Thursday, November 27, 2014

Canadian poet banned from poetry event over sexual assault allegations

Spoken-word poet Greg Frankson, a.k.a. Ritallin.
Torstar News Service
A well-known Toronto poet has been banned from live poetry events in three cities across the country over unspecified allegations of sexual harassment and assault contained in a grievance filed with Ottawa’s Capital Poetry Collective.

Greg Frankson, who goes by the stage name Ritallin, was kicked out of the collective, which he helped create, and banned from attending any events organized by the group after the grievance was filed against him, according to an announcement posted on the collective’s website.

Frankson is a poet and spoken-word artist working mainly in Toronto. He is a prominent figure in the local poetry community, appearing at and organizing regular slam poetry competitions. In 2007 he founded Cytopoetics, a business that provides “creative services” for organizations and heads up several regular poetry events in the city.

From 2012 to 2014 he was the house poet on CBC’s Here and Now, where he delivered poems about current affairs. In 2012, Frankson appeared as a contestant on the CBC showCanada’s Smartest Person.

Shortly following the Ottawa action, the Toronto Poetry Project, which runs twice-a-month poetry events in the city, banned Frankson from its events, citing the move by the Capital Poetry Collective (CPC) as the reason. The Victoria Poetry Project, in British Columbia, also banned Frankson from appearing at its events and cancelled a slam poetry event he was slated to run next year.

The specifics of the allegations against Frankson were not disclosed by CPC in its announcement. Torstar News Service has been unable to determine what prompted the complaint.

A public Facebook post by a user who identified herself as the one who filed the grievance wrote that she filed it on the grounds of “sexual harassment and assault” on behalf of the victims. In the posting, which has since been removed, she wrote that she has knowledge of a “large number” of women who were victims. The woman who made the posting declined to speak with Torstar News Service.

Reached by phone on Tuesday, Frankson refused to discuss the allegations.

“There isn’t really much to say. I’m in the process of retaining legal counsel,” said Frankson. “There isn’t anything I can share about the allegations.”

He later told Torstar News Service that he has been advised not to comment further.

“The CPC is committed to the creation of a safer space and supporting its members,” reads the collective’s statement. “We apologize for any failures to do so up until this point. We do not take this commitment lightly and will do all that we can to ensure that we live up to it.”

Brad Morden, director of the Ottawa organization, declined to speak with Torstar News Service about the grievance.

“Sorry I don’t have anything to say at this time,” he wrote in a Facebook message.

According to CBC spokesman Chuck Thompson, Frankson’s last piece aired on Here and Now in August.

“While we made a decision not to continue our relationship with Greg, it was for reasons unrelated to the allegations you mentioned and of which we have no knowledge,” Thompson told the Torstar News Service.

The notice posted by the Toronto Poetry Project said Frankson had violated item three of its “Code of Honour,” which governs the behaviour of individuals who attend the slam poetry events.

The item requires that members “comply with local, provincial and federal laws pertaining to individual civil rights and physical or sexual harassment.”

“TPP remains committed to creating, maintaining, and restoring safe spaces for all members of our community, both locally and at large. We apologize for our failures to do so. We invite anyone who may have been adversely affected by this individual, or any other individual in our community, to address this with a member of our collective,” said the statement from the group.

David Silverberg, artistic director of the Toronto Poetry Project, said the group informed Frankson of the ban and he agreed via email not to attend any events.

“Banning someone is quite serious, but we think it’s the least we can do to ensure our community feels safe at this moment,” said Silverberg.

The allegations come amid a vigorous national conversation in which women are speaking out about alleged harassment or assault by high-profile personalities, or in workplaces or on campuses across North America.

Police would not say whether any complaints about Frankson have been filed.

Frankson has not been charged criminally in connection with the allegations by police in Toronto, Ottawa or Victoria, B.C., according to the forces in each city.

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