Concordia community responds to local bar’s support of convicted sex offender
On the morning of March 15, Le Journal de Montréal published an article revealing that TRH-Bar—a popular nightlife spot for many students—hosted a fundraiser for former bouncer and convicted sex offender Steve Bouchard.
The Journal’s article was centred around Bouchard’s victim and former girlfriend, Martine Beaudet-Aune. She expressed her anger at TRH-Bar’s event and said she felt as though the bar’s organizers were “laughing in my face,” according to the Journal.
Although TRH-Bar has been a frequent destination for many young people and students— especially during holidays and frosh weeks—Nick Gertler, the vice-president of communications and promotions for the Arts and Science Federation of Associations (ASFA), and Leyla Sutherland, the student life coordinator for the Concordia Student Union (CSU), both insisted the organizations have never had any sort of relationship with TRH-Bar. Both Gertler and Sutherland also added that neither ASFA nor the CSU will have associations with the bar in the future.
“Certainly, I’d hope that any future frosh leaders would discourage from going to TRH-Bar,” Gertler said, adding that ASFA is working to address the “social context” that these types of issues emerge from.
Gertler outlined the steps the federation has taken toward encouraging a more consent-driven, informed community at Concordia. “We have a task force that is right now, in part, dealing with sexual assault issues within the Arts and Science community. There are consent trainings at frosh now,” he said. “I think what we’re trying to do is work within our domain to address those kinds of behaviours, so people know what to watch for and know what is and is not acceptable. That is the most direct action we can take.”
The afternoon after the Journal article was published, TRH-Bar released a statement on their Facebook page. The post did not deny their involvement in the event, nor the fact that it was held with the goal of raising money for Bouchard. According to the Journal, the money raised at the fundraiser, which was called “Free Steve,” was intended for the assailant’s “reintegration” into society after he was released. In the article by the Journal and another published by Eater Montreal shortly after, Bouchard was charged in early 2017 and is still behind bars.
TRH-Bar’s statement said the bar does not support rape culture and has always encouraged its clientele and employees to maintain a respectful environment. It also claims the fundraiser was an “error of judgement,” and that its organizers did not take the victim’s experience into account.
Since the initial article’s release, TRH-Bar’s Facebook page has been swarmed with negative ratings and reviews. One contributor wrote that she “regret[s] every night spent” at the bar, while another urged visitors to “think about […] next time you want to encourage a bar that shows no respect whatsoever for rape victims.” As of Monday evening, the bar’s overall Facebook rating sat at 1.5 out of five stars, with more than 2,000 one-star ratings.
In a recent poll The Concordian conducted on Instagram, 96 per cent of participants (most of whom were Concordia students) said they don’t intend to return to TRH-Bar after having heard about the fundraiser. Julieta Filippo, a third-year Concordia marketing student, said the news left her questioning whether she’d feel safe if she were to return. “I wouldn’t go back unless I felt like something had changed since this event,” she said. “It would just make me feel unsafe.”
Another Concordia student, who requested to remain anonymous, was interested in whether or not the incident would spark “a community commitment towards supporting survivors.” They added “it is easy to say that you stand behind the condemnation of TRH, but the next step is to actively choose to not support their enterprise.”
TRH-Bar did not respond to a request for comment.
Photo by Kirubel Mehari