A Nova Scotia weightlifting coach has been accused of sexually assaulting a teenager more than five months after three different women made allegations of inappropriate behavior.
According to the Halifax District RCMP, on June 28 they received a report of a sexual assault at nearby Beaver Bank, NS, which led to a criminal investigation.
“RCMP officers learned that a 32-year-old man was involved in a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old female youth over whom he held a position of authority,” an RCMP public relations officer said in a statement to CTV National News. “On August 30, 2022, the 33-year-old man was arrested and later released under conditions.”
The following month, on September 28, Beaver Bank’s Isaac James Smith was indicted on one count of sexual assault and one count of sexual touching in a position of trust. According to the Nova Scotia Attorney’s Office, the charges stem from offenses allegedly committed between January 1 and June 24. The charges were not proven in court.
COMPLAINTS FROM THREE WOMEN
More than five months before the indictment, on April 21, three different women who said they trained with Smith filed complaints about him with Weightlifting Nova Scotia (WNS), which oversees and promotes the sport in the province. CTV National News spoke to two of them in Bedford, NS
“He would make comments about how weak I was, how much weight I was losing, and as a last straw he was like, ‘You know, you look slim and skinny, but at least you haven’t lost your ass,'” Haley told Warnica
“I’ve seen him treat the people around me like trash, which would be a red flag to me, but he was so good at making you think he was the best coach,” added Jane Nicholson .
As a result of her complaints, Smith was banned from WNS competitions, events, programs and initiatives for eight months after an independent investigator “determined that there were 18 discrete allegations of abuse” and “at least 30 violations of the WNS Code.” gave ethics,” reads an Aug. 10 statement on the WNS website. The ethical violations are said to have included unwanted sexualized comments and shaming of athletes. The suspension did not affect Smith’s private coaching business, which WNS has no control over.
CTV National News reviewed the investigator’s letter of determination, which was distributed to the parties involved. It details inappropriate comments about the complainants’ physique, weight and diet, as well as the regular use of the “silent treatment” when Smith’s instructions were not followed. The complainants did not allege inappropriate touching but contended that female athletes were treated differently than their male counterparts.
“He would really follow me on Instagram and see if I would go out to dinner and post a glass of wine on my story, I would go to the gym the next day and he wouldn’t talk to me,” Nicholson said of Smith.
“You can’t go to the national teams without a coach, so I started looking elsewhere,” said Warnica. “As soon as he got wind of it he said he’ll make sure I don’t go to Nationals unless it’s with him.”
The Aug. 10 WNS report on their grievances concluded that Smith had “rehabilitation potential” and would be given “an opportunity to learn from his mistakes and improve his behavior.” After eight months, the suspension could be lifted if he “provides evidence to WNS leadership that he has spent time reflecting on his conduct and is willing to comply with the standards of the WNS code of ethics.”
The suspension was retroactive to April 21, the date of the complaint, meaning it was not in effect – and it was already under investigation – when another complaint was received on June 28.
ADDITIONAL COMPLAINTS AND FEES
In an Oct. 12 statement posted on its website, WNS says it received an additional complaint about Smith on June 28 and issued a “provisional suspension” the next day.
On June 28, the Halifax District RCMP also received a sexual assault report involving Smith, who was charged on September 28.
“On October 3, 2022, WNS received reports and subsequently confirmed in Dartmouth Provincial Court that Smith had been charged with criminal code violations,” the October 12 WNS statement said. “Due to the ongoing criminal case against Smith, the investigation into the June complaint has been delayed indefinitely, meaning that Smith’s June 29 provisional suspension remains in effect.”
WNS also notified Weightlifting Canada Haltérophilie, the sport’s national governing body, which reportedly imposed its own provisional suspension.
“There were still board members and athletes training at that gym, including juniors, so they were still training at that gym through August, including other youth athletes,” Warnica claimed.
Smith’s next court date will be in Dartmouth, NS on the morning of November 16th. Smith, who remains suspended from WNS, could not be reached for comment.
WNS says the outcome of the April complaint was “significantly delayed” due to circumstances beyond its control and that it has since elected a new board with the aim of “creating safe access to weightlifting”.
Simona Jellinek is a Toronto-based attorney specializing in sexual abuse and assault cases.
“It’s time these organizations took a proactive approach to not just deal with past failures, but to ensure their athletes and their children are protected in the future,” Jellinek told CTV National News.
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