MONTREAL — Alpine Canada admitted Tuesday it had put its interests before those of three young female skiers who were sexually abused by their coach in the 1990s.
Canada’s national governing body for alpine and ski cross racing said it was “profoundly sorry” in a news release announcing it had reached an out-of-court settlement with the former athletes over sexual abuse by one-time national ski coach Bertrand Charest.
Former skiers Genevieve Simard, Gail Kelly and Anna Prchal had accused the sports federation of covering up Charest’s sexual abuse in the interest of results on the slopes and sponsorship money.
“Although we cannot undo what happened, we feel it is important to recognize and acknowledge that instead of providing support when the abuse was discovered, Alpine Canada put itself first, not the victims,” the federation said. “For this, we are profoundly sorry.”
The three women, who were minors at the time of the abuse, were demanding $450,000 each from the governing body. The lawsuit they launched last December accused Alpine Canada of failing to take the most basic steps to prevent Charest’s predations.
It alleged the organization was made aware of Charest’s troubling behaviour before it hired him in 1996.
Alpine Canada did not disclose the deal’s terms but the chair of its board of directors, Martha Hall Findlay, said the settlement was “satisfactory to both sides.”
“We understand the devastating impact this had on Ms. Kelly, Ms. Prchal, Ms. Simard and the others,” Findlay said in a statement. “We wish to recognize their bravery in coming forward to ensure that sport is safe for future generations.”
Charest was found guilty in June 2017 of 37 of the 57 sex-related charges he was facing, and was eventually given a 12-year prison term. The convictions involved nine of the 12 women who’d accused him of crimes that occurred more than 20 years ago, when the victims and alleged victims were between the ages of 12 and 19.
Charest’s lawyers were in court last month appealing both his conviction and sentence, and he remains free on bail while the court decides his fate.
Neither Simard, Kelly nor Prchal were available for interviews Tuesday. In 2018, all three women obtained the right to be identified publicly after a judge granted their request to lift a publication ban.
Prchal told reporters in June 2018 about the overwhelming feeling of shame and humiliation that has stayed with her for the better part of 20 years.
“My childhood dreams and goals were robbed from me,” she said. “My self-esteem was crushed. I found myself abandoned by the very people who were supposed to be taking care of me. Worst of all, they made me feel like I’d done something wrong.”
JD Miller, president of B2ten, a charity that supports athletes, said his organization helped connect the women with a law firm, Davies Ward Phillips and Vineberg, which he said represented the three former national skiers pro bono.
“I can tell you that they are all looking forward to moving on with their lives,” Miller said in an interview. “They are extremely proud of having stood up and having brought to light this matter to the Canadian public.”
Last month, another former Canadian skier launched a proposed class action lawsuit alleging Alpine Canada didn’t protect its female athletes from Charest’s sexual assaults.
Allison Forsyth alleged in a statement of claim filed in British Columbia Supreme Court that Alpine Canada failed to property investigate the coaching history of Charest and is vicariously liable for his sexual misconduct.
Alpine Canada said it has made “significant improvements to its safety programs and is committed to continue to raise the bar.”
The federation said some of those changes included instituting a code of conduct for all its coaches as well as a whistleblower policy. Alpine Canada said it now has “zero tolerance of athlete-coach sexual relationships.”
Giuseppe Valiante, The Canadian Press
151st Cowichan Exhibition includes new category: best home-grown pot
VICTORIA — One of Canada’s oldest fall fairs is putting a new twist on its annual showcase of local livestock, produce and fruit by adding a new category for best home-grown marijuana.
The Cowichan Exhibition in Duncan, B.C., which dates back to 1868, has created a best cannabis category to embrace legalization and celebrate local pot growers, said exhibition vice-president Bud James.
The fair starts Friday and the cannabis entries will be on display in the main hall at the Cowichan Exhibition Grounds along with the region’s top vegetables, fruits and baked goods. First prize is $5, second is $3 and third place gets a ribbon.
“We just decided this year, because it’s an agricultural product, and it’s been grown in the valley for years, and now that it’s finally legally grown, we would allow people to win a ribbon for the best,” said James.
He said fair officials believe the Cowichan cannabis category is the first of its kind in Canada.
An official at the Canadian Association of Fairs and Exhibitions, a non-profit organization representing rural and urban fairs, said she had not heard of any other cannabis judging contests prior to the Cowichan Exhibition, but couldn’t confirm it was the first.
A fall fair in Grand Forks, B.C., is also judging local cannabis, but the event starts Saturday, one day after Cowichan’s fair. Those who enter the competition in Grand Forks can compete for best indoor- and outdoor-grown cannabis.
James said fair organizers contacted the local council and RCMP prior to adding the cannabis category. The mayor and council did not oppose the contest and the RCMP referred organizers to B.C.’s Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch, the agency monitoring retail sales of non-medical cannabis, he said.
Organizers decided to go ahead with the event after its plans were not rejected, James said.
“Our interpretation of the rules are you can’t make it attractive to people under 19 years and we are not making it attractive,” he said.
James said the cannabis entries will be placed in a glass display case and the individual entries will be sealed in clear zip lock plastic bags.
“It’s being judged to the same standard of judging garden and field produce,” he said. “It’s done by uniformity. You want all three buds to be the same size, same shape, same colour. It’s also the dryness, texture and smell. It’s exactly the same way you would judge apples or carrots or hay bales. It’s all done the same way.”
James said the contest doesn’t involve sampling the product.
Bree Tweet, the manager of a medical cannabis dispensary in nearby Ladysmith, will judge the marijuana entries, said James.
The exhibition received 18 cannabis entries and James said the contest created a buzz at the fair.
“The enthusiasm of the entrants, the people bringing their entry forms, they are so enthusiastic it’s unbelievable,” he said. “They are so thrilled that it’s happening, that we’re doing it because they’ve been waiting for years for legalization and now, they finally got it and now they have a chance to show what they can do.”
James, who has entered his prized Dahlia flowers at past fairs, said the addition of the cannabis category has exceeded expectations with the 18 entries.
Dirk Meissner, The Canadian Press
School board defends book pictured on principal’s desk after online uproar
A Toronto-area Catholic school board says an online firestorm that erupted after a book on how to teach black students was photographed on a principal’s desk stems from a misunderstanding over the book’s contents.
The Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board says the book, titled “The Guide for White Women Who Teach Black Boys,” has a provocative title but is actually a helpful resource on tackling racial and cultural oppression in education.
Michelle Coutinho, the board’s principal of equity and inclusive education, says such materials are a particularly useful reference given how diverse the student population is in the district and at that specific school.
The controversy emerged this week after a Brampton, Ont., high school, Cardinal Ambrozic Catholic Secondary School, posted a photo of its new principal on Twitter.
The photo, which shows the book on her desk, set off heated debate, with some suggesting it was a sign of racism or incompetence, or a prop meant to bolster the school’s image.
The image was also shared on instagram by 6ixBuzzTV, a popular account with roughly 1.2 million followers.
“LOOOOL. No principal should make it this far while subsequently needing a book like this,” one person wrote on Twitter. “She a bad principal,” wrote another.
Some defended the book, however, and the principal’s efforts to educate herself. “She’s making an effort to connect with her students, it’s more than most principals do,” another tweet read.
The board said it was surprised by the uproar and hoped people would look up the book before jumping to conclusions based on its title.
The principal intends to address the photo in a public announcement and invite any students with lingering questions to see her, said Bruce Campbell, the board’s spokesman.
The book, written by three researchers and published in 2017, aims to improve outcomes for black students by helping teachers create learning environments in which they feel nurtured and engaged. The title references the fact that white women make up the bulk of the teaching force in the U.S.
Coutinho said the book asks educators to challenge the biases they may bring into the classroom.
“We know that we’re steeped in a colonized kind of world view and how do we break out of that in our everyday practices?” she said, noting it has been used in the board’s anti-oppression training in the past.
Cardinal Ambrozic’s new principal was involved in a book study at several schools that delved deeply into the text last year, Coutinho said.
“If we’re going to make any changes to the education system, we have to start talking about these things and talking about them openly and honestly without shame or blame.”
Paola Loriggio, The Canadian Press
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