The Just for Laughs Comedy Festival founder has been charged with rape and indecent assault. Gilbert Rozon, founder and former CEO of the Montreal-based festival, was accused by multiple women of sexual harassment and assault back in 2017 and is now being brought up on criminal charges. These two charges come from an alleged event in 1979.
After the accusations surfaced, Rozon sold his stake in the iconic comedy brand. Just for Laughs was then bought by a partnership between Bell Media, Groupe CH, ICM Partners, and longtime client Howie Mandel before Rozon publicly became the subject of a thorough criminal investigation. The festival was started in 1983 by Rozon and is now one of the largest international comedy festivals worldwide and certainly the most prestigious.
The initial round of accusations came from 10 women. In May of 2018, a Quebec judge allowed 20 women to bring a $10 million class-action lawsuit against Rozon for multiple alleged acts between 1982 and 2016. In August, the Quebec Court of Appeal allowed Rozon to challenge that decision, but the appeal has not yet been heard.
Rozon was also being separately investigated by Quebec’s director of criminal and penal prosecutions (DPCP). The investigation revolved around 14 complaints made against Rozon. Today, Justice Minister Sonia LeBel announced that Rozon will be facing two criminal charges. Only one of the 14 claims was deemed to be prosecutable. LeBel urged women to keep speaking out and while she believes the justice system works, “there is always room for improvement.”
A statement from the DPCP stated, “In criminal law, the burden of proof the prosecution must meet is very demanding.” It continues, “As a result, it occurs that the prosecutor, even though he believes the victim, comes to the conclusion that the evidence in the file does not allow a demonstration beyond a reasonable doubt, or that the facts fall under sexual harassment, civil law or sexual misconduct.”
The charges come from an encounter that allegedly took place between June and September 1979, in Saint-Sauveur, Quebec. Rozon is set to appear in court in January to answer the charges.
Rozon has been the subject of 30 complaints though some do not fall under Canadian jurisdiction as they are alleged to have occurred in Paris.