It says the school failed to train or supervise Williams properly, failed to adopt appropriate coaching standards for varsity athletes and failed to take timely and adequate steps when Copeland complained informally to the associate director of sport in October 2018.
Copeland later made a formal complaint through the university’s equity and human rights office and the lawsuit says at least two other team members had also complained about Williams.
The school hired an adjudicator last year who found his behaviour didn’t breach the campus-wide discrimination and harassment policy, which had no language specific to sports.
Rowing Canada is currently conducting an investigation into Williams, who continues to coach.
The university is expected to implement a new code for coaches with a focus on safe sport guidelines this year and it says improvements to the complaint process for varsity athletes are also on the way.
Helm said in her email that when there are allegations of behaviour contrary to university policies, there are impartial and independent processes in place to resolve and provide accountability.
Copeland told Williams that she was scared of him and their interactions had significantly aggravated her mental health challenges during a mid-season meeting in December 2018, the lawsuit says, claiming Williams responded by telling her to “toughen up.”
The statement of claim says that as Copeland’s head coach, Williams owed her a duty of care for her well-being not only as an athlete but also as a student.
It says Williams was grossly negligent by failing to provide adequate medical care when he was made aware of Copeland’s mental health struggles.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 9, 2020.