November 7, 2018 7:04 pm
Updated: November 8, 2018 2:55 pm

Rogers Place addressing woman’s complaint after employee told her she couldn’t kiss female friend at concert

Rogers Place in downtown Edmonton.

Vinesh Pratap, Global News
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After a woman complained she was told by an usher that she couldn’t kiss her female friend during a concert at Rogers Place on Friday night, the downtown Edmonton arena plans to work with the woman on future sensitivity training for its staff.

Allyson MacIvor told Global News she was attending the Jack White concert with a female friend when she leaned over to kiss her during the final song.

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“I wanted to celebrate that beautiful moment during my favourite song,” she said.

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She says the two were quickly interrupted by a Rogers Place usher who told them that type of behaviour wasn’t allowed inside the arena.

After the concert, the two were taken to the manager’s office where the staff member reportedly called the incident “inappropriate sexual behaviour,” MacIvor said.

The manager asked the employee to leave and MacIvor said other staff members were extremely apologetic as she filled out an incident report.

“PDA in general is probably the biggest struggle for members of the LGBTQ community,” MacIvor said. “This was no exception. This is not the first time it’s happened, but this is the first time I decided to say something and she [the usher] gave me no option.”

MacIvor said she is openly gay in her private life, but keeps that information off her social media channels. As a musician with the Edmonton Symphony and a teacher at the Sarah McLachlan School of Music, she chooses to use her social media for her professional life only.

Last week was the first time she acknowledged her sexuality online. She said she’s received hundreds of messages of support from all around the world.

In a statement from the Oilers Entertainment Group, spokesperson Tim Shipton confirmed that the Rogers Place team is conducting a thorough review of the situation.

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The organization also said MacIvor reached out to them to offer to work together with the OEG on future sensitivity training.

“We thank Allyson for reaching out to us and offering to work together on this matter,” Shipton wrote.

“We hope to use this opportunity as a learning moment and Allyson has graciously offered to assist us.”

When asked what current sensitivity training Rogers Place employees receive, Shipton said there are “clear policies, procedures and training in place for all OEG staff,” and that those principles are communicated “regularly.”

He added it would be inappropriate to comment on future steps until the review is complete.

“[However,] rest assured, we are taking this seriously and will take any necessary steps needed to ensure full alignment with our policies and procedures related to creating a safe and inclusive space for all guests.”

Singer and songwriter Jack White from the US performs on the stage of the Auditorium Stravinski during the 52nd annual Montreux Jazz Festival, in Montreux, Switzerland, 10 July 2018.

EPA/VALENTIN FLAURAUD

That type of training is extremely important, especially in the age of social media, according to MacEwan University associate professor Kristopher Wells.

“I think it’s important for any organization that they’re training their staff, particularly their frontline staff, on their human rights obligations,” he said. “Not just talking about ensuring they’re not discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation, but also on ability and race and gender etc.”

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As for the response by the OEG, Wells thinks the organization has handled everything right.

“They’ve acknowledged the incident, they’ve apologized to the guest and they’re looking at their policies and practices to ensure that this doesn’t happen again,” he said.

“Unfortunately, like with any employee, you can’t control their actions, but you can ensure the correct policies and procedures are in place and use this as a learning moment to ensure that everybody is appropriately trained and that an unfortunate incident like this doesn’t happen again.”

Jack White referenced the incident in an Instagram post on Tuesday.

Sharing a photo of a lesbian couple sharing a kiss at a Beatles concert in 1964, White called it one of his favourite images because the couple is hiding in plain sight.

“It’s 2018 now and two people expressing affection shouldn’t have to hide,” his post read. “The news that two women were stopped from kissing during my show in Edmonton really disappointed me.

“At the next show in Calgary, I dedicated the song ‘Love Interruption’ to the two women and encouraged everyone in the crowd to kiss their loved ones. Let’s promote love and acceptance wherever and whenever we can.”

“It’s pretty incredible and such an honour that there’s support even at the top,” MacIvor said of the post.

Wells called the post an example of how a small gesture can have a large impact on the courage of people to speak out to share their stories.

“When we go to a concert, we’re there to have fun, we’re there to be ourselves, we’re there to be safe,” he said. “To have Jack White speak out and simply say, ‘That’s not the kind of environment that I want to create,’ at his concert, I think that really says a lot [and] it sets a great example.”

In an effort to rectify the situation, the OEG will be hosting MacIvor and her friend for the Fleetwood Mac concert this weekend.

MacIvor had requested the usher be invited to join them for dinner and the concert, but said that Rogers Place is still investigating the incident so she hasn’t been given a response as to whether the staff member would be joining them.

She did say the arena’s manager would be joining them for dinner to further discuss what happened, as well as how MacIvor can help with sensitivity training.

“Firing an employee doesn’t do anything,” MacIvor said of why she took the approach to educate the usher. “They need to be taken with love and supported, put through the proper training and sent back into the workplace as a better worker, and hopefully with a new perspective.”

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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