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Just For Laughs Founder Resigns Amidst Sexual Assault Allegations

Nine women say he either sexually assaulted or harassed them.

by Manisha Krishnan
Oct 19 2017, 4:24pm

Just for Laughs founder Gilbert Rozon | Image source: Wikipedia Commons 

Gilbert Rozon, founder of the Montreal-based comedy festival Just for Laughs, has resigned amidst allegations that he sexually harassed and assaulted nine women.

French-language newspaper Le Devoir and the radio station 98.5 FM reported the allegations Wednesday night; the allegations have not been proven. According to TVA, Montreal police have opened an investigation into Rozon following a sex assault complaint made Wednesday.

After the story broke, Rozon released a statement on Facebook indicating that he'd resigned from his posts as chairman of Just for Laughs and as vice-president of the Montreal Chamber of Commerce.

"I withdraw out of respect for employees and families who work for these organizations and all our partners," he wrote. "Shaken by the allegations, I wish to devote my time to the point. To all those who have been offended in my life, I am truly sorry."

According to Le Devoir, the abuse and harassment allegations span over three decades.

One woman, Geneviève Allard, said Rozon came over to her place last June for a drink and they went to a restaurant, where they continued drinking. Allard said Rozon brought her back home and she fell asleep next to him, but awoke to him penetrating her.

"I froze," she said. "I slammed the door and went into another room." She said Rozon continued to sleep and the next day told her that they had both cheated on their respective partners.

Allard said she filed a police report but Rozon was never charged.

Another woman, Marlène Bolduc tweeted that Rozon sexually harassed while she was working the comedy festival last summer as a rickshaw driver. She said Rozon and two other men were in her rickshaw and that Rozon complimented her "beautiful arched back" and her firm thighs. She said he also mockingly whipped her with his scarf, as if to demand she move faster.

Lyne Charlebois, a film and TV director, said she met Rozon in 1982, when she was taking photos for the festival La Grande Virée. Charlebois said Rozon suggested they talk about her photos over a drink and later came over to her place to have dinner with her and her boyfriend. Then she and Rozon headed for a bar to talk business, she said, but on the way he asked to stop at his place. There, she said he attacked her.

Two of the women who came forward were teenagers when they allege the incidents with Rozon took place.

Salomé Corbo told Le Devoir Rozon penetrated her with his finger at a party in 1990—when she was 14 years old. Sophie Moreau said when she was 15, Rozon suggested they sleep together.

According to Le Devoir, in 1998 Rozon pleaded guilty to touching a woman's breasts without consent and was later given an unconditional discharge. The Toronto Star reports Rozon has also been charged with unlawful confinement of a woman, but that charge was withdrawn due to a lack of evidence.

Just for Laughs did not immediately respond to a request for comment for this article. We will update this story when they do.

Yesterday, VICE reported that journalist Megan Koester travelled to Just for Laughs in 2015 to investigate sexual harassment rumours about Louis C.K. for Gawker. She said JFL's chief operating officer Bruce Hills became enraged with her and told her Louis CK was a member of the JFL "family" and a "friend of the festival." She said she was told if she continued to ask questions about Louis C.K., she would be kicked out of the festival.

Hills told VICE he wanted to keep the awards ceremony a celebratory event. "We always ensure all talent at our festival have fair notice and opportunity to decide if they wish to address such questions with a representative of the press."

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