inappropriate behaviour by the coach.

In one alleged incident in 1997, Forsyth claims she was inside a bathroom stall at a hotel in Austria, where the team had been training, when Charest entered, “forced her up against the wall” and sexually assaulted her.

Charest continued to abuse, manipulate and coerce Forsyth throughout 1997 according to the civil claim, which alleges the former coach demanded sexual interaction with her by “using her success or failure” as a skier as leverage.

Forsyth claims Charest repeatedly told her he was in love with her, asked her to marry him, isolated her from her teammates and demanded the relationship be kept private. She also claims there were multiple sexual interactions, including intercourse.

The claim accuses Alpine Canada of failing to investigate the coach’s alleged behaviour, explaining that there were long-standing rumours of his treatment of women and failing to respond immediately to reports of sexual misconduct. She also argues Alpine Canada failed to protect female athletes and disregarded its own policies and procedures.

Forsyth claims once she informed Alpine Canada of Charest’s behaviour, the organization told her “she would have to be more careful or the team would lose sponsors.” She claims she also overheard Alpine Canada employees discuss how they could address the situation without generating publicity in a bid not to lose sponsors and that the organization told athletes not to talk about the situation.

Charest was eventually allowed to resign from his position with Alpine Canada, but his licence was never revoked.

Forsyth, in her claim, says she experienced and continues to experience anxiety as well as physical, emotional and psychological trauma.

In a statement to the News Bulletin, Alpine Canada said it is reviewing the claim.

“We are reviewing the details of the lawsuit filed by Allison Forsyth relating to events that occurred in the 1990s. Alpine Canada applauds the tremendous courage Allison and other women have shown in coming forward and speaking out. ​ Their determination and commitment to helping drive change is inspiring,” the statement noted. “For the past 20 years, Alpine Canada ​has been working to ensure a safe environment for all athletes, and we are continually reviewing best-practices with regards to athlete safety and security.”



nicholas.pescod@nanaimobulletin.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

Stay warm, stay dry, stay safe!

Strong wind, heavy rain forecast for this weekend

Family of Terrace man killed in hit-and-run plead for tips, one year later

Cameron Kerr’s family says the driver and passengers tried to cover their tracks

Hwy 16 traffic delay due to washout between Terrace and Prince Rupert

Alternating single-lane traffic is in effect, 66 km west of Terrace

Major changes ahead for Kitimat’s airshed

SO2 emissions addressed in a provincial government order

LNG Canada project gradually taking shape

Extensive worker camp now being assembled

Listening to Christmas music too early could affect your mental health

Linda Blair, a clinical psychologist, says preemptive Christmas music can trigger anxiety

Port Alberni mom takes school district to court over Indigenous smudging, prayer in class

Candice Servatius, who is an evangelical Christian, is suing School District 70

Family of B.C. man killed in hit-and-run plead for tips, one year later

Cameron Kerr’s family says the driver and passengers tried to cover their tracks

Princeton couple pays for dream vacation with 840,000 grocery store points

It’s easy if you know what you are doing, they say

B.C. municipality wants ALC to reconsider their decision in regard to pipeline work camp

The ALC had rejected the construction of the Coastal GasLink work camp behind the Vanderhoof airport in October

Chilliwack family’s dog missing after using online pet-sitting service

Frankie the pit bull bolted and hit by a car shortly after drop off through Rover.com

B.C. wildlife experts urge hunters to switch ammo to stop lead poisoning in birds

OWL, in Delta, is currently treating two eagles for lead poisoning

B.C. First Nations drop out of court challenge, sign deals with Trans Mountain

Upper Nicola Band says deal represents a ‘significant step forward’

Most Read