Victims of former national ski coach Bertrand Charest are each seeking $300,000 in damages for psychological, physical and sexual abuse they suffered. (Photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Victims of former national ski coach Bertrand Charest are each seeking $300,000 in damages for psychological, physical and sexual abuse they suffered. (Photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Victims of former ski coach Charest say they were ‘sacrificed’ by Alpine Canada

MONTREAL — A lawsuit filed Wednesday against Alpine Canada by three victims of former national ski coach Bertrand Charest alleges the sports federation covered up the sexual abuse in the interest of results on the slopes and sponsorship money.

“The plaintiffs were sacrificed by Alpine (Canada) on the altar of performance and sponsors,” the statement of claim says.

The women are former Canadian skiers Genevieve Simard, Gail Kelly and Anna Prchal, who were all minors at the time of the sex-related crimes for which Charest was convicted in June 2017.

They are each seeking $300,000 in damages for psychological, physical and sexual abuse they suffered. They are also seeking $150,000 each in punitive damages.

The suit, which has not been tested in court, says Alpine Canada did not take even the most basic steps to prevent the abuse. It alleges the organization was made aware of Charest’s troubling behaviour before it hired him in 1996.

After it became known in 1998 that Charest was having sexual relations with a number of his young skiers, Alpine Canada’s program director at the time, Joze Sparovec, was dispatched to the French Alps — where the team was competing — to deal with the crisis.

The lawsuit says that in a frosty meeting with Sparovec and two team officials, Simard remained silent about the abuse while Prchal and another skier, Allison Forsyth, acknowledged they had been abused. Kelly, in a state of “significant emotional and psychological distress,” met Sparovec alone.

The lawsuit alleges Kelly was asked to sign a document promising not to take legal action against Alpine Canada if the incidents adversely affected her athletic career. It says she signed without even reading the document.

Charest was forced to resign as a national coach, but Alpine Canada never withdrew his coaching license, the suit alleges. And it says that “even though a crime had been committed against minors for whom it was responsible,” Alpine Canada did not notify police.

“During the rest of their careers as skiers, the code of silence prevailed at the heart of the Alpine (Canada) organization,” reads the suit, filed in Montreal. “Nobody spoke of the events. The victims felt guilty and responsible for the abuse.”

Alpine Canada said Wednesday it is studying the details of the lawsuit and declined a request for an interview. In a statement, the federation said discussions with Charest’s victims continue, and it is providing support to the extent that it is able.

“These women have shown extraordinary courage in agreeing to speak, and we salute their determination and their commitment to contribute to change,” the statement said.

It took the victims years before they felt able to go to authorities and bring Charest to justice. He was sentenced last December to 12 years in prison for sex crimes. He is appealing both the verdict and his sentence.

The lawsuit says the plaintiffs have lived with “multiple, devastating” effects of the abuse.

It says punitive damages are warranted because Alpine Canada was “wilfully blind” in its handling of Charest: “It covered its actions, seeking to smother a scandal, which led to repeated abuses on its part against the plaintiffs.”

It is also alleged that Alpine Canada rejected the plaintiffs’ effort to resolve their claim through private mediation, which would spared them having to recount again in court their abuse.

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

Just Posted

People lineup at a hotel for the homeless before the 8 p.m. COVID-19 curfew on Jan. 11, 2021, in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Legault nixes call for COVID-19 curfew exemption, saying it could used to avoid fines

Legault nixes call for COVID-19 curfew exemption, saying it could used to avoid fines

The body of 25-year-old Kyler Corriveau was discovered near Red Deer on Sunday. He was missing since Dec. 15. Police are investigating his death as a homicide. (Contrinuted photo).
RCMP are investigating the death of missing Red Deer man as a homicide

The body of Kyler Corriveau was discovered on Sunday

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw reported 456 new cases of COVID-19 over Tuesday afternoon. (photography by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
Five new COVID-19 deaths in Central zone, two in Red Deer

Province reports 456 new cases of COVID-19

Community Futures Central Alberta, in partnership with the Central Alberta Regional Innovation Network (CARIN), is behind the SMARTstart initiative for budding entrepreneurs.
New program aimed at helping entrepreneurs succeed

Program offers mentorship, business advice and networking opportunities

A Red Deer man, who has been declared a dangerous offender, lost his appeal of an aggravated assault conviction from 2017. Advocate file photo
Red Deer man who chomped on remand centre inmate’s ear loses aggravated assault appeal

Inmate lost part of his ear in attack at Red Deer Remand Centre in August 2017

Justin Kripps of Summerland and his team have competed in Olympic action and World Cup competitions in bobsleigh. (Jason Ransom-Canadian Olympic Comittee).
QUIZ: Are you ready for some winter sports?

It’s cold outside, but there are plenty of recreation opportunities in the winter months

FILE - In this May 2, 2020, file photo, Erika Bermudez becomes emotional as she leans over the grave of her mother, Eudiana Smith, at Bayview Cemetery in Jersey City, N.J., Bermudez was not allowed to approach the gravesite until cemetery workers had buried her mother, who died of COVID-19. Other members of the family and friends stayed in their cars. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)
‘Shameful’: US virus deaths top 400K as Trump leaves office

‘Shameful’: US virus deaths top 400K as Trump leaves office

Riot shields are stacked at the ready as National Guard troops reinforce the security zone on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2021, before President-elect Joe Biden is sworn in as the 46th president on Wednesday. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
2 Guard members made extremist statements about inauguration

2 Guard members made extremist statements about inauguration

In this Jan. 6, 2021, photo, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky., walks from the Senate floor to his office on Capitol Hill in Washington. Now that the House has impeached President Donald Trump for the second time, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi must figure out the best strategy for arguing the case before the Senate. Senate rules say the trial must start soon after the chamber receives the article of impeachment, which cites “incitement of insurrection” after an angry mob of Trump’s supporters invaded the Capitol last week. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
McConnell: Trump ‘provoked’ Capitol siege, mob was fed lies

McConnell: Trump ‘provoked’ Capitol siege, mob was fed lies

Biden marks nation’s Covid grief before inauguration pomp

Biden marks nation’s Covid grief before inauguration pomp

An empty Peel and Sainte-Catherine street is shown in Montreal, Saturday, Jan. 9, 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
Poll finds strong support for COVID-19 curfews despite doubts about effectiveness

Poll finds strong support for COVID-19 curfews despite doubts about effectiveness

People lineup at a hotel for the homeless before the 8 p.m. COVID-19 curfew on Jan. 11, 2021, in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Legault nixes call for COVID-19 curfew exemption, saying it could used to avoid fines

Legault nixes call for COVID-19 curfew exemption, saying it could used to avoid fines

Karina Gould, Minister of International Development, holds a news conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Thursday, Dec. 10, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
COVID-19 vaccines: Canadians torn between helping the world and helping themselves

COVID-19 vaccines: Canadians torn between helping the world and helping themselves

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau listens to a question as he participates in a news conference at Rideau Cottage in Ottawa, Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
No Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine doses to be shipped to Canada next week: Fortin

No Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine doses to be shipped to Canada next week: Fortin

Most Read