If a reckoning is coming for sexual misconduct, it will take the entire community, from showgoers to venue owners, to make it happen BY CARLY LEWIS JUNE 6, 2018
The first time Jane* went to Bloor and Bathurst event venue Coda, the now 30-year-old woman says she was physically and verbally harassed by the same man for 20 minutes before she reached her breaking point and screamed.
“He was non-consensually touching me – hand on my back, arm, waist, hip, arm around my shoulders… I had to push his hand off me, grab him by both shoulders, look him dead in the face and shout, ‘Do not speak to me or touch me again.’”
Kaitlin*, 37, recounts a similar experience at the Great Hall on Queen West several years ago. “Even thinking about it right now makes me really tense. It was incredibly violating and disgusting,” she says, of being groped by a stranger in the crowd. Her friends alerted a security guard, who was able to find the man and eject him.
Sexual harassment and assault – both of which fall into the ever-ballooning term “sexual misconduct” – have become ubiquitous topics in the Toronto music scene as patrons, promoters, musicians and venue staff reconcile news stories and whispers coming to light.
In February, Lucan Wai, co-owner of prominent west-end concert venue the Smiling Buddha (Wai also co-owned the Central prior to its closure) was charged with one count of sexual assault. Many musicians and promoters, including those affiliated with Canadian Music Week and Venus Fest, pulled their shows from the venue. Matt Sandrin, the venue’s booker and lead talent buyer, also quit in the wake of the charge.
In 2015, a man was sexually assaulted at knifepoint in the bathroom of Kensington Market venue Double Double Land. In response, management made structural changes including the installation of safety buzzers in the bathroom, better lighting around the bathroom and dance floor, and additional security. Double Double Land and other venues began hanging posters distributed by advocacy group Noise Against Sexual Assault (NASA) on its premises. The posters read: “No racism. No sexism. No homophobia. No transphobia. No violence. No sexual violence. No emotional violence. No ableism. Yes respect. Yes you.”