Former University of Victoria rowing coach Barney Williams is photographed in the stands during the Greater Victoria Invitational at CARSA Performance Gym at the University of Victoria in Victoria, B.C., on Friday, November 29, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito

Rowing Canada sanctions former head coach of B.C. varsity women’s team

Suspension of Barney Williams would be reversed if he complies with certain terms

Rowing Canada has suspended the former head coach of the University of Victoria women’s rowing team for one year after an investigation into allegations of aggressive and demeaning treatment.

The decision released Tuesday says the suspension of Barney Williams would be reversed if he complies with certain terms, including regular mentorship by a coach evaluator and completing course work that emphasizes coaching ethics and working with developing and female athletes.

It shows four team members in the 2018-19 season made complaints against Williams and a three-person panel was appointed last fall, tasked with determining whether he had breached Rowing Canada’s code of conduct or the National Coaching Certification Program code of ethics.

The panel concluded that Williams’s one-on-one interactions with one of the complainants, Lily Copeland, and his conduct at two meetings with an assistant coach, had violated his responsibilities under both codes.

The panel could not conclude that Williams’s interactions with the other complainants amounted to a violation of the codes.

The university announced Monday that Williams had resigned as the women’s rowing coach by mutual agreement as he and the athletic department determined it was in the best interest of the program.

RELATED: University of Victoria women’s rowing coach resigns by mutual agreement

RELATED: Harassment allegations at UVic lead to call for coaching codes of conduct

The Rowing Canada panel decision says Williams denied that any of his conduct amounted to a breach of the national codes and denied he was ever aware of negative effects his coaching had on the complainants.

It says the panel heard from 15 witnesses, including Copeland, who testified during hearings that she was excited at the start of the 2018-19 season and felt strong in her role as the team’s only returning coxswain.

Copeland testified that she was subjected to allegedly demeaning and aggressive treatment by Williams and her mental health was poor near the end of fall.

She also testified that she told Williams during a meeting before the winter break that she was scared of him, and the training program and his coaching were affecting her mental health, the panel’s decision says.

Copeland filed a lawsuit against Williams and the university last year alleging she suffered stress-induced physiological symptoms and that the school failed to provide her with a safe environment for training.

Williams and the university deny the allegations in a statement of defence filed in B.C. Supreme Court, saying the training environment was not hostile and communication was always professional.

None of the allegations or statements have been tested in court.

Williams couldn’t be immediately reached for comment on Rowing Canada’s decision.

The panel report posted on the website of Rowing Canada Aviron says Williams “failed to put Ms. Copeland’s best interests ahead of his personal desire to build a successful team, seemingly at any cost.”

“His ‘direct feedback’ approach with Ms. Copeland was unwelcomed and ultimately harmful to Ms. Copeland’s well-being,” the panel decision says.

It says Williams “knew or ought to have known” that the way he was communicating with Copeland was harmful and negatively impacting her.

The panel determined that the suspension of Williams would act as a deterrent for both him and the rowing community as a whole.

“It is important to note that several women, many of them promising athletes, testified that (his) coaching led them to leave the sport prematurely to the detriment of the sport and to these athletes,” the decision says.

In a statement reacting to the panel’s decision, the university said Williams “expressed regret” in 2019 and undertook a professional development program, which included communication, personal awareness and conflict resolution training.

After its own review, the school says it implemented several changes to its varsity sports program “to strengthen a safe and supportive environment for student-athletes.”

The changes include a professional code for coaches and the creation of a new position, director of varsity performance sport. It also created a student support co-ordinator position to provide clear options for how students can raise concerns and get support.

“UVic is committed to providing a safe and supportive environment for all our varsity athletes, we want our entire community and especially our students to know that UVic takes athlete wellness seriously,” said Jim Dunsdon, associate vice-president of the division of student affairs.

Brenna Owen, The Canadian Press. This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship.

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

Just Posted

The Surrey Board of Trade is calling on the provincial government to implement a temporary paid sick-leave program. (Unsplash.com photo by Kelly Sikkema)
Surrey Board of Trade calls for temporary paid sick-leave program

Reccomendations sent to provincial labour minister, news release notes

North Surrey Sport and Ice Complex. (Photo: larkgroup.com)
North Surrey Sport & Ice Complex earns B.C. facility excellence award

Award is among four presented by BC Recreation and Parks Association

Surrey Memorial Hospital emergency department entrance. (Photo: Lauren Collins)
Youth counselling services expand to Surrey Memorial and other hospitals with $1.35M grant

Dan’s Legacy Foundation to provide free mental health, substance-use outreach

Low tide offered plenty of space for people to relax on White Rock's beach Sunday afternoon. (Aaron Hinks photo)
City of White Rock asking outside visitors to stay away

South Surrey residents encouraged to visit, while others urged to stick close to home

Jose Marchand prepares Pfizer COVID-19 vaccination doses at a mobile clinic for members of First Nations and their partners, in Montreal, Friday, April 30, 2021. The National Advisory Committee on Immunization is coming under fire after contradicting the advice Canadians have been receiving for weeks to take the first vaccine against COVID-19 that they’re offered. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Trudeau says he is glad he got AstraZeneca, vaccines are only way out of pandemic

‘The most important thing is to get vaccinated with the first vaccine offered to you’

Flow Academy is located at 1511 Sutherland Avenue in Kelowna. (Michael Rodriguez/Capital News)
Interior Health locks out Kelowna martial arts gym following COVID violations

Actions were taken after all other steps to gain compliance were exhausted, says health authority

FILE – A plexiglass barrier is pictured creating a barrier to protect a cashier at a grocery store in North Vancouver, B.C. Sunday, March 22, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Grocery store workers now eligible for COVID vaccines in Fraser Health, Vancouver Coastal

Workers will be fast-tracked through the system, which is otherwise booking for people in their 50s

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

A man who allegedly spat at and yelled racial slurs at an Asian family was arrested for hate-motivated assault Tuesday. (Black Press Media file photo)
Arrest made after man spits, yells anti-Asian racial slurs at Victoria mom and kids

The man was arrested for hate-motivated assault near Quadra Elementary School Tuesday

A lady wears a vaccinated sticker after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Canada may find it challenging to reach herd immunity from COVID-19, experts say

Level of immunity among the population changes with the variants, especially the more transmissible strains

B.C.’s provincial health officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Dip in COVID-19 cases with 572 newly announced in B.C.

No new deaths have been reported but hospitalized patients are up to 481, with 161 being treated in intensive care

Ripy Jubbal of Abbotsford has received a 30-month jail sentence for the fraudulent use of credit cards and credit card data. (Facebook photo)
Abbotsford woman sentenced for $80K in fraudulent credit card purchases

Ripy Jubbal and spouse used identities of 19 different victims, court hears

Solar panels on a parking garage at the University of B.C. will be used to separate water into oxygen and hydrogen, the latter captured to supply a vehicle filling station. (UBC video)
UBC parkade project to use solar energy for hydrogen vehicles

Demonstration project gets $5.6M in low-carbon fuel credits

Most Read