Folk On The Rocks festival drops artist, citing allegations of 'sexualized violence'

·3 min read
The artist Young Dene has been pulled from the 2021 Folk on the Rocks lineup. (Young Dene/Facebook - image credit)
The artist Young Dene has been pulled from the 2021 Folk on the Rocks lineup. (Young Dene/Facebook - image credit)

A musician slated to perform at the Folk on the Rocks music festival in Yellowknife has been removed from the lineup over allegations of sexual violence, according to a festival official. The artist in question says the process lacks transparency, and that he'll take action to restore his professional and personal reputation.

In a statement on its website Monday, festival organizers said they had cancelled the appearance by Eugene Boulanger, an artist from Tulita, N.W.T., who goes by the stage name Young Dene.

Carly McFadden, the festival's executive and artistic director, told CBC News the festival had received information about rumoured allegations a few weeks ago but on Sunday, had received "first hand accounts by community members" about allegations of "sexualized violence and assault."

McFadden wouldn't say how many people came forward, but it was "more than one person." Some, she said, were from the Northwest Territories.

"We always want to believe survivors," she said. "If several people are coming forward and saying 'this happened to me,' that's something we can't ignore."

CBC does not know the specific nature of the allegations.

McFadden would not say whether police were investigating the allegations or whether Boulanger had been charged.

RCMP said they would only comment on an investigation if charges were laid or if publicizing information about it would help them obtain information.

Artist criticizes festival for lack of transparency

In a statement emailed to CBC News through his legal counsel, Christopher Buchanan, Boulanger said he was "beyond disappointed" in the festival's choice.

"The decision ... was made in the absence of any transparent complaint process and without my involvement, and [it] has had serious implications on my career and my personal well being," he said.

Boulanger said he has spent the past seven years healing from his own abuse, including childhood sexual abuse, and that he "strongly denounce[s] all acts of sexual violence and stand with survivors, including Dene men and Dene queer men."

"I also believe there must be a transparent process of justice that allows for those accused to be afforded an opportunity to respond to false allegations," he said. "I look forward to fully participating in a process to restore my professional and personal reputation in this matter," he said.

Buchanan did not confirm to CBC News whether his client was pursuing legal action.

Folk on the Rocks is still paying Boulanger for the cancelled appearance, confirmed McFadden, but she wouldn't say how much. She said allowing him to perform would have violated the festival's policies around creating a safe and inclusive space.

"It was a difficult decision," she said.

Talent agency pulls support

In an emailed statement to CBC News, Patrik Walters of Triple A Talent — the agency representing Boulanger — said the artist had been removed from their online platform.

"We have ceased sourcing active bookings while this matter is being investigated," said Walters. "We will not continue working with Young Dene until this legal matter is resolved."

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