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Martin C. Barry

In response to rising apprehensions among some women about aggressive sexual advances sometimes leading to assault and rape, the City of Laval has decided to throw its support behind a growing network of “safe” bars where staff are trained to intervene and help clients when they feel threatened or are in uncomfortable situations.

In all, 15 bars have decided to take part in the initiative, which is also supported by Collège Montmorency and the Centre for the Prevention and Intervention for Victims of Sexual Agression (CPIVAS), under the leadership of Collectif social, a student-centered collective.

Making a night out safe

Carlo’s & Pepe’s at the Centropolis is the first Laval restaurant and bar to get with the program. The announcement was made at the restaurant last week, with Laval’s Deputy Mayor Stéphane Boyer and executive-committee co-member Sandra Desmeules on hand for an official launch.

“We are proud to be the first bar in Laval to become accredited for Commande un Angelot,” said Harold Brunet-Stringer, co-owner of the Laval Carlo’s & Pepe’s. “For us, it is important that our clientele should feel they are safe with trained staff to come to their assistance in case it’s needed.”

From the left, City of Laval Deputy Mayor Stéphane Boyer, Andréanne St-Gelais of the Collectif social, Carlo’s and Pepe’s of Laval co-owner Harold Brunet-Stringer and city executive-committee member responsible for public safety Sandra Desmeules are seen here as the Commande un Angelot logo is installed at the front door of Carlo’s and Pepe’s last week. (Photo: Martin C. Barry, Newsfirst Multimedia)

Accreditation and training

Decals will be clearly posted outside and inside the bars that are participating. At each, staff members will have received training in how to spot behaviour among the clientele that could lead to violent situations. The staff will also be able to offer help to clients if they feel they need assistance.

The program (known as ‘Commande un Angelot’ in French) is based on a campaign launched in England five years ago called ‘Ask for Angela,’ as well as the similar ‘Angel Shots’ program launched in the U.S.

‘Order an Angelot’

When a bar takes part in the program, a client who believes they are in danger can ask for Angela, a fictitious name. The staff are instructed to help the client get home discreetly and safely by escorting them to a different room, or calling a taxi, or by asking the other party member to leave.

The way the program works in Quebec, clients who feel threatened are instructed to “Order an Angelot,” and the staff follow the protocols they learned in their training. In all, 30 bars across Quebec now participate in Commande un Angelot, and 1,500 staff in drinking establishments have been trained. The bars in Laval are expected to become fully accredited over the coming year.

Creating a safe space

Laval’s Deputy Mayor Stéphane Boyer said he decided to join his city council colleagues, Councillor Sandra Desmeules who is responsible for public security on the executive-committee, and Councillor Sandra El-Helou, who oversees women’s equality issues, to support the effort to make a night of bar-hopping safe for all concerned.

“Acts which are sexually violent impact mostly women, but also everyone else who goes to bars,” said Boyer. “They are unacceptable, and the training provided to the staff in bars will be a tool for prevention to counter something that is intolerable.”

One out of three women

According to Collectif social executive-director Andréanne St-Gelais, in Quebec one woman out of three will be a victim of a sexual assault during her lifetime, and bars and similar entertainment establishments where lively socializing takes place are where such incidents are most likely to take place.

“The Commande un Angelot protocol is a way of increasing the safety of the clientele,” she said. “We acknowledge the participating establishments who recognize this reality and wish to do their bit to be part of the solution.”

“Prevention of sexual forms of violence is a priority for Collège Montmorency and we are proud to support this important project, which will allow our young people to frequent these places while feeling secure,” said the college’s executive-director Olivier Simard.

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