Gilbert Rozon, founder and president of Just for Laughs, was charged with rape and indecent assault Wednesday File photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS

Just For Laughs founder Gilbert Rozon faces sex crime charges dating to 1979

MONTREAL — Just For Laughs founder Gilbert Rozon, who resigned from the entertainment company last year amid allegations of abuse, was charged with rape and indecent assault Wednesday.

Quebec’s director of criminal and penal prosecutions announced the two charges in a statement.

They stem from allegations of a single female complainant dating back to 1979. The charges laid correspond to the wording in the Criminal Code at the time of the alleged assault.

Rozon, 64, said by email that he learned of the charges Wednesday morning and noted that the accusation goes back nearly 40 years. “I will continue to defend myself before the justice system, and I reserve all comment for that authority,” he said.

The prosecution service said criminal complaints against Rozon brought by 13 other alleged victims will not result in charges. It said the women who made the complaints have been informed of the reasons behind the decision.

In Quebec City, Justice Minister Sonia LeBel said the women whose complaints did not lead to charges should not interpret the decision as “a value judgment” on their stories.

“It’s a very specific decision in a specific context — that is the capacity to file criminal charges,” she said. She added that she does not want the news to discourage others from reporting abuse allegations.

“The worst thing is silence,” she said.

In its statement, the prosecution service noted that the burden of proof in criminal cases is very demanding.

“As a result, it occurs that the prosecutor, even though he believes the victim, comes to the conclusion that the evidence in the file does not allow a demonstration beyond a reasonable doubt, or that the facts fall under sexual harassment, civil law or sexual misconduct,” the statement says.

One of the women who filed a complaint with police, Martine Roy, said she was frustrated and ashamed when she learned Monday that there would be no charges in her case.

“The shame of not being believed,” said Roy, the sister of Rozon’s ex-wife. “You feel like you were not taken seriously.”

Rozon is also facing a $10-million class-action lawsuit alleging that he abused at least 20 women between 1982 and 2016. Last August, the Quebec Court of Appeal allowed Rozon to appeal the decision authorizing the lawsuit. The appeal has not yet been heard.

Rozon stepped down as president of Just For Laughs last year, and an investor group bought the company in the spring.

He was charged by summons and is scheduled to appear in court Jan. 22 in Montreal.

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