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

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Children’s author hopes public can grant father’s wish to see work in Abbotsford library

Dawn Doig’s father recently died from COVID-19 after staying at Worthington Pavilion

Fraser Valley Regional Library branches offer curbside pick up

After two and a half months of being closed, people can once again check books out of the library

Survey asks Mission businesses: ‘What PPE do you need most to re-open?’

Mission Regional Chamber of Commerce helping businesses to source PPE locally

Middle school students honoured with G.W. Cooke awards

Mission Community Foundation hands out awards for excellence in Math or Science

11 new COVID-19 cases in B.C. as top doc urges caution amid ‘encouraging’ low rates

Dr. Bonnie Henry also announced that two care home outbreaks would be declared over

Facing changes together: Your community, your journalists

The importance of accurate, ethical reporting is critical – perhaps as never before

Police watchdog investigating death of man in Delta

Independent Investigations Office asking for witnesses to May 29 incident at Tsawwassen ferry terminal

Surrey mayor’s party under fire for ‘sickening’ tweet accusing northern B.C. RCMP of murder

Mayor Doug McCallum says tweet, Facebook post ‘sent out by unauthorized person’

Father’s Day Walk Run for prostate cancer will be virtual event this year throughout B.C.

The annual fundraiser for Prostate Cancer Foundation BC has brought in $2.5 million since 1999

Dr. Bonnie Henry announces official ban on overnight kids’ camps this summer

New ban comes after talking with other provincial health officials across the country, Henry says

Senior man in hospital after unprovoked wolf attack near Prince Rupert

Conservation officers are on site looking for the wolf

VIDEO: NASA astronauts blast off into space on SpaceX rocket

Marks NASA’s first human spaceflight launched from U.S. soil in nearly a decade

‘I knew what he wanted’: Kootenay man spends hours in tree as black bear patrols below

Francis Levasseur is no stranger to the outdoors, but a recent run-in with a bear caused quite a scare

Most Read