March 14, 2018 2:20 pm

Canadian Music Week pulls out of Toronto venue after owner charged with sexual assault

Toronto venue Smiling Buddha is shown in an image from Google Street View.

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TORONTO — A major music festival says it is steering clear of a downtown Toronto venue whose owner has been charged with sexual assault.

Organizers for Canadian Music Week say they’ve rescheduled bands tentatively booked at the Smiling Buddha after learning of the case.

Festival manager Dave Henry says the festival is “dedicated to providing a welcoming and safe environment.”

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He said they learned of the allegation recently and “immediately pulled all shows at the venue.” Three CMW showcases had been earmarked for the venue, involving about nine bands.

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A staff member with the Toronto promoter Collective Concerts said they were also rescheduling shows at the venue but did not elaborate.

Toronto police charged Lucan Wai with one count of sexual assault on Feb. 15. Wai said he is “looking forward” to clearing his name.

In an emailed statement, he also said that before he was charged, an attempt was made to “extort” money from him and the venue, and that he sent a cease and desist letter to the accuser.

CMW, an annual music festival and industry conference, runs from May 7 to May 13.

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“Our goal has always been to create a fun atmosphere that is respectful and tolerant,” Henry said Wednesday in a statement.

The allegation has prompted other bands to scramble for alternative venues.

Jafar Hassan says his band Howlin’ Circus is scheduled to play at Smiling Buddha on Monday but is now considering pulling out.

“We don’t feel comfortable playing there,” said Hassan.

“We’ve been trying to figure out how we can move our show or whether we postpone it. Obviously it’s a shame that it inconveniences the band but I think it’s kind of necessary to show solidarity with people who are brave enough to come out and say something about this.”

–With files from Nicole Thompson

© 2018 The Canadian Press

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