More than 2000 Hedley fans flock to Sudbury show, despite sex assault allegations, protest

Hedley continued its embattled "Cageless" tour on Wednesday night with a stop in Sudbury — and though there were some protesters outside the arena decrying the show, others stood in support of the band.

Ticket refunds were offered, and about 200 people took the city up on that offer

A group of about 40 people held up signs as part of a peaceful demonstration ahead of Hedley's concert in Sudbury on Wednesday. (Benjamin Aubé/CBC)

Hedley continued its embattled "Cageless" tour on Wednesday night with a stop in Sudbury — and though there were some protestors outside the arena decrying the show, others stood in support of the band. 

The Canadian pop-rock group's lead singer, Jacob Hoggard, has been accused of sexual misconduct, but denies the allegations. 

About 40 demonstrators gathered outside the Sudbury Community Arena before the concert as part of a protest organized by "She Matters," a sexual abuse victim's support group in Sudbury. 

The group describes itself on its Facebook page as a "youth-led community of survivors uniting to support, heal, and advocate to end sexual violence."

Demonstrators hold up signs in the direction of concert-goers ahead of Hedley's tour stop in Sudbury on Wednesday. (Benjamin Aubé/CBC)

Jacqueline Villeneuve, the founder of "She Matters", said the city and promoters sent the wrong message by allowing the concert to go on.

"We really want to cultivate a very supportive community for survivors [of sexual abuse] and have women confident in coming forward," said Villeneuve.

While the demonstrators kept mostly quiet while holding up their signs, a few were approached by the band's fans.

As Villeneuve was being interviewed, one woman walked up and said in the microphone, "Innocent 'til proven guilty, how about that?"

Villeneuve said she was expecting such reactions, but added they're still upsetting. 

"It's very disappointing when you see women belittling a group that is here just to show support for survivors of sexual violence," she said.

Canadian rock band Hedley and lead singer Jacob Hoggard (pictured) performed in Brampton, Ont., on March 1, 2018 as part of their Cageless tour. A March 11 performance scheduled in Windsor, Ont., was cancelled. (Evan Mitsui/CBCNews) (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

While Hedley's scheduled tour stop in Windsor last Sunday was cancelled, Greater Sudbury was among the cities that said the show would go on, but offered refunds to those no longer willing to attend.

According to city spokesperson Shannon Dowling, around 2,100 tickets had been sold as of few hours prior to show time Wednesday evening, and about 200 refunds had been processed.

Dowling said the City was aware of plans for what was billed as a "peaceful demonstration."

Cooper Kansala holds up a sign at a peaceful demonstration prior to Hedley's concert in Sudbury on Wednesday. (Benjamin Aubé/CBC)

"The City respects the right to peaceful protesting," said Dowling in an email. "The City will seek to ensure the safety of anyone attending events at any of our municipal facilities."

The tour's promoter, Live Nation, did not reply to the CBC's inquiries regarding the concert.

'It's not right'

Copper Kansala and Robbie Bianchin were part of a group of male friends attending the demonstration. While answering questions, they were interrupted by a band supporter who yelled, 'I stand for Hedley!'

"They're children," noted Kansala afterwards. "I don't think they understand the idea, and just seeing their parents filming them [with their smartphones], it's a bad influence on their children."

"For all the people [sexual abuse] has happened to, it's not right."

Standing by their band

Erin Culleton chose to see her favourite band, Hedley, despite the allegations against Hoggard.

This month, the singer said he has never engaged in non-consensual sexual behaviour, but acknowledged he has "objectified" women in the past. 

Hedley fans Erin Culleton and Britney Crites said they stand by their favourite band despite allegations against lead singer Jacob Hoggard. (Benjamin Aubé/CBC)

"Everyone makes mistakes and he said sorry, honestly, and he realized he did mess up a lot when it came to some situations," said Culleton.

Caroline McCauley and her daughter Cassandra received V.I.P. passes for the event, meaning they got to meet Hoggard and the band before the show.

McCauley said the entire band was "friendly and down-to-earth."

She added she would have had a different opinion had the accusations been brought to police and proven in court.

"If he's proven guilty, [my opinion] will change big-time," noted McCauley. "We have rights, so if he's proven guilty, then that would change my mind, not about the music, but about the human being."

The show goes on

Hedley is scheduled to continue its tour with a stop in Thunder Bay on Thursday.

The band announced the Thunder Bay show will be moved to a smaller venue due to "unforeseen technical issues," while the city said it will be increasing security presence at the event.

The band has stated it will take an "indefinite hiatus" once the tour comes to an end. 

With files from Benjamin Aubé