From left to right: Marc-Andre Charrette (performer), Jessica Ruano (Director/Producer), Leah Archambault (performer), Amelia Griffin (Choreographer), and Emmanuel Jean-Simon (performer) Photo: Yòmi Orimoloye
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Local fundraiser questions Canada’s justice system

It was a night to remember on Aug. 19 as various local artists, politicians, and activists came together at the Orange Art Gallery for Rise Up, a fundraiser to raise awareness about sexual assault in Ottawa.

The event, which was dedicated to raising awareness and funds for the Ottawa Rape Crisis Centre, was packed with interesting theatrical pieces, and raised $5,000.

Perhaps the most elaborate showcase of the evening was a dance theatre production called The Ghomeshi Effect, a verbatim play that tells true life stories of sexual assault survivors.

Jessica Ruano, a graduate of the University of Ottawa’s theatre program, directed the play and discussed the importance of this type of performance art afterwards.

“I think it’s important for people’s stories to be told which is why I’m doing this,” she said. “I think it’s important to share this with younger people who (are) still forming ideas in their heads about what’s true and what’s not.”

Ruano plans on touring schools in the hopes of reaching out to students in the community after the play’s first run in January.

Shannon Fournier, the organizer of Rise Up and a former criminology student at the U of O, explained that through her own experiences, and during her time at the university, she learned about the holes that exist in the criminal justice system for victims of sexual assault when reporting crimes.

“There’s a lot of people who think, because we do live in Canada and we live in Ottawa especially … that we have it really good, and we do,” she said.

“Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of good things about Canada. But when it comes to our criminal justice system and the way that victims are treated in this system, I think people just need to be aware (that their rights are being ignored).”

The event also featured powerful words from guest speakers including current attorney general Yasir Naqvi, vice-chair of the Transportation Committee Catherine McKenney, civil lawyer Blandi Samson—who works with the new Ontario program which funds free legal advice to survivors—and sexual assault survivor and activist Hannah Kurchik, who delivered a powerful speech about her experience with the criminal justice system.

For those looking for a more theatrical interpretation of the problems ingrained in our legal system, The Ghomeshi Effect is set to run at The Gladstone Theatre from Jan. 19 to 28. Tickets can be purchased on the theatre’s official website.


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