Montreal Jazz Fest introduces new safety measures for women, LGBTQ community

The Montreal International Jazz Festival has unveiled new measures aimed at making its upcoming concerts safer for women, seniors and members of the LBGTQ community.

Specially trained staff, new safe spaces added to summer event

The new safety measures come after a recently released study found that more than 50 per cent of women who attend festivals report being sexually harassed. (Montreal Jazz Festival)

With the city's festival season in full swing, the Montreal International Jazz Festival has unveiled new measures aimed at creating a safer environment at its concerts for women, seniors and members of the LGBTQ community.

The decision comes after a recently released study by the Conseil des Montréalaises, or Montreal Women's Council, found that more than 50 per cent of women who attend festivals report being sexually harassed.

The study also found that members of the LGBTQ have reported feeling vulnerable at festivals.

As of this summer, the Montreal International Jazz Festival will now have staff on the ground that are specifically trained to respond to the needs of "vulnerable" attendees who may need help during the festival.

Look for the swallow armband

Members of the roaming, all-female safety teams called Hirondelles, the French word for swallows, will be identifiable by armlets featuring two of the birds. 

Members of the special teams will be identifiable by a pink armband with two swallows. (Montreal International Jazz Festival)

"There will be about 30 people spread across this site so if anybody feels anything — discomfort, if they're being harassed or they are just overwhelmed by how many people there are on the site — just find one of the Swallow members," said Gabrielle Rémillard, a programming agent for the festival.

She added that team members are also there to escort attendees out of the crowds if they need it.

There will also be easily-identifiable safe zones spread throughout the concert grounds for anyone who is in danger or needs assistance.

Advocates hope other festivals follow jazz fest lead

Cathy Wong, president of the Montreal Women's Council, welcomed the festival's move to create the teams. 

"We think it's important that such a big actor like [jazz festival organizer] Spectra shows this example and takes this initiative and it's an interesting signal to send to all the other different festivals," she told CBC.

"We hope the other festivals will follow up."

Melanie Doucet, who experienced the need for such a team first hand after reporting that she had been drugged and blacked out at last year's Osheaga Music Festival, applauded the Montreal International Jazz Festival for being "super proactive."

"I think it's wonderful," she said. "One of the concerns I had was I was stuck in a very large crowd and it took me forever to get out of it ... and I couldn't find help while I was alert."

"It's a concern, it's safety concern, it's also a health concern — if someone was having a seizure or a bad reaction to something in the middle of a big crowd like that, there could be some fatalities."

With files from Sarah Leavitt