Few legendary figures have fallen so quickly and so completely. Merely 24 hours after the official publication of the first explosive allegation of child abuse against the Canadian cinematic pioneer, the film industry and governments started scrubbing the name Claude Jutra from every trophy, park and street.
Mr. Jutra, arguably Canada’s first great film director who died 30 years ago knowing only acclaim, will have his name removed from the awards gala that bears his name when the Quebec film industry hands out its version of the Oscars next month, officials from Québec Cinéma announced Wednesday. They were among the last in line to decree that the name Jutra would be stripped from the properties named in his honour.
A biography of Mr. Jutra published Tuesday accused the film director of being a pedophile, but contained few details. It was the explosive first-hand account published Wednesday – of a man who said he was sexually abused by Mr. Jutra over 10 years, starting at the age of 6 – that triggered the race to run away from the director’s legacy.
“We were all extremely distressed to read the account of this brave person,” said Patrick Roy, president of Québec Cinéma, in announcing it would drop the Jutra name. “It certainly allowed us to reach our decision much more quickly. The person’s story seems entirely credible and is very upsetting.”
The Jutra Award handed out by the Academy of Canadian Cinema & Television for best first feature film will also be renamed.
Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre and municipal officials across Quebec said they would immediately begin the process of removing Mr. Jutra’s name from at least eight streets and parks. “I’ve always said you can’t defend the indefensible,” Mr. Coderre said.
Pierre Curzi, an actor and onetime Parti Québécois member of the legislature, questioned the sudden haste of elected officials to wipe out Mr. Jutra’s name. On Tuesday, provincial Culture Minister Hélène David had advised caution over the allegations; by Wednesday, she urged everyone to strip the Jutra name from every honour.
“I don’t defend his behaviour,” Mr. Curzi said. “The evidence seems credible. Normally, there’d be a complaint and a trial and we’d get to the bottom of it. Obviously, there will be no justice for anyone in this affair. But to me, this rush to remove the name at all costs from everything is too much. I understand this is behaviour we no longer tolerate, but these things were named for the man’s work, not his sexual behaviour.”
Renaming the film awards and gala only makes sense, Mr. Curzi added. “It’s a prestigious award. You don’t want its reputation tarnished, to carry that image every time it’s handed out,” he said.
Friends who had rallied to defend Mr. Jutra were shattered. “I’m dumbfounded and very sad,” said Guy Fournier, an author, screenwriter and long-time friend. “Unfortunately, Claude’s sexual perversion seems to be true.”
In the biography, Yves Lever wrote it was common knowledge on film sets that Mr. Jutra, who killed himself at 56 after being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, had a taste for young boys, but that it was tolerated in the industry. He later added details not in the book, saying he had confirmed Mr. Jutra’s pedophilia with at least 10 people.
On Tuesday, La Presse published a first-hand account of a man, speaking on condition of anonymity, who said the film director started sexually touching him in the 1960s, when Mr. Jutra was in his late 30s and the man was six years old. The sexual assaults took place at the family home, escalated for the next 10 years and included oral sex and masturbation, he said. “It was his ritual when he would come over,” the man said.
The man said he was addicted to alcohol and drugs and sought treatment for victims of sexual abuse. He also had a criminal record for drunk driving and shoplifting. “He was a boy who never became a man because he was never protected by his parents,” a sister said.
The man’s family confirmed he first came to them with the allegation shortly after Mr. Jutra died in 1986, but it remained a family secret until the publication of the biography on Tuesday. Critics attacked the author, Mr. Lever, for making an incendiary accusation on assertion and vague evidence, but the emergence of a purported victim put an end to most debate.
Mr. Jutra directed the Canadian masterpiece Mon oncle Antoine and Kamouraska, starring Geneviève Bujold, along with dozens of other films and documentaries. He was named to the Order of Canada in 1972, but as a Quebec separatist, he rejected the award.Report Typo/Error