An initiative in Laval is trying to help bar patrons feel more comfortable, by offering them a secret signal they can use to inform wait staff that they are feeling unsafe.
If someone orders a drink called an 'Angelot' at one of the participating bars, an employee will escort them to a safe place. In English, this kind of initiative is often called an 'Angel shot' or 'Ask for Angela.'
The program is being organized by a group called Social Collective, a non-profit run by the Quebec Student Health Alliance (ASEQ).
The group is training staff in 15 bars and restaurants in Laval to identify signs of sexual violence and harassment. It's being supported by the city of Laval and Collège Montmorency.
Andréanne St-Gelais, director of the Social Collective, said that this kind of intervention has been around since 2017 in the United States and the United Kingdom.
St-Gelais said the program they are running differs in that it directly trains restaurant and bar employees to intervene in situations by becoming an "active bystander."
"So what we do is we train staff members to actually recognize sexual violence happening and what kinds of sexual violence is most susceptible to happen in bars. And then we also give them tips and tricks on how to intervene, sometimes in a discrete way but sometimes also in a more confrontational way when the situation needs that," said St-Gelais.
St-Gelais explained that once a person asks for an 'Angelot' and goes to a safe space, they can have a seat, get some water, ask an employee to call them a taxi, be escorted to their car or leave through the back door.
She said it's up to the person to decide what they want to do next.
She said it's a sad reality that college-aged students have to worry about this kind of thing, but building what she calls "a network of safe bars" located close to CEGEPs and universities will help people feel comfortable going out.
With the addition of 15 bars in Laval, there will be 45 businesses in the Montreal area associated with this initiative.
Participating bars will have a logo outside indicating they are part of the network. Find a full list of participating bars here.
Harold Brunet-Stringer is the co-owner of Carlos & Pepe's Restaurant at Centropolis in Laval. His restaurant is the first in Laval to incorporate the 'Order an Angelot' program.
"It's really a beautiful program, it's a great cause," said Brunet-Stringer. "It'll be a better environment for the customers to come in and that's the goal."
Brunet-Stringer said his staff have responded well to the new responsibility.
"They were all really proud of the measure," he said. "They will have every tool in their hands to come and prevent and act if this happens."