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#MeToo: Québec’s 'comedy king' resigns after harassment allegations

© Ben Pelosse, Quebecor, AFP | A photo taken on July 25, 2014 shows Canadian producer Gilbert Rozon in Montreal. A French television channel pulled a hit talent show on October 19, 2017 on which Canadian producer Gilbert Rozon is a judge

Text by Owen BARNELL

Latest update : 2017-10-20

Québécois comedy legend Gilbert Rozon, founder of the Just for Laughs comedy festival, has been accused by at least nine women of multiple accounts of sexual harassment and abuse.

The allegations were made on one local radio station and in the French-language Montreal newspaper Le Devoir on Wednesday.

Rozon is the latest powerful figure in the world of entertainment to follow in the footsteps of Hollywood movie mogul Harvey Weinstein, whom many actresses have accused of sexually abusive behaviour going back decades.

After the Weinstein scandal, many more women have begun coming forward to share their stories of sexual harassment and identify their harassers, notably on social media using the hashtags #MeToo, #MoiAussi in Québec and #Balancetonporc (“Squeal on your pig”) in France.

>> Read more: French women flood Twitter to name and shame sexual harassers

But in the case of Rozon, nine women – one of whom was only 14 at the time of the alleged abuse – have come forward in interviews with Le Devoir and radio station 98.5FM. They have accused the producer of abusive and inappropriate behaviour dating as far back as 1982 and as recently as 2016. The allegation from last year saw Geneviève Allard, an entrepreneur who met Rozon while working for the TV show Les Dragons, described how Rozon initiated an encounter at her residence and, after having dinner together, later collapsed on her bed. Allard slept beside him, only to wake to find Rozon violating her.

Another allegation, this time made by Anne-Marie Charette, accuses the producer of harassing her at work “over several months” before an encounter in which Rozon demanded she bring a dossier to a hotel room, only to throw himself upon her. The testimonies portray a man who used his position of power as one of Québec’s leading entertainment figures to prey on those with whom he worked.

Rozon resigns

The allegations against the star of France’s Got Talent – known for playing the “Simon Cowell role” with his outbursts and harsh criticism – have yet to be proven in court. An investigation into the allegations has been launched by Montreal police while several media organisations have cut ties with the producer; French TV channel M6 released a statement saying that it was suspending France’s Got Talent until further notice.

 

Rozon, the founder and president of the Just for Laughs comedy festival, has announced he will be stepping down. He is also resigning from Montreal’s chamber of commerce and from the committee he chaired to oversee the city’s 375th anniversary celebrations.

Rozon made the announcement in an October 18 Facebook post in which the producer said he had made the decision so he could dedicate all of his time to reviewing the allegations as well as apologising to “all those who I have offended throughout my life”.

 

Gilbert Rozon FaceBook Post

 

Serial Offenders?

Rozon pleaded guilty in 1998 to the charge of sexually assaulting a young woman of 19. Yet these fresh allegations appear to show Rozon behaving with impunity long before – and after – that sole court hearing.

Éric Salvail is another example of a Québec entertainment celebrity who has been accused of sexual harassment and lewd misconduct, in his case by 11 people. Salvail, a well-known figure on both radio and television, has seen his endorsements vanish since the allegations came to light this week. As well as losing his partnership with the Metro grocery chain, Salvail’s show En mode Salvail was suspended by Groupe V Media while Radio-Canada said it was “re-evaluating its business relationship with the host and producer”.

As hashtags gain momentum and more allegations are made, the unmasking of men like Rozon, Salvail and Weinstein could well represent a turning point in how sexual harassment is reported and addressed. Many of their victims were initially unwilling to go to the police for help, fearing scepticism or that it would spell the end of their careers. Yet the recent profusion of people publicising their stories is a testament to the accountability and transparency that technologies like social media can provide. Survivors might once have felt alone in their stories, unable to connect with others and trapped in a situation in which powerful figures could easily threaten reprisals. Today, the connections and immediacy offered by social media make these allegations far more difficult to silence – and the discussions they spark may well impact government legislation in the years to come.

 

Date created : 2017-10-20

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