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

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

The Ladysmith Health Care Auxiliary donated $23,044 to Ladysmith Seconday School. From left to right: Steffen Toxopeus, Larry Shaw, Dave Travers, and Duck Paterson. (Cole Schisler photo)
Ladysmith Health Care Auxiliary donates $23,044 to support health of LSS students

The money will go towards funding the Hunger Bites program and purchase emergency supplies

(File photo)
LETTERS: Responses to Pateron’s Perspective

Jacqueline Leitch-Murphy, and Richard Tarnoff respond to Duck Paterson’s column

The RCMP are reminding drivers to find alternative ways home if they have consumed anything that impairs their ability to drive. (Black Press file photo)
Impaired Ladysmith driver flees road check twice on the same night

The officer issued the driver numerous violation tickets, and a four-month driving suspension

Duck Paterson. (File photo)
Paterson’s Perspective: Maybe we’re not so different from the Americans

Columnist Duck Paterson shares his views on civil discourse in Canada and America

Rod Alsop and the LSS band had a great day holding class outdoors at Transfer Beach. (Cole Schisler photo)
Ladysmith Secondary School band takes class outside to mark the end of academic quarter

The band took advantage of a sunny January day to play outside

Businesses continue to struggle under COVID-19 restrictions as the pandemic reaches the one-year mark. (B.C. government)
Another 564 COVID-19 cases, mass vaccine plan coming Friday

15 more deaths, community cluster declared in Williams Lake

Darlene Curylo scratched a $3M ticket, BCLC’s largest ever scratch and win prize. (BCLC)
Kelowna woman in shock after winning BCLC’s largest-ever instant-ticket prize

Darlene Curylo couldn’t believe her eyes when she saw the amount of money she’d won from a scratch ticket

While each person has different reasons for becoming homeless, a UBCO study shows they learn through their interactions with different services to perform ‘as homeless’ based on the expectations of service providers. (Contributed)
Kelowna homeless forced to ‘perform’ for resources, says UBCO study

One participant in the study said ‘It is about looking homeless, but not too homeless’

Aquaculture employee from Vancouver Island, Michelle, poses with a comment that she received on social media. Facebook group Women in Canadian Salmon Farming started an online campaign #enoughisenough to highlight the harassment they were facing online after debates about Discovery Islands fish farms intensified on social media. (Submitted photo)
Female aquaculture employees report online bullying, say divisive debate has turned sexist

Vancouver Island’s female aquaculture employees start #enoughisenough to address misogynistic comments aimed at them

Mowi Canada West’s Sheep Pass salmon farm, the company’s final B.C. operation to receive certification from the Aquaculture Steward Council. The Canadian Federation of Agriculture (CFA) is questioning a government decision to phase out salmon farms in the Discovery Islands. (Photo supplied by Mowi Canada West)
Canadian Federation of Agriculture backs B.C. salmon farmers

Letter to prime minister calls for federal “champion” for aquaculture growth

Gov. Gen. Julie Payette takes the royal salute from the Guard of Honour as she makes her way deliver the the throne speech, Wednesday, September 23, 2020 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Chartrand
Gov. Gen. Julie Payette resigns, apologizes for ‘tensions’ at Rideau Hall

Payette, who is the Queen’s representative in Canada, has been the governor general since 2017

Grounded WestJet Boeing 737 Max aircraft are shown at the airline’s facilities in Calgary, Alta., Tuesday, May 7, 2019. WestJet will operate the first commercial Boeing 737 Max flight in Canada today since the aircraft was grounded in 2019 following two deadly crashes. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Passengers unfazed as WestJet returns Boeing 737 Max to service on Vancouver flight

After a lengthy review process, Transport Canada cleared the plane to return to Canadian airspace

The top part of the fossil burrow, seen from the side, with feathery lines from the disturbance of the soil – thought to be caused by the worm pulling prey into the burrow. (Paleoenvironntal Sediment Laboratory/National Taiwan University)
PHOTOS: SFU researchers find evidence of ‘giant’ predatory worms on ocean floor

Fossils found the prove the existence of an ancient Taiwanese worm as long as two metres

RCMP officers provide policing for 63 B.C. municipalities under a provincial formula based on population. (Black Press file photo)
B.C. communities warned of upcoming RCMP unionization costs

Starting salaries for city police officers are 30% higher

Most Read