The JW Marriott Parq Vancouver says it’s not hosting a controversial yoga event featuring accused sexual predator Bikram Choudhury.
The development comes after mounting pressure from one of Choudhury’s alleged victims who lives in Vancouver, yoga teachers who support her, and an attorney for the California woman whom he owes millions.
“Although, as a matter of privacy, we do not comment on specific groups or guests with whom we do business, we can share that the event in question is not on our schedule,” Parq’s general manager Graeme Benn said in an email to Daily Hive.
It’s not yet clear if the luxury hotel backed out of hosting the event or if it was never on the schedule to begin with. Benn has not responded to Daily Hive’s follow-up questions.
Canada Yoga Sports Federation, the group planning the Boss is Back event, has removed the hotel’s name from promotional materials. But the event doesn’t appear to be cancelled. Now, the group simply says the event will happen in downtown Vancouver.
The yoga group is charging US$800 for the weekend-long event, and now says on Instagram there’s only waitlist registration available.
View this post on Instagram
Organizers confirmed Choudhury was invited, though the yoga celebrity hasn’t mentioned Vancouver on his social channels and it’s not clear whether he’d be let into Canada. The Canada Border Services Agency said it could not comment on individual cases.
Canada Yoga Sports Federation did not respond to Daily Hive’s questions about the change of location. The board of the yoga group includes Adam Chipiuk, who implied he might release a personal letter from one of Choudhury’s alleged victims; his sister Eva Chipiuk, who’s a lawyer for the Freedom Convoy, and Brad Colwell, who characterized sexual assault allegations against Choudhury as “water under the bridge.”
- You might also like:
- Woman speaking out against Bikram Yoga event gets disturbing pushback from organizer
- “Absolutely appalled:” Woman tries to stop Bikram Yoga event in Vancouver
Petition to stop event gets thousands of signatures
Jill Lawler, the Vancouver woman and former student of Choudhury’s who started an online petition to stop the event, says she’ll continue speaking out until Canada Yoga Sports Federation cancels it.
“Our city is still not 100% safe from this predator,” she wrote in an update to her petition. “I have removed the JW Marriott from the title of the petition but will keep it up for as long as Canada Yoga continues to advertise the event.”
Lawler first met Choudhury in 2010 at a yoga teacher training in Las Vegas when she was just 18 — three years below the official age limit, but Choudhury granted her special permission to attend. That’s where she alleges he sexually assaulted her for the first time, after summoning her to his room for a massage.
Lawler is now in the process of suing Choudhury in the US. She alleges he groomed, sexually assaulted, and abused her for several years, and that the ordeal left her with complex PTSD and an eating disorder.
The idea her alleged rapist could be coming to her hometown to teach yoga — and potentially victimize more people — is her “worst nightmare come true,” she told Daily Hive.
Lawler’s petition now has more than 3,700 signatures, and her cause has drawn the support of a group of Canadian yoga teachers.
Colin Hall, the owner of Bodhi Tree Yoga in Regina, was on a Zoom call with more than 40 yoga teachers from across the US and Canada Wednesday night. The group came together after seeing the event and Lawler’s petition, and are working together to reach out to various agencies to stop the vent including the City of Vancouver, the hotel, and Canada’s Minister of Immigration who oversees the CBSA.
“I think we can be fairly certain that women are not safe in classes with this man,” Hall said. “We have no reason to believe he won’t try and do it again.”
In addition to keeping students safe, Hall said it’s important to speak out as a yoga teacher to uphold accountability within the profession.
“Teachers have to be held to some kind of professional standard,” Hall said. “Not only has he failed to meet those standards, he openly flaunts them. As a yoga professional, I think we have a responsibility to try to intervene in some way.”
View this post on Instagram
Although Lawler wasn’t available for an interview Thursday, she wrote on her petition that she’s “overwhelmed by the amount of support and signatures I have gotten for this—from the bottom of my heart thank you so much to each and every one of you.”
Lawyer for woman Choudhury owes millions to slams Vancouver event
Several women have sued Choudhury over sexual assault and misconduct allegations. Some were settled, and to date, only one woman has defeated Choudhury in court — his former attorney Minakshi (Micki) Jafa-Bodden.
Jafa-Bodden was awarded nearly US$7 million in damages after winning her sexual harassment and wrongful dismissal suit in 2016. But Choudhury hasn’t paid any of it, and instead, he fled the country. There’s still a warrant for his arrest in California.
Choudhury’s yoga business has now been turned over to Jafa-Bodden.
Carla Minnard, one of Jafa-Bodden’s lawyers, penned a letter to Marriott executives last week slamming the hotel chain for initially agreeing to host the Bikram Yoga event at the Vancouver location.
“A Los Angeles County jury unanimously found Mr. Choudhury liable for sexual harassment, gender discrimination, and retaliation, among other things,” Minnard wrote. “These are not ‘claims’ or ‘allegations’ – they are now established as proven under the law.”
She added the hotel’s decision to book the event featuring Chaudhury was dangerous for victims, the public, and Chaudhury himself — as it could provide an environment for him to re-offend.
“I would have thought that Mr. Choudhury’s behaviour – and his reputation – precede him,” Minnard wrote. “If the individual who handles the event booking for the Parq Marriott was not aware of any of this then I would say he or she is dangerously uninformed.”