EDITORIAL: OPIA’s response to heckler was appropriate, professional and above all, well deserved!

At the Ontario Printing and Imaging Association’s Excellence in Print Awards held May 13, an individual began making sexist remarks to comedian Jen Grant during her performance. Unfortunately, the news made it into the mainstream media. I subsequently read the full story in Toronto’s Metro News on the way to work. I was in disbelief! Is this 2015 or 1915? I’ve been in this industry for over 45 years. I know it’s male-dominated. I get that. That’s no excuse for this type of Neanderthal behaviour. Not only was it disrespectful of Ms. Grant and the OPIA, it fuels the false stereotype of a printing industry that is at best chauvinistic, and at worst, misogynistic. And what message does this send to our young people at Canadian universities who are eager to enter this industry?

Folks, I know this is likely a one-off – but when it gets into the consumer media, perception is everything. I know. I worked 20 years at The Toronto Star. I also wonder what this person’s clients would say, if indeed he has any. We are fortunate to be in an innovative, ultra-progressive industry. Let’s be sure our social attitudes are equally progressive – especially when we’re representing that industry in public. Finally, before I end my rant, I want to congratulate the OPIA, and President Tracey Preston in particular, for her swift, measured and professional response, which follows. We’re lucky to have organizations like this, believe me. Also, it was nice to see that long-standing OPIA member Jay Mandarino (President of CJ Group of Companies) was the first to demand an apology from the individual as Ms. Grant left the stage. OPIA Chairperson Dave Potje, who subsequently took over the stage, did a wonderful job as he apologized and closed the event. – Tony Curcio, Senior Writer and News Editor, Graphic Arts Magazine.

The opiaresponse-inOPIA’s Response

“As some of you may be aware, a very unfortunate incident took place during our awards night that was appalling and surprising to all of us in the room. During comedian Jen Grant’s performance on stage, an individual seated beside the stage began making vulgar, inappropriate comments to her. Most of the people in the room could not hear his remarks, including the OPIA executive who were seated at the back of the room. In fact, not all of the people at the table where that individual was seated were able to hear his offensive comments.

As Jen is a professional, she tried to answer his remarks with humour and proceeded with the show on at least three occasions. However, when she was doing this, most of the audience could only hear her responses to him because she was speaking into the microphone and did not know the nature of his comments to her. It was not until she left the stage that most of the audience, including me and the other members of OPIA Executive, had any idea that his remarks were inappropriate and upsetting to her.

I met Jen at the back of the room, we went into the hall together and that’s when I first heard of the nature of his comments. At that time my concern was Jen Grant. I escorted her out of the building while our Chairperson, Dave Potje, took over the stage. He immediately closed the event and there was an apology to the members present including the Ryerson students. I returned to the facility and noted that the individual was addressed by his peers and colleagues who were very clear regarding their objections to his comments. That individual will not be permitted to ever attend an OPIA event or training program again, regardless of where he is employed in this industry. The OPIA does not condone or tolerate behaviour of this kind. We had no prior knowledge of this individual and in no way could predict his behaviour in that professional setting.

At the next OPIA board meeting, this item will be on the agenda for discussion. The OPIA executive feels that we took immediate and appropriate action given the circumstances. We have apologized to Jen Grant as well as to the members of the OPIA who were present at the event. It’s unacceptable behaviour and very unfortunate, as it was the actions of one person that closed a very positive printing industry event on a very sour note. We do not think that individual’s behaviour is representative of the printing industry, nor does it accurately reflect the professionals who are part of the OPIA. We have taken every measure from the moment Ms. Grant left the stage to ensure this incident has been handled properly. Both the OPIA and the company he works for are treating this incident very seriously.

I have been with the OPIA for 16 years and an incident of this nature has never taken place. The other employees at the company where the individual currently works are active, professional members of the OPIA – and this incident was completely outside of conduct that we have ever seen from them, or indeed any member of the OPIA. OPIA supports the company’s investigation and trusts that they will make the right decisions.”  – Tracey Preston, CAE, President, OPIA 

 

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Tony Curcio is the editor of Graphic Arts Magazine.