Unclear if Osheaga's new safety measures for women are working

Evenko, the concert promoter behind the Osheaga music festival, said it it is focusing on women's safety at this year's music festival, but it's not clear if those efforts are making a difference.

Festival promised increased focus on safety after a woman said she was drugged in 2016

Stephanie Lacroix, centre, said harassment can be a problem for women at festivals, but was glad to hear there were teams in place at this year's Osheaga. (Andrea Bellemare/CBC)

The Osheaga music festival in Montreal introduced new measures designed to help protect women at this year's event, after a woman last year said her drink was spiked and security didn't help her — but it's unclear if those efforts are making a difference.

Earlier this summer, the festival's promoter, Evenko, announced it was adding the Hirondelles, or "Swallows," to the festival's safety and security operations.

The Hirondelles are a group of mobile security teams spread through the site who are specially trained to help women and vulnerable people.

The group had three kiosks and about 30 members in total, according to their sign, but it's not clear how much they helped concertgoers who were not already aware of their presence.

'You always have those drunk guys'

Despite not necessarily being aware of the Hirondelles, many women who attended Osheaga Saturday said they felt safe.

"I was, like, in a bralette also yesterday. I felt totally safe, no one touched me," said Justice Clark.

Clark said she has been coming to the festival for years and felt that this year's edition was well done.

Justice Clark said she has been coming to Osheaga for years and felt safe at this year's festival. (CBC)

"I was not looking for them, so I don't really know if it is easy, but I saw spaces like that, yes," Camille Vallet said about the Hirondelles. 

Stephanie Lacroix said she hadn't noticed the Hirondelles teams, but added she hadn't been there long.

"Usually what happens at festivals is that you always have those drunk guys that try, like, to grab you or something like that, so it's fun to know there are spaces," she said.

"All I remember is the people with the aqua or turquoise T-shirts," said Alianna Chisholm. "They were like people you could ask questions to. I didn't notice anyone with a Swallow armband though." 

A CBC Montreal reporter attended Osheaga Saturday to see if the festival's efforts to make women feel safe were paying off. 0:46

Reporters harassed

On Friday, Radio-Canada reporter Valerie-Micaela Bain was in the middle of a live TV segment at Osheaga when a man came up from behind her and kissed her on the cheek.

Bain immediately pushed him away, and continued talking. She later posted about the incident on social media, criticizing​ the man for his actions, and for interrupting her while doing her job.

Radio-Canada reporter Valerie-Micaela Bain was in the middle of a live TV interview at Osheaga when a man came up from behind her right shoulder and kissed her on the cheek. 0:13

On Saturday, Radio-Canada issued a statement on Twitter and Facebook.

"Radio-Canada denounces this type of unacceptable behaviour towards our journalists while working, and the safety of our journalists is of paramount importance for us."

While reporting on women's safety issues at Osheaga on Saturday, a man came up and stood close behind me. It felt like he touched me. When I confronted him about it he denied it and later apologized. The women then asked me if I felt safe.

Later, when interviewing another woman about her safety, an unidentified male yelled a vulgar phrase at us.

Safety signs in French only

Women looking for help from the Hirondelles would have found signage at the kiosks were only in French, and they would have had to know the mandate of the team in advance. 

One of the Hirondelles kiosks didn't include any signage that explained its purpose.

A Hirondelles booth displays the group's logo but did not explain the booth's purpose, which was to offer support to people who may feel vulnerable at the festival. (Andrea Bellemare/CBC)

None of the Hirondelles at the kiosks who were approached by CBC News said they were authorized to speak to media and referred requests to promoter Evenko. 

Evenko was not available for interviews and instead sent the original news release announcing the Hirondelles in July.

It was not clear how many members of the Hirondelles were roaming through the crowds, but none were apparent for several hours Saturday afternoon.

A sign that explains the purpose of the Hirondelles group, in French only. "The staff in this zone are trained to offer assistance to women and everyone who may feel vulnerable," it reads. (Andrea Bellemare/CBC)

About the Author

Andrea Bellemare


Andrea Bellemare is a producer and reporter working at CBC Montreal. She has worked in many departments at CBC, from radio to TV to online, and she has also reported for the wire service Agence France-Presse.