This year the network received in excess of 1,300 complaints over two bits that contained material that many believed crossed the line.
The first was a skit about newly elected Barak Obama and offered up the opinion that he'd be easier to assassinate being a 'black' man in a White House. The joke went over like a lead balloon.
The second controversy which was more serious, concerned a skit that poked fun at Nathalie Simard's decision to move out of Quebec in the wake of several controversies surrounding her. I wrote about the incident back in February and included a copy of the offending skit. Luckily I included an integral version and not just the link, as the network sanitized sites like Youtube from carrying it.
Nathalie has been a Quebec media personality since childhood, when she performed with her singer brother René. The kids grew up to adulthood on television and while not outstanding artists, were household names.
Guy Cloutier was their manager. He guided their careers as well as those of other Quebec artists. He became one of Quebec's most successful manager and producer, winning all sorts of awards along the way.
Then a bombshell.
It was revealed that Mr. Cloutier was a paedophile and that he was abusing Nathalie from a tender age. He was arrested and sent to jail.
Here's a longish translation of an article written by Rodolphe Morissette in 2004, writing in the Journal de Montréal about Cloutier's abuse of Nathalie Simard. It's pretty graphic, so be warned. You can read the original here.
"In the summer of 1980, Guy Cloutier was driving his car on the south shore of Montreal, accompanied by a young 11 year-old prepubescent passenger. Taking advantage of a talk show that was discussing sex on the radio, he asked the girl if she had previously seen a penis. He showed her his own and invited her to touch. - "Sure. - Pass me the Kleenex, "he said, after having ejaculated.Wow. A sick story indeed, but what does it have to do with a New Year's eve television show?
Thus began a very sad story, that led the impresario, two decades later, to waive his preliminary hearing and plead guilty yesterday, to the surprise charges of repeated sexual assaults on two young victims.
In March, he began to feel the pressure in relation to one of his victims, and he was haunted by the dream wherein two police officers would come to arrest him. Guy Cloutier had confided that if this were ever to happen, there would be no trial and he would not "fight in court."
Yesterday, he lived up to his word. He plead guilty to a variety of sexual assaults, some of which started when the victim was under 14 and lasted for a period of seven years (1980-1987).
He also admitted that he offered $300,000 to the young woman towards the middle of last March to buy her silence. He was also convicted of sexually assaulting a second teen for six years, when the victim was between 12 to 17 years old.
The most serious of the offenses carried a maximum sentence of ten years in penitentiary.
The Crown, represented by Josée Grandchamp, and the defense by Sophie Bourque, presented an "agreed statement of facts" relevant factors drawn from evidence gathered by police.
It all started in Cloutier's car when the victim was 11 years old.
The illegal touching of the girl increased: the breasts, the genitals.
It took place everywhere: in hotels, in the car, at his offices in Montreal and throughout Quebec. When she took a shower he masturbated in front of her.
Then they began to have complete sex.
Ten years after the fact, she recalled a certain night in particular, the eight penetrations that occurred on the eve of her 13th birthday.
The frequency of touching, and then intercourse increased to several times a week.
This lasted until she reached age 18, when apparently she no longer interested Cloutier.
Years later she offered a bitter reproach.
She "was ashamed, felt like old dirty laundry being abandoned." She felt she was "an object, a thing."
In 2001, she had the idea to seek his help in getting a job. Cloutier brought her home and immediately masturbated in front of her.
In late 2002, she confided her story to a confidant and the next day, the latter approached Cloutier and passed on the message that he'd have to "pay big time" for his actions.
"Don't send me to jail," begged the accused.
The victim went on to therapy with a psychologist, where she again revealed her secret, in an attempt to get her life in order.
Cloutier, by this time, had already started giving her money.
Beginning in 1994, he regularly paid her between $350 and $500 per week, in addition to paying her rent and for a car.
When Cloutier felt threatened that she would denounce him to the police, he upped the payments to $2,000 per month, then to $5,000.
He even bought her a home worth $450,000 in 2003. In short, in ten years, he spent about a million dollars on her.
On 21 January, she asked to meet Cloutier in a restaurant.
According to him, she demanded two million dollars (but she denies this).
She threatened to write a book about their sad adventure. He sought to deter her.
The impresario begged;
"You'll earn $150,000, maybe half after taxes," he said. "It would be a bombshell, there's never been anything like this seen in Quebec. You'll do all the TV shows, then I'll be in prison. Will it make you feel better? I beg you, do not get me arrested!"
Cloutier then offered her $300,000 not to complain.
In February, she chose to file a complaint with the Sûreté du Québec. On March 17th, she lured Cloutier to her home.
Police were hiding in the house, a camera and a portable tape recorder installed, all unbeknownst to Cloutier.
In the taped conversation that she had with Cloutier that day, she retold that all that she lived through with him during the 1980s. He admitted to the facts and expressed his regrets.
Guy Cloutier was arrested and appeared in criminal court March 25.
What played out yesterday in court was a a well-controlled judicial process;
The confession of Guy Cloutier, followed by the sentencing arguments of his counsel, were unusually controlled.
Cloutier was brought to court on March 25, charged with eight counts: assault lasting over five years, gross indecency lasting over several years, repeated rapes, sexual assaults, including one in 2001, sexual assault by means of a "weapon", namely a remote control, then an attempt to obstruct justice.
In April, the accused, through his lawyer, Sophie Bourque, began to negotiate with the Crown, Me Josée Grandchamp, a plea of guilty to reduced charges.
The parties, however, failed to agree on the sentence that they would co-recommend to the judge.
The lawyers have finally agreed to proceed with charges related to two confessions to various forms serious sexual assaults, which covered a period stretching over seven years, and an attempt to buy the silence of the victim.
Finally, a new fifth count, was added yesterday: that of having indecently assaulted a second victim, for six years. The details of that case were not revealed to the public and subject to a closed court session that lasted an hour.
All we know is this: it was masturbation and oral sex that started (it is unclear in what year), while the victim (gender not specified) was 12 years. Details remain secret, according to the section of the Criminal Code aimed to protect the identity of the victim.
On the other hand, the Crown and the defense have agreed to waive the preliminary hearing, record the confession, and then argue about the sentence - all in a day, so not to drag the case out in the media.
The prohibitions to identify either of the victims in the press means that the media will have no right, and in perpetuity, to reveal most of the factual narrative of the charges.
All the pieces of evidence - psychiatric reports, audio and video cassettes (wiretap) of the criminal investigation and victim impact statements have been sealed and are not accessible.
It was a successful operation.
Let's get back to that controversy.
The two producers of the show faced a storm of controversy which culminated in a news conference where the two attended in order to explain themselves. Visibly perturbed, Louis Morissette insisted that he wasn't a racist and that the accusation was a hard one to swallow. Concerning the skit about Nathalie Simard, the wisdom of lampooning a sex abuse victim was perhaps a mistake, according to the other producer Veronique Cloutier.
What's the rub in all this?
Veronique Cloutier, the producer of the skit, is the daughter of Nathalie Simard's abuser- Guy Cloutier.!!!
Interrogated about the skit, Veronique insisted she did not have an axe to grind with singer, Nathalie Simard. She did allow that spoofing Simard was "an error in judgment on my part."
But if it was an apology, it wasn't much of one and recently her true feelings on the matter finally surfaced.
Last week I caught a TV interview with her on the show 'Montreal vu par.. with Patrice Roy. It was the first interview since the 'Bye, Bye' fiasco and while she remained polite and deferential to her accusers, it was surprisingly clear that she was unrepentant.
She confided that 3,000 people emailed her to show support and that she is often stopped in the street by fans who tell her that they indeed thought the jokes were funny. Ms. Cloutier opined that the whole controversy was overblown and should have ended with her press conference. Enough is enough!
It's obvious that she's inherited some of her father's traits, arrogance, self-pity, self-indulgence with a nasty streak of cruelty.
Any sane person would blanch at the idea of humiliating her father's abuse victim on public television. A normal person would likely wish to call as little attention to the incident as possible. Her defence, that she meant no harm, is so unbelievable that it is obscene.
Faced with criticism, she remains unrepentant, disappointed with her treatment in the press and contemptuous of those who dare to call her out.
Her sense of entitlement and lack of accountability reminds us exactly who's daughter she is.
Is it fair to compare her to her father? Should we visit the sins of the father on the child?
It's her who brought it on. By mocking the victim that her father abused, she becomes fair game.
Mr. Cloutier was largely responsible for the personal and social difficulties that Ms. Simard has suffered her whole life. That Ms. Cloutier added to the harm by lampooning the vicitm in a very public form, makes her an 'abuser' of a different sort, but an abuser just the same. She deserves to be called out on it, even if she wants us all to forget who she is.
By the way, Guy Cloutier served just 20 months for the abuse. Last February he attended a tribute dinner for singer Patrick Zabé in Quebec City, but sat alone at a table at the rear of the room. The public as well as the entertainment industry is not in a forgiving mood.
If Veronique Cloutier still believes that Ms. Simard's erratic behavior is fair game, perhaps we should take her down to visit the cancer ward at the Children's Hospital, or perhaps the Douglas mental facility in Verdun, where she can work on new material for the next Bye, Bye....