Vikes reaffirms commitment to safe sports, student wellness

- University of Victoria

As a university that cares deeply about the health and safety of our students, UVic is reaffirming its commitment to providing a safe sport environment after the conclusion of a Rowing Canada Aviron (RCA) hearing into complaints about a university rowing coach during the 2018/19 rowing season.

“We recognize this continues to be difficult for everyone involved and that the release of the report may be further distressing,” says Jim Dunsdon, associate vice-president of the Division of Student Affairs.

“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.”

UVic has undertaken several significant changes for its entire Varsity program over the last two years as part of the national efforts around safe sport in performance athletics at all levels.

The Department of Athletics and Recreation also recently announced that women’s coach Barney Williams has resigned by mutual agreement.

Complaints about Williams, who was in his first year as head coach for the women’s rowing program in 2018/19, were filed with UVic in 2019 and later that year with Rowing Canada.

UVic has independent and impartial processes to deal with policy violations, which it followed in response to the complaints.  In 2019 the university hired an external expert who completed an independent investigation under the university’s Discrimination and Harassment Policy. The university also reviewed programs, staff positions and resources in its commitment to safe sport.

As a result, UVic has implemented several far-reaching changes for its entire Varsity program to strengthen a safe and supportive environment for student-athletes. These include a Professional Code for Coaches, the new position of Director of Varsity Performance Sport with a focus on safe sport, a new Student Support Coordinator position, clear options for how students can raise any concern about their program and where to get support.

While the university cannot disclose information about employee personnel matters due to privacy laws, it can be shared that in 2019 Williams expressed regret and undertook a detailed professional development program that included communication, interactions and personal awareness training, conflict resolution training, and empathy, assertion and respect in sport program training.

In a report released April 20, RCA found that of five complaints filed against Williams, two amounted to violations of his obligations under the RCA Code of Conduct and the standards of the National Coaching Certification Program (NCCP) Code of Ethics.

The RCA imposed a 12-month suspension from RCA activities, which is remitted on the condition that Williams work with a coach evaluator for one-on-one mentoring for 12 months.

By mutual agreement with the university, Williams resigned April 18. Both the university and Williams determined it was in the best interest of the rowing program for him to step away from his position as women’s rowing head coach so that the circumstances associated with the 2018/19 season are not a continuing distraction for the program. Williams has had some significant personal challenges over the past three years as well and will be taking this time to support his family.

“Our sole focus going forward is supporting the athletes while seeking the best options to continue the program in the short and long term,” said Director of Varsity Performance Sport Nick Clarke. 

Rowing Canada found that during the 2018/19 season, Williams’ one-on-one interactions with one individual and his conduct at two meetings with another individual violated his obligations under the RCA’s and the NCCP’s codes of conduct.

The panel was unable to conclude that his behaviour related to three other individuals who filed complaints at the same time about the 2018/19 season were conduct violations.

A civil lawsuit filed by one of the complainants against Williams and the university is still outstanding.


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People: Jim Dunsdon, Nick Clarke

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