Bill Cosby is still coming to Canada, welcome or not
Published Friday, January 2, 2015 8:54AM EST
Last Updated Friday, January 2, 2015 9:40AM EST
Embattled comedian Bill Cosby is still planning to go ahead with three performances in Canada next week, even while several groups say they too are forging ahead with plans for protests and alternative shows of their own.
Cosby is visiting several Canadian and U.S. cities as part of a months-long concert tour and is scheduled to appear at the Centre in the Square in Kitchener on Jan. 7, at London's Budweiser Gardens on Jan. 8, and at Hamilton Place Theatre on Jan. 9.
Many people -- including the mayors of London and Hamilton -- have expressed reservations about Cosby’s appearances, given the number of sexual assault allegations involving the comedian in recent months.
At least 15 women have come forward with accusations stretching back years, and two lawsuits are pending. But Cosby has remained mostly silent about the allegations and no criminal charges have been laid.
So far, 10 of his shows have been cancelled or postponed since November. But the three concert venues in southwestern Ontario say they cannot axe their shows.
The costs of breaching their contracts would be too high, they say, and would hinder their ability to secure other contracts in the future. They assert that the only one who can cancel the shows is Cosby himself and his promoter.
Two local women's groups are planning to hold protests outside the theatres in Hamilton and London, while in Kitchener, an alternative concert has been hastily planned instead.
Melanie Baker has helped throw together a concert of local artists in Kitchener called "Voices Carry." The show will be held the same night as the Cosby performance and will help raise money for sexual assault victims. Baker says anyone with tickets to the Cosby show can attend the fundraiser for free, to voice their protest.
"We're going to have a great concert with a bunch of local artists, and we're going to raise a bunch of money for two great local charities: the Women's Crisis Services and the Sexual Assault Support Centre," Baker told CTV's Canada AM Friday.
Baker says she and her co-organizers understand why some women's groups are choosing to stage protests, but she says she also understands that for the theatres, their hands are tied.
"Certainly, there are plenty of people, including us, who are not happy with the way the Centre in the Square has chosen to continue, but at the same time, we understand that the position they're in is no-win. We wanted to do something different with a positive impact," she said.
In Hamilton, the Woman Abuse Working Group is organizing the protest outside Cosby’s show on Jan. 9. In London, Megan Walker, executive director of the London Abused Women’s Centre, says they too will be protesting outside Budweiser Gardens on Jan. 8, with signs and banners "and lots of noise."
She told CTV London earlier this week that many of those who bought tickets to the show before the sexual assault allegations came come to light and have found they can't get refunds "are going to use those tickets to heckle Mr. Cosby while he's on stage."
London's Mayor Matt Brown and Deputy Mayor Paul Hubert have said that while they have strong concerns about the performance, the city can't intervene.
"The city has no involvement and nothing to do with that contract, nor can we interfere with that contract," Hubert said Tuesday.
"[Londoners] lave the right not to go to that show and to protest it outside of Budweiser Gardens if that's their desire."