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Gilbert Rozon: The Beginning Of The End For The Founder Of Just For Laughs

Gilbert Rozon is responsible for creating, developing, and international deployment of the Just for Laughs brand in over 150 countries. 40 years later, the man who made people laugh isn’t consumed by shame, as his victims have to listen to him spin stories around the truth. In 2020, he escaped all charges against him following three years of lengthy, drawn-out trials. But today, the story told by the complainants nevertheless resembles in many ways those told by several other women who also claim to have been harassed or sexually assaulted by the businessman, and who also wanted to file a complaint. But their causes could not be brought to justice. The situations and stories have been similar throughout the years but one thing remains consistent for the man: his career seems well and truly ruined in Quebec where he became involved in all social events in the Quebec metropolis before falling down from his pedestal in the wake of the #MeToo movement. 

For all those who accuse him of sexual assault, one thing is certain today, Gilbert Rozon does not really make anybody laugh anymore in Quebec.

Gilbert Rozon: Shocking Sex Scandals Continue As More Women See UnJustice 

Early life and education:

Gilbert Rozon is the eldest of seven children. 

He was raised in Saint-André d’Argenteuil and began working at a young age as a paperboy. At the age of 14, he took up a lot of jobs including salesman, printer, show organizer, gravedigger, publisher of telephone directories business, real estate, and more.

He said that it was his work experience that helped develop his sense of humour. 

After a short stay in France at age 20, Gilbert Rozon studied law at the Université de Montréal where he graduated.

Here is why he created Just for Laughs:

At 20, he discovered the theater, and a real jack-of-all-trades, he found himself in control of the projector during performances on the local stage. He took a liking to the artistic world, but complexed by his lack of culture, decided to resume his studies and obtained his law degree at the University of Montreal. At the end of the 1970s, he started organizing artistic events. His first festival, La grande virée, which combines song and theater, has had a small local success. But, in 1982, the third edition was a resounding failure which led him to the brink of bankruptcy. To bounce back, he decided to play the humor card and in July 1983 created the Just for Laughs festival.

The popularity of the festival gave Gilbert Rozon great notoriety:

For the first edition of his festival, he managed to convince Charles Trenet, who had been away from the stage for several years, to come and perform there. The following year the singer entrusted him with the management of his international career, and thus allowed him to make himself known in France. 

At the same time, the Just for Laughs Festival became an annual meeting where comedians from all over the world came together on the same stage. It has been successfully rolled out in other cities, Toronto, Chicago and Nantes. Having become an emblematic producer, he takes care of many artists (notably Florence Foresti, Arturo Brachetti, Laurent Ruquier).

Gilbert Rozon, who became an expert in the laughter industry, decided to create a specialized school in 1989. He thus founded a National School of Humor based in Montreal, which provided, in three years, the basic rules of a humorous show. As the director of the Just for Laughs group, he diversifies the company’s activities and offers festivals, shows, musicals and plays throughout the world. In 2006, the Quebecois decided to take up a new challenge and agreed to join the jury of the program La France a un incredible talent, broadcast on M6. Since then, he has been loyal to the show and participates in every season.

His controversy started in the 1980s:

Photographer Lyne Charlebois remembers being afraid, the biggest fear of her life. She thought Rozon was going to kill her in the spring of 1982 in Montreal. 

At the time, the 24-year-old was starting her career as a photographer and had an appointment with Gilbert Rozon to discuss a potential photography contract for the La Grande Virée festival. Mr. Rozon, who was not known at the time, is said to have had dinner at her house, with her partner. 

Afterwards, they would go out as agreed for a drink and discuss business. Gilbert Rozon would then ask to come to his home to change his shirt. Once in the apartment, he would have sat next to her on the couch and started talking about her silk stockings. She then remembers that Rozon, suddenly and with a mad look, pulls her by the hand towards the bedroom. 

She does not understand what is going on and he raped her. Petrified by fear, Lyne Charlebois was frozen, before running out, without saying a word. About a week later, the woman allegedly passed Gilbert Rozon in the street. She yells at him, trying to express to him that she would never forgive him for what he had done to her, the court document reads.

Lyne Charlebois has reportedly spoken openly about her assault to relatives, including her then-partner. She was reluctant to press charges, as she blamed herself for her recklessness, wrote her lawyers in the lawsuit. 

In 1998, police reportedly told her that her case was too old and that she would be rolled in the mud if she reported the assault. In 2017, in the wake of the #MeToo denunciations movement, Lyne Charlebois publicly denounced Gilbert Rozon and lodged a complaint with the Montreal Police Department (SPVM), like 13 other women. 

Only Annick Charette’s complaint led to criminal charges of rape and indecent assault for events that allegedly occurred in 1980. 

They continued to get worse in 1990:

In 1998, Gilbert Rozon received an unconditional discharge from the Quebec Superior Court after pleading and being found guilty of a sexual assault on a 19-year-old woman (she just turned legally ideal). He received an unconditional discharge as a criminal record would have made it difficult for him to travel internationally for his work.

Currently, actress Patricia Tulasne is suing the former Quebec humor mogul Gilbert Rozon, ex-juror of the show “France has an incredible talent”, in civil proceedings for an alleged sexual assault dating back to 1994, we from the learned lawyers for the actress.

Patricia Tulasne says she was “brutally raped” by the producer, according to a request filed at the Montreal courthouse. The Quebec actress claims 1.6 million Canadian dollars from Gilbert Rozon, who was acquitted in December in another case of rape and indecent assault charges for which he risked jail closed.

Patricia Tulasne, now 62, says she met Gilbert Rozon at a restaurant dinner with other actors when she was 35. Gilbert Rozon would have taken her home, where he would have sexually assaulted her: “Fearing the consequences if she resisted, both personal and professional”, Patricia Tulasne would have “let it go”.

Gilbert Rozon was also accused of unlawful confinement of a 31-year-old woman:

This accusation was withdrawn by the police for lack of evidence. Groups of women expressed their resentment and anger over sentencing they considered as being too lenient.

He was forced to retire in 2017:

Gilbert Rozon, founder of the group “Just for Laughs”, was splashed by accusations of sexual assault in October 2017, which forced him to leave office in the midst of the #MeToo movement.

On October 18, 2017, Rozon announced he was resigning from his position as the President of Just for Laughs as well as the vice-president of the Montreal Metropolitan Board of Trade, amid allegations of sexual misconduct.

He was cleared in late 2020:

On December 15, 2020, following three years of lengthy, drawn out trials, he was cleared of all charges against him in 2017. He denied any misconduct or crime, suggesting that the complainant’s version made no sense.

“If I was an assailant, she certainly wouldn’t have slept at my place,” he replied in a firmer tone than the day before, as he was asked questions by the Crown prosecutor. , Me Bruno Ménard.

As he left the courtroom, Gilbert Rozon was asked if he was innocent. “Absolutely,” he replied.

Outside the courthouse, demonstrators chanted the slogan: “Justice is a circus”, calling for an overhaul of the justice system for victims of crimes of a sexual nature.

On the other hand, the plaintiff Annick Charette who just agreed to reveal her identity, made the following statement to the press before leaving the court:

“I think that I am another example of the limits of the justice system in matters of sexual violence, I deeply regret that the myths and stereotypes of another era which largely supported the arguments of the defense were able to find echoed with the Court. It is a very negative message that justice sends to the victims. Another of my observations is that the current legal system does not put the victims of crimes of a sexual nature at the center of the procedures “.

‘The encouragement and wind of change that we feel in our society unfortunately does not translate into a victim’s journey or the justice system. The system sets high expectations for the performance of the victim, both through the process and in their testimony. It is undeniably necessary for victims to be better supported and informed, even before making a first statement to the police. There is a lack of human and financial resources for organizations on the ground to do vital support work with the victims, “she added.

In 2021, Patricia Tulasne an actress sues Gilbert Rozon for $1.6 million: 

The former Quebec humor mogul is being sued in civil proceedings by actress Patricia Tulasne for an alleged sexual assault which allegedly took place in 1994. Gilbert Rozon was acquitted in December 2020 in another case of rape and indecent assault charges for which he faced jail time.

“Patricia Tulasne filed a civil lawsuit against Gilbert Rozon claiming 600,000 dollars in compensatory damages from her, as well as 1 million dollars in punitive damages for the sexual assault she suffered in 1994, ”the Trudel Johnston & Lespérance firm indicated in a press release.

“For more than twenty years, she suffered the aftermath of this attack, alone and in silence,” it wrote in the document consulted by the AFP. 

“By these proceedings, she asks that justice be done, that the truth of the assault she suffered be demonstrated,” he added.

The actress is the spokesperson for “Courageuses”, a collective of some twenty women allegedly victims of the former producer between 1982 and 2016, which Gilbert Rozon strongly denies. The Supreme Court of Canada in the fall dismissed the appeal of this group, which wanted to take class action against Gilbert Rozon.

“This lawsuit comes in the wake of the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision not to hear the Courageuses’ appeal after the Quebec Court of Appeal refused them permission to prosecute their attacker by way of collective action, ”added Patricia Tulasne’s lawyers.

Patricia Tulasne has starred in several films by Quebec director Xavier Dolan, including “I killed my mother”.

Lyne Charlebois is the second alleged victim to prosecute Gilbert Rozon in three weeks in another civil lawsuit:

Lyne Charlebois is filing a $1.7 million lawsuit against Gilbert Rozon, whom she accuses of sexually assaulting him nearly 40 years ago in 1982 in Montreal. She is the second alleged victim to sue the founder of Just for Laughs in three weeks. Exactly three weeks ago, actress Patricia Tulasne filed a $1.6 million lawsuit against Gilbert Rozon for a sexual assault he allegedly committed in 1994.

The two women are represented by the law firm Trudel, Johnston & Lespérance. Their lawsuits contain several similar allegations. Montreal actress Patricia Tulasne claims to have been sexually assaulted by producer Gilbert Rozon in 1994, after an evening in a restaurant in the metropolis with her. 

Gilbert Rozon did not want to comment on the file. “I will not comment on the lawsuits at this time. I have given the mandate to my lawyers to take the measures they deem appropriate in order to ensure my defense, ”he declared in writing. 

Since the rape, the plaintiff has refused all humor-related jobs or contracts, the lawsuit argues, which would have cost her lucrative projects. 

Lyne Charlebois suffered from depression, experienced substance abuse problems, and developed a great deal of anger that would have destroyed her relationships. The sexual assault plagued her life and she claims $ 700,000 in damages and $1 million in punitive damages from the 66-year-old Just for Laughs founder and businessman. 

Lyne Charlebois is the director of the film Borderline and of the television series All the Truth, Taboo and Our Summers, among others. In 2009, she won the trophy for best director for the film Borderline.

In December 2020, after a trial before the Court of Quebec during which he denied the alleged crimes, Gilbert Rozon was acquitted. The decision does not mean that the alleged incidents did not occur, qualified judge Mélanie Hébert, explaining that the magnate benefits from reasonable doubt. 

Lyne Charlebois and Patricia Tulasne are both part of the group Les Courageuses, a collective of twenty women who claim to have been sexually assaulted by Gilbert Rozon between 1982 and 2016.  They wanted to bring a class action against him. which they qualify as predatory. Last year, the Quebec Court of Appeal blocked their appeal because it felt it was not the appropriate procedural vehicle. The Supreme Court then refused to hear the Courageuses’ appeal. They accused Gilbert Rozon of having used his position of power and influence to trap several victims. 

Annick Charette, his earlier victim, also salutes the “courage of the Courageuses who, by denouncing publicly, have led hundreds of victims to free their word and have allowed me, to me, to go to the end, even if this end is this one. “.

In 1998, he obtained an absolute discharge after pleading guilty to a charge of sexual assault at a reception at the Manoir Rouville-Campbell, in Mont-Saint-Hilaire. 

Annick Charette’s complaint and testimony:

“A dark day for all victims of sexual assault,” said complainant Annick Charette, who decided to reveal her identity after the trial.

He will have saved more than one, that famous reasonable doubt which, in our legal systems, means that a judge can acquit an accused if he has the slightest doubt about his guilt. This trial is another example: as it was not possible to prove beyond a reasonable doubt the guilt of Gilbert Rozon, accused of rape and indecent assault for facts dating back to 1980, Judge l ‘acquitted.

The verdict of acquittal does not mean that the charges did not occur.

In her testimony, during the trial, a 60 years old woman Annick Charette recounted having spent an evening with Gilbert Rozon in a nightclub in Saint-Sauveur, north of Montreal. After the evening, he suggested that she go and drive her back and asked, once in the car, to do some kissing. She says she refused. On the way, he would have told her to have to stop at her secretary to pick up documents, and it was once in the residence that he would have thrown himself on her, trying to kiss her and putting his hand in her cleavage. 

She says she rejected his advances and struggled. In the fight, they fell to the ground and he allegedly tried to put his hand under her skirt to remove her underwear. She kept saying no and wearily, he would have stopped, but refused to take her back to her parents on the pretext that he was tired.

The young woman would then have spent the night in one of the rooms of the residence and it is the next morning that she claims to have woken up with Gilbert Rozon on her. Again, she says she tried to push him away, only to let go, which he used to rape her. 

“I remember the oppression” she recounted, admitting not remembering all the details, except “… the window, which was to the right of the bed, because that’s what I was watching, “as he entered her, she clarified. “It’s not okay, it’s just too much, I don’t have the strength. It’s up to you, let’s be done,” the rape victim said of why she finally let him go.

A former colleague of the victim also came to testify: she supported her version of the facts, specifying that the story had become a subject of a joke in the office thereafter. She concluded her testimony with the following sentence: “The moral of the story is that we do not take a car tour with Gilbert Rozon or it is at our peril.”

On cross-examination, the businessman’s lawyer suggested that it was instead the complainant who had joined her client in his room and woke him up by lying on top of him. 

Gilbert Rozon’s defence team spun Annick Charette’s complaint around:

After a night out at a bar in Saint-Sauveur, north of Montreal, he did invite her to the house of a friend who was absent there – and not to her secretary as the complainant claims. “I thought she was cute. I was probably the one who invited her.” He says he made a fire in the fireplace: “I found it more romantic”… He says that they then started to kiss and caress, but that it was not further because the young woman was reluctant and said no when he slipped his hand under her robe. He swears not to have torn the said dress or torn off its buttons. So he would have gone to sleep upstairs and her in a downstairs bedroom.

A few hours later, it was not he who went to find her in his room, as she claims, but she who would have gone to his and would have “straddled” him, and that it is she “who made love to him”. The producer says: “I was more than surprised. The real words that came to my mind: she is weird. She was looking into the distance. I wonder if she was making love. She was looking forwards. It was strange behavior. It is the truth. It is what I lived “.

And to add: “I let myself go. I took my pleasure. I was so surprised that it spoiled my pleasure. It is akin to a kind of masturbation. I accepted my fate because that suited me, “continued the producer who affirms that he did not want to” break the spell “of the moment by touching the breasts of the young woman because it seemed to him that she “was experiencing something very personal. it would have seemed unsightly “.

The producer also denies that he said he had to stop by his secretary’s house in the middle of the night and wanted to kiss in the car.

According to Gilbert Rozon’s testimony, the roles are reversed: according to him, it is the complainant who “assaulted” him much more than he. This version of events sowed enough doubts in the judge’s mind for her to acquit. No doubt that was the defense strategy. And it worked.

He was in a relationship: 

On the private side, Gilbert Rozon shared his life with Danielle Roy, designer, with whom he founded the Just for Laughs Festival in 1983. The couple have three sons; Charles, Edouard and Arthur. But in April 2016, after more than thirty years of living together, the couple revealed their separation. He then went on to find love on the arm of the actress Noémie Caillault. 

Annick Charette was the tiny ball that started the snowball effect:

In an interview with Montreal daily La Presse, Annick Charette says she does not regret filing a complaint and hopes the justice system will be overhauled so that victims of sexual crimes can be believed more when they say they have suffered such crimes. So that they are more supported throughout the process of filing a complaint. She even says she is ready to come and support organizations that help these women.

After the trial, Annick Charette wished to express her gratitude to the investigators who accompanied her during the process: “This process represents a storm in an unknown universe which rekindles the traumas experienced and generates a strong feeling of helplessness. You will understand why, it” is incredible as a feeling of helplessness “.

“Do not be ashamed. The guilt you feel is not yours. Despite today’s disappointment, I invite you to speak out, because then things could change”

“With regard to the cultural and media sectors, they must imperatively continue the important examination of conscience initiated,” continues Annick Charette, who believes that workers in these sectors must be able to do so without suffering harassment. nor aggression. 

She says she has spent her entire career in this environment and, currently Secretary General of the National Federation of Communications and Culture, says: “I can only note that this battle has not been won” She concluded, her voice tight with emotion, with a message to all victims of sexual crimes: “Do not be ashamed. The guilt you feel is not yours. Despite today’s disappointment. , I invite you to denounce, because that way things could change “.

This is a whole different story that the founder of the “Just for Laughs Festival” came to tell at the helm. The now 66-year-old forcefully denies having sexually assaulted any of these women and instead might once again claim it was them who initiated the sexual relationship.

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