Previous Toronto theatre technician charged in sexual assault

Even before Jennifer begun doing the job for Theatre Passe Muraille (TPM) in 2016, she realized of Christopher Ross. In Toronto’s tiny indie theatre market, almost every person did. As TPM’s Backspace Theatre technician for practically 8 a long time, he was a men and women individual, Jennifer recalled — very well-preferred, properly-related and nicely-positioned in the city’s executing arts scene.

Rising professionals like Jennifer understood that if they wished to crack by means of in the sector, they almost generally experienced to go by Ross, as the area he managed was one of only a couple of venues in Toronto exactly where non-unionized backstage experts could operate.

Following a get together in January 2019, not affiliated with TPM and transpiring off the theatre’s residence, Jennifer was allegedly sexually assaulted by Ross.

Ross, 33, was arrested by Toronto police in August 2021 and billed with a few counts of sexual assault in relation to the incidents in January 2019, in accordance to courtroom documents attained by the Star. The felony prices towards Ross have not been tested in court docket and the issue is currently established for demo in August 2023.

A Star investigation has found other allegations that have been lifted versus Ross. 4 other people today wrote a letter to TPM in December 2020 alleging “sexual assault and/or abusive, inappropriate and predatory conduct.” A separate female explained Ross harassed her and engaged in predatory behaviour.

Ross did not respond to queries about the allegations.

“Mr. Ross can not comment while the criminal proceedings are ongoing,” mentioned his law firm, Christi Hunter. “He denies the allegations and has scheduled a demo to defend himself.”

Only the allegations raised by Jennifer have resulted in prison charges to day.

An endeavor signed by Ross in August 2021, a duplicate of which was acquired and reviewed by the Star, prohibits Ross from speaking with Jennifer or likely to any location he understands that she frequents.

Jennifer is not the woman’s real title. Her identity is shielded underneath a court-ordered publication ban. Because of the individual nature of the complaints, the Star has also agreed not to reveal the identification of the other individuals who spoke with the Star.

Jennifer recalls how thrilled she felt when in 2016, soon just after graduating from college, she was tapped to do the job at TPM. Before long, Ross was constantly picking out her for a variety of backstage gigs. Following a couple of months, the pair grew to become near pals.

But those people reminiscences of her time at TPM are clouded by the events on Jan. 27, 2019, which proceed to traumatize her to this working day. The incidents spanned various hours, Jennifer advised the Star, starting off with inappropriate touching and like choking.

In hindsight, the symptoms had been there, Jennifer stated. She seen Ross usually picked younger women to do the job for him. And even while hiring was supposed to be dealt with by TPM’s output supervisor, Ross would get to out to her via Facebook.

For months right after the incident, Jennifer stayed silent, fearing reprisal simply because of Ross’s place and his connections in the limited-knit marketplace. She only felt relaxed speaking up when she knew she was leaving the Toronto theatre local community.

Before long, nevertheless, she realized her working experience was not special.

The four individuals who shared independent allegations in the December 2020 letter to TPM mentioned that they also know of a “larger network of individuals” who have had equivalent activities with Ross or who have recognised about these incidents “as popular knowledge” for several years. They added that many of them have attempted to handle the challenges with Ross, but have been satisfied with “bullying and gaslighting behaviour” as a reaction.

In a assertion to the Star, TPM’s leadership crew — comprised of creative director Marjorie Chan, inventive producer Indrit Kasapi and managing director of profits and strategy Michelle Knight — stated it could not “provide comments on or ensure or deny any reviews obtained and/or the identities of events concerned in grievances or the ways taken to deal with complaints” owing to “confidentiality and privateness policies relating to inside TPM HR matters.”

The Star has acquired, nonetheless, that the alleged incidents extend as much again as 2011, in accordance to the letter written by the four men and women. In addition to the letter, the doc despatched to the theatre, detailing the allegations in opposition to Ross, also involved personalized statements detailing the unique allegations. The folks ended up not cozy sharing these testimonies with the Star as they contained sensitive private details.

Of the four men and women who wrote the letter, 3 signed off anonymously. One particular of individuals people today spoke with the Star to affirm the veracity of the letter. The Star has agreed not to expose the id of this man or woman alongside with the details of their precise allegation.

The collection of allegations, however, have shaken Toronto’s theatre local community and pressured its associates to reckon with how it guards precarious employees in the market. The occasions also raise queries about how TPM, a single of Toronto’s major alternative theatre providers, managed the events in the aftermath of the allegations.

Toronto police declined to remedy the Star’s thoughts about the specifics of the allegations outlined in the court docket files, directing the Star to attend the circumstance in court docket in August for further details.


7 months after Ross allegedly sexual assaulted Jennifer, an additional lady mentioned Ross sexually harassed her at a park in July 2019.

It was perfectly previous sunset, Sasha recalled, and the Toronto Fringe Festival’s Postscript Patio at the Scadding Courtroom Community Centre — a hangout spot for audience associates and artists like Ross and Sasha — had shut for the evening. Lots of revellers, Sasha and Ross involved, headed over to the nearby Alexandra Park for an casual accumulating.

Throughout that year’s Fringe, Sasha, which is not the woman’s genuine identify, observed that Ross would continually locate her at the Postscript Patio. Irrespective of his stocky figure, he was almost constantly effortlessly recognizable, with his excitable personality, scruffy beard and hair often tied up into a bun, Sasha claimed.

But his existence and how he would brazenly communicate about his incredibly personal troubles designed her experience uncomfortable, she recalled.

“I just keep in mind his eyes, like just generally very rigorous,” Sasha explained. “There’s just something unsettling about his energy.”

But mainly because Ross was perfectly related in the neighborhood and Sasha, who also functions in the theatre sector, did not want to “burn any bridges,” she continued to reluctantly have interaction with him. She also dismissed Ross’s advancements and considered she could believe in him mainly because he had advised her that he was in a connection.

That night time in the park, on the other hand, whilst Sasha and Ross ended up sitting with each other on a bench, she claimed he allegedly touched her thigh devoid of consent, set his arm all around her and pulled her up to commence dancing.

“My skin started crawling,” reported Sasha. “I try to remember … blocking it (and) going, ‘This isn’t going on.’ … I just truly required him to prevent touching me.”

After the incident, she was much too worried to discuss up or flee, so she remained at the social gathering, the place Ross continued to linger. When the pair were being by itself in the park at all-around 4 a.m. in the early morning, Sasha remembers Ross staring at her prior to saying that he really wanted to kiss her.

“The bottom of my stomach just dropped out,” she claimed.

After that evening, she remembers emotion manipulated and betrayed.

“I try to remember I obtained household and I just cried simply because I just felt gross,” Sasha informed the Star. “I just felt truly dumb and terrified and isolated.”


It would be a 12 months and half afterwards that Ross departed his placement at TPM. Ross, who started operating for TPM as a technician in 2013, claimed in a Facebook post dated Jan. 22, 2021 that he was terminated from his posture without the need of result in two months previously. His departure came about a thirty day period following the 4 other persons wrote a letter to the theatre business alleging sexual assault or inappropriate behaviour by Ross.

“Those who know me even a very little know how significantly satisfaction I have taken in managing that minimal place, and how considerably a part of my identification it was,” Ross wrote in that Fb write-up from January 2021. “Suffice it to say that I’m heartbroken and will be mourning for a long, lengthy time.”

Ross was a common facial area in the Toronto theatre group. He has about 200 theatre credits to his title, according to The Toronto Theatre Databases. He was so properly-recognized in the sector that, for the 2017 Toronto Fringe Festival, an arts publication established a bingo card which integrated “Christopher Ross sighting” as 1 of the bingo squares.

In a assertion to the Star, TPM confirmed that Ross was no extended employed at the theatre as of Jan. 9, 2021 but did not state the conditions surrounding his departure.

“Due to confidentiality and privacy procedures with regards to inner TPM HR issues, we are unable to disclose the sorts of information you are requesting pertaining to any current or former staff,” the theatre wrote in a assertion to the Star.

“As an organization, Theatre Passe Muraille is fully commited to developing a protected and respectful atmosphere for all workers (complete, aspect-time and contract), artists and audiences,” the statement continued. The theatre’s management extra that they will “continue to seek external guidance, overview and update our guidelines consistently.”

In a individual assertion, the theatre explained it experienced consulted “stakeholders” whilst updating its insurance policies, together with partaking the solutions of an exterior company of employment and human legal rights legal professionals.

But for informal staff like Jennifer, it felt like there ended up “no protections” in put during her time at TPM, she advised the Star. She included that she was by no means provided with a office harassment coverage nor built mindful of a formal criticism method, inspite of the province requiring all businesses to employ a office harassment policy, share it with staff and update it at the very least per year.

In an April 2022 mediation conference concerning Jennifer and the corporation, a movie recording of which was shared with the Star, Chan, the inventive director, acknowledged that the theatre’s current policy resolved “too wide a range” of difficulties, and that “some of the language in the doc (came) from the ‘80s” and “it’s continue to there.”

While the theatre has given that publicly posted past September its “Policy on Discrimination, Harassment and Violence,” it came much more than a 12 months after Jennifer wrote to TPM in August 2021, informing the theatre about the alleged incidents and requesting that the enterprise update its procedures and publish them publicly.

Although the existence of a up-to-day plan may not have prevented the alleged incidents, Jennifer mentioned if she was educated of a good policy and grievance process, she probable would not have stayed silent for as extended as she did. She feared reprisal, she told the Star, particularly because Ross was her direct remarkable.

The issue was compounded by the simple fact that Ross appeared to be in demand of employing her for backstage specialized gigs at the Backspace Theatre. Screenshots shared with the Star demonstrate that he would achieve out to her informally through Facebook messenger for get the job done phone calls — this regardless of TPM telling the Star employing should be the sole responsibility of the theatre’s generation manager, not Ross.

“I feared that every thing I experienced worked so tricky to attain in my occupation would be jeopardized if I spoke up and was not taken seriously,” Jennifer said in the August 2021 letter to the theatre’s leadership workforce and board of directors, penned shortly following Ross’s arrest.

“Eventually, I stopped responding to (get the job done) calls,” she ongoing in the a few-web site document, a duplicate of which she shared with the Star. “This, sadly, felt like my only choice, as I did not know who to converse to, to describe why I no lengthier felt relaxed at TPM or what the outcomes of undertaking so would be.”


Its title which means “theatre outside of walls” in French, TPM is a person of Toronto’s oldest different theatre providers. Started in 1968, the business is identified for manufacturing Canadian is effective and for its “collective creation,” a sort of playwriting that is actor-pushed and concentrated on collaboration.

In September, the theatre underwent a main management shakeup with the introduction of a tri-management composition, with Kasapi, Chan and Knight heading the organization. In an electronic mail to Jennifer, shared with the Star, Kasapi reported the course of action of updating the theatre guidelines was delayed in component because of the leadership restructuring.

Allegations of sexual assault in Toronto’s theatre marketplace are not new. In 2018, in what was 1 of the most significant-profile scenarios to rock the marketplace, Soulpepper co-founder and previous creative director Albert Schultz was pressured to stage down from his roles amid allegations and lawsuits by 4 ladies alleging sexual abuse and harassment. Afterwards that yr, Schultz’s law firm reported the lawsuits experienced been “resolved.”

But in a limited-knit industry exactly where connections are essential and artists are contractors working for many arts companies, quite a few allegations of misconduct go unreported. Nevertheless these problems are common in tales of this nature, they’re also heightened in a sector wherever perform is typically precarious and primarily based not on quantifiable factors but alternatively subjective judgment.

For Jennifer, 3 years following the alleged sexual assaults, the practical experience and the way it was taken care of immediately after she shared the allegations continue on to have a “huge impact” on her.

She struggles with stress and anxiety and despair, and for a lengthy time felt isolated. And she continues to be unhappy in how TPM responded to the allegations. She hoped the theatre would instantly deal with the problems outlined in her letter, specifically updating its anti-harassment plan and guaranteeing there was a appropriate reporting system in place if incidents of inappropriate conduct were to arise. As an alternative, it took the theatre a lot more than a calendar year right after Jennifer’s letter was issued for the theatre to update and publicly share its insurance policies.

“There was just no construction for me to talk about what experienced took place, and I just felt isolated from the theatre neighborhood in typical,” Jennifer explained to the Star. “The precise incident was extremely upsetting, naturally, but I was stunned by the (TPM) community response … and (the) lack of urgency in working with the scenario.”

With editorial guidance from Serena Willoughby and Kevin Donovan

With data files from Karen Fricker

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