Québec Cinéma says it will remove Claude Jutra's name from its industry awards amid allegations the late filmmaker had sex with underage boys and in at least one case sexually abused a boy as young as six.
The organizers of the annual awards ceremony made the announcement at a news conference Wednesday after Quebec Culture Minister Hélène David asked them to drop Jutra's name.
A biography released this week said Jutra had sex with underage boys, while Montreal's La Presse quoted a man Wednesday as saying the filmmaker began touching him when he was six years old and that the abuse escalated over a 10-year period.
Patrick Roy, president of Québec Cinéma's board of directors, said he was "completely shocked" by the allegations.
"Our role is not to do an inquiry about this or organize a trial," Roy told the news conference.
"We are just making a decision about an award today. That's all we are doing."
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The Academy of Canadian Cinema & Television also announced it will rename its Claude Jutra Award to the Canadian Screen Award for Best First Feature.
The man interviewed by La Presse said Jutra was a friend of his parents.
"He would always bring me presents,'' he said. "I was happy to see him. I was a kid. I would jump on his back and he would make me roll over. Everyone had the impression it was good fun."
The alleged victim said Jutra would lie beside him in his bed and ask for long hugs before he began touching the boy's genitals.
He said the abuse heightened over the years and involved masturbation and oral sex.
No new name has been set for the next Québec Cinéma gala, which is scheduled for March 20.
None of the allegations against Jutra have been proven in court.
Culture minister wants review
David is seeking a list of all the places in the province that bear his name so municipalities can decide whether to keep them.
"We have to take it seriously," David said. "It's an unbearable situation."
Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre weighed in as well, saying the city would remove Jutra's name from a downtown park as well as from a street in an east end borough.
"In light of what we've seen this morning, I've always said you can't defend the indefensible,'' Coderre said after the decision by the city's executive committee. "And we have to act quickly."
On Montreal's South Shore, Saint-Bruno-de-Montarville officials are also planning to present a motion at the next council meeting in March to change the name of a street named to honour Jutra.
Quebec City and Levis, which is across the St. Lawrence River from the provincial capital, also intend to rename the Claude-Jutra Street in their respective cities.
New biography details allegations
The initial allegations against Jutra surfaced in a biography of the actor and director, who is considered a founding father of Quebec cinema.
In his book released Tuesday, author Yves Lever devotes four pages to Jutra's predilection for young boys, quoting friends of Jutra's who said he'd had sexual relations with boys as young as 14 and 15.
Lever said he conducted more than 30 interviews in researching his book. He said five or six people who were "very close" to Jutra corroborated specific incidents of Jutra's involvement with a series of underage boys.
"The main victim did not want to speak to me," despite several requests, Lever told Radio-Canada earlier this week.
Jutra is considered so important a figure in the history of the province's film industry that Quebec's annual film awards gala — and the trophies themselves — were named after him almost 20 years ago.
Jutra committed suicide in 1986 after battling Alzheimer's disease.
His best-known films include Mon oncle Antoine and Kamouraska.
Places in Quebec named after Jutra:
- Croissant Claude-Jutra in Montreal.
- Claude-Jutra Park in Montreal.
- Place Claude-Jutra in Repentigny.
- Claude-Jutra Street in Quebec City.
- Claude-Jutra Street in Lévis.
- Claude-Jutra Street in Saint-Bruno-de-Montarville.
- Claude-Jutra Street in Blainville.
- Jutra Street in Candiac.