Osheaga announces new measures to protect women, LGBTQ concertgoers

Evenko, the promoter behind Osheaga and ÎleSoniq music festivals, said Thursday it will follow in the footsteps of the Montreal Jazz Fest and bring in the Hirondelles— a trained safety team— to help protect women and other concertgoers.

Promoter hires Hirondelles, the same company the Montreal Jazz Fest used this year

Evenko, the Osheaga promoter, has announced new measures to protect women and vulnerable attendees at this year's music festival.

Evenko, the promoter behind Osheaga and ÎleSoniq music festivals, said Thursday it will follow in the footsteps of the Montreal Jazz Fest and bring in the Hirondelles— a trained safety team— to help protect women and other concertgoers.

This is the first year the Quebec event promoter and producer is using the Hirondelles to help vulnerable people at the festival.

The focus on security measures for women and vulnerable people at festivals has increased over the past year, as more women have come forward about their negative experiences.

In response, women's organizations called on promoters to work harder to prevent sexual assaults. 

Earlier this year, a survey by the Conseil des Montréalaises, or Montreal Women's Council, found that 56 per cent of women who attend festivals said they'd been sexually harassed.

Last year a Montreal woman said her drink was drugged at Osheaga and when she told security staff about her concerns, she was brushed off. 

Project Souncheck, an Ottawa-based group that trains festival staff and volunteers on preventing sexual assaults, said last year that festivals have a responsibility to try to prevent assaults.

"The safety and well-being of everyone has always been at the heart of our concerns when organizing all of our events," said Jacques Aubé, the executive vice-president and chief operating officer of Evenko, in the release.

Roaming security teams

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

The Hirondelles are mobile teams of women who are specially trained to help vulnerable people at concerts. They wear armbands with a pair of swallows, or "hirondelles" on them.

The teams roamed the crowds at the Montreal Jazz Festival this year, and will now be part of Osheaga and ÎleSoniq.

In a statement, Evenko said it is also partnering with GRIP Montreal, a group that focuses on harm reduction for people who take psychoactive substances.

GRIP will have a quiet relaxation space set up, along with support workers, to help people who need it.

There will be first aid teams on hand, as well as "monitoring teams" who will looking for festival attendees who appear to be in distress, according to the release.

Also new this year, there will be a psychologist/clinical sexologist to help people in need of care, and concertgoers will be able to include information like allergies and emergency contacts when they register their RFID wristbands, which allow them site access.