Founder of Canadian 'Just for Laughs' comedy festival quits amid abuse allegations

MONTREAL (Reuters) - The founder of Canada’s comedy festival ‘Just for Laughs’, which draws celebrities including Trevor Noah, Sarah Silverman and Jerry Seinfeld, has resigned from his own company in the wake of allegations of sexual harassment.

FILE PHOTO: Gilbert Rozon (L) and Bruce Hills (R) of the television comedy show "Just For Laughs" accept the ICON award during the Canadian Screen Awards in Toronto, Ontario, Canada March 12, 2017. REUTERS/Mark Blinch

Gilbert Rozon made the announcement on his Facebook page on Wednesday night. He is the latest entertainment executive to be accused of sexual harassment in the wake of accusations against U.S. film producer Harvey Weinstein. Weinstein has denied having non-consensual sex with anyone.

“Shaken by the allegations against me, I wish to take time to reflect,” Rozon wrote, adding he was “sincerely sorry” for “all the women and men I may have offended in the course of my life.”

The company confirmed Rozon’s resignation and said an independent board of directors will be put in place. Spokesman Jean-David Pelletier declined to comment further.

Montreal newspaper ‘Le Devoir’ on Thursday reported allegations by nine women who said they had been sexually harassed or abused by Rozon.

Rozon announced his immediate resignation from ‘Just for Laughs’, as well as his departure from the committee organizing events to mark Montreal’s 375th anniversary this year and his role as vice president of the Montreal Board of Trade.

Held every summer in Montreal, ‘Just for Laughs’ is one of the largest international comedy festivals and is a major tourist attraction for the city.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who has made gender equality a significant part of the government’s focus, said society was “seeing a moment of awakening”.

“It’s unacceptable for anyone to feel insecure or harassed at work, at home, in the streets and I think people are beginning to get it,” Trudeau told reporters in Montreal. “It doesn’t matter how much power you have, how much influence you have, it’s never all right.”

Amazon Studios chief Roy Price also resigned earlier this week following allegations he harassed a producer and took no action when an actress told him she was sexually assaulted by Weinstein.

Reporting by Kevin Dougherty; written by Leah Schnurr; editing by Clive McKeef