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Just for Laughs Founder Resigns Amid Sexual Assault Allegations

Nine women say they were either sexually assaulted or harassed by the Montreal-based comedy-festival founder.

by Manisha Krishnan
Oct 19 2017, 5:51pm

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

This article originally appeared on VICE Canada.

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

Canada's French-language newspaper Le Devoir and the radio station 98.5 FM reported the allegations Wednesday night. According to TVA, a French-language broadcast television network in Canada, 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 then they continued to drink at a restaurant. Allard said Rozon brought her back home, where 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 her while she was working at 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 while taking photos for the festival La Grande Virée in 1982. 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. Following dinner, she and Rozon headed to a bar to discuss business, 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 their alleged 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 that Rozon suggested they sleep together when she was 15.

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 that Rozon was also charged with unlawful confinement of a woman, but that charge was withdrawn due to a lack of evidence.

We reached out to Just for Laughs for a response, and have yet to receive comment. We will update this story if we do.

On Wednesday, VICE published journalist Megan Koester's story about traveling to Just for Laughs in 2015 to investigate sexual harassment rumors 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 that 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 award 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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