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Speaking freely


Speaking freely

Comedian Guy Earle's (above) lawyer was in court this month to appeal the BC Human Rights Tribunal's decision in the Zesty's case. IMAGE 1 OF 1
The case of the vulgar comedian
By all reports, Guy Earle’s performance at Zesty’s in 2007 was rude, vulgar and not at all funny — the hallmarks of a third-rate and soon-to-be-former comedian.

Earle was hosting an open-mic comedy night at the Commercial Dr restaurant five years ago when this story began.

According to testimony later heard at the BC Human Rights Tribunal in 2010, Earle felt that Lorna Pardy and a group of friends disrupted his act. He responded by letting loose with what he no doubt considered to be some clever putdowns on the topic of their apparent lesbianism. Earle left the stage at one point for a break and Pardy hurled a glass of water in his face. He worked the dousing into his next set and continued to mock and humiliate Pardy.

At some point Pardy tossed another glass of water at Earle. Later, in a post-show verbal confrontation, Earle snatched the sunglasses off Pardy’s head and broke them.

The story should have ended there. Except that Pardy felt the affront to her dignity justified a complaint to the BC Human Rights Tribunal.

Unable to come up with anything more substantive, Pardy’s and the tribunal’s taxpayer-funded lawyers decided to invoke Section 8 of the BC Human Rights Code, which forbids us to “discriminate against a person or class of persons regarding any accommodation, service or facility customarily available to the public.”

What ensued was a Keystone Cops comedy of justice denied, presided over by tribunal member Murray Geiger-Adams. Earle was unable to attend hearings because he couldn’t afford the airfare; Geiger-Adams refused to allow Earle to participate by phone or any other newfangled technology; Earle’s pro bono lawyer, James Millar, sought a Supreme Court ruling that the tribunal had no authority to rule on the case, and Geiger-Adams chose to ignore the resulting Supreme Court direction that the tribunal not proceed with the case until the jurisdictional issue had been resolved. Dates were set that were impossible for both Earle and Millar, and proceedings commenced without their participation. Many papers were shuffled.

In May 2011 Geiger-Adams ruled in Pardy’s favour and awarded her $15,000 from the impecunious Earle and $7,500 from the owners of Zesty’s, which by then had been rebranded as Zawa’s. The tribunal also banned Earle from performing in this province — a power I was not aware anyone could wield.

This month, Earle’s advocate, Millar, brought the case back to the BC Supreme Court for “judicial review,” seeking to have the tribunal’s decision overturned on three basic points:

That Section 8 of the BC Human Rights Code is unconstitutional in that it is vague, overbroad and an unjustified infringement of Section 2(b) of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which guarantees “freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication”;

That a comedian’s performance is not the “provision of a service” but an artistic expression;

That the tribunal’s proceedings were inherently unfair, denying Earle any semblance of due process.

It’s now up to BC Supreme Court Justice Jon S Sigurdson to decide whether to uphold or overturn the tribunal’s ruling.

Had it been up to me, I might have argued that Pardy did in fact receive the full benefit of the service provided by comedian Earle — and then some. But fortunately for everyone I’m not a lawyer.

Personally, I love comedians who really offend me. That’s why I read the opinion columns in the National Post. And as a 62-year-old gay white man, I find plenty to be offended by. It keeps the blood moving.

It may be that the BC Human Rights Tribunal has never before acted on a complaint involving an artist’s expression and that this case is an anomaly amidst the tribunal’s serious work dealing with cases where individuals have been denied employment, accommodation, goods or services because of their gender, race, sexual orientation or disability.

Anomaly or not, the fact that the tribunal proceeded on Pardy’s complaint, with reckless disregard for the BC Supreme Court’s instructions, is cause for interest, concern and even alarm.

Geiger-Adams’s interpretation of the BC Human Rights Code turns a useful legal instrument into a dangerous piece of legislation that empowers a bureaucrat to extinguish a citizen’s freedom of expression and run roughshod over lives and livelihoods. Tribunal members play at being judge and jury, without the procedural constraints imposed on real-life judges and juries, and all at the expense of the taxpayer, operating, in short, a kangaroo court.

As Ezra Levant commented on the case, “Does Commissar Geiger-Adams, the chief kangaroo, have some special, official sense of humour? So if he laughs, it’s legal, but if he doesn’t, it’s not?”

Yes, rightwing windbag Ezra. In standing with others who value freedom of expression above all else, one finds oneself in some pretty dubious company. But that’s the whole point of freedom of expression. Rightwing windbags, leftwing activists, authors of pedophile literary fantasies and third-rate comedians all have protection under the Charter to say, write, draw and publish whatever they wish, or none of us does. Unless, of course, approved by Mr Geiger-Adams.

Geiger-Adams seems to stand with Canadian Human Rights Commission “hate speech investigator” Dean Steacy, who is on record as saying that “freedom of speech is an American concept, so I don’t give it any value.”

Remembering clearly a day that Vancouver police raided the offices of the Georgia Straight to cart off boxes of comic books as evidence in an obscenity trial, I have a keen sense of where this sort of thing can lead.

To my mind, one of the most chilling turns of phrase, which appears often in writings on these topics, is “legitimate free speech.” The implication is that there is an authority that can be turned to to arbitrate on the legitimacy of someone’s expression of opinion.

Apparently in BC that authority is Geiger-Adams.

There is a school of thought, in which I am enrolled, that isn’t at all convinced that we should be giving unelected citizens with no judiciary experience the authority to rule on “legitimate” free speech. In fact, some members of that school go so far as to hold that all forms of speech should be arbitrated only by public opinion, as expressed in ticket sales and critical acclaim or disdain.

Reasonable people can disagree, and Simon Fraser University associate professor Özlem Sensoy outlined the prevailing orthodoxy in an opinion piece entitled “Ann Coulter and Free Speech? Hardly,” first published in the Vancouver Sun on March 25. It is all about power, who has it, who doesn’t, and how those who have it silence and oppress those who don’t.

Sensoy closes her polemic by stating, “You can’t say whatever the hell you want.”

I beg to differ. I will think and write and say “whatever the hell” I want, whenever and wherever the hell I want. Only publication editors, broadcast producers and theatre directors can determine whether I can say it in their particular forum. And nobody, certainly not Murray Geiger-Adams, gets to rule on the “legitimacy” of my free speech.
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Newsflash: Lesbians can be horrible drunks too. Let's talk!
Let's cut through the b.s. and get "straight" to the point, lesbian-to-lesbian, shall we? Beyond the double-spin, this is the most probable scenario:

Lorna and her friends start with an innocent night out partying. Girls night out... holla! Then they turn drunk and stupid and forget how many Coronas they drank. They go to the front of the stage, knowing full well that it's open mic at the marketed "edgiest show in town".

After even just one beer, a perfectly classy lady can turn into one big cunty mess that holds women's right back 50 years. Yet it's no secret that the MC is a dick. That's ironically what he's known for, like Joan Rivers but with less talent. You could have walked away, told all your friends about his crappy comedy and go to a different more pleasurable venue. Instead you decided to stay for hours with your scummy alcoholic friends, become more drunk & belligerent, fight with the dick MC and drop water on his face. Not surprisingly and understandably, the comedian fought back.

We need to be sisters to each other. And real sisters don't let other sisters get drunk and act like dicks at a comedy show. So these friends of Miss Pardy's are garbage and have no respect for her dignity. She needs a life overhaul. Making a mockery of "human rights" by turning a petty small-claims case into a "human rights" fiasco invalidates Lorna's ridiculous claims of "PTSD" and ridicules what we've been trying to achieve in the LGBT community. It's also a slap in the face to patriot soldiers that have seen horrible things and come back *truly* broken for *real* reasons.

Shame, Lorna. If we want to be respected as strong women, we have to BE respectable and upright ourselves. Sorry, girl, but this was a messy scene and you need some counselling/therapy/love/hugs. Get some thick skin, walk away. This was the wrong path to follow and it makes you seem petty and I know this could never have been your intention. Coming out is a tough time.

Hugs and peace to everyone involved in this unfortunate incident.
I Remember A Black Man Joined the KKK...
Ayup. True story. It happened back in the late '70s or early '80s...and only in our wonderful country of course.
I am reminded of that each time a article like this is written by someone purporting to be gay. Tsk.
Now to my favourite analogy; If a Hockey player goes on the ice, see's 2 women in the stands give each other a light 'peck' and starts yelling obscenities at them, firing slapshots at them, RUNS INTO THE STANDS AT THEM leaning over them shouting, follows one of them to the bathroom yelling at her and takes her glasses off of her face and breaks them. Then follows them outside continuing to yell at them as they are going down the street...well, I don't think he's playing Hockey. Only a moron of giant proportions would think that (in my opinion).
This article was poorly researched or was, also in my opinion, written by a Hack.
Really? That's it? That's the best response you have to my very simple question? Poorly crafted ad hominem non-answers? Good lord, I almost feel bad for you. Goodbye bcl, thanks for proving my point for me.
Matt is right
Matt isn't "blithering" but it appears "bigcitylib" lacks enough intelligence to accept/ deconstruct another man's opinion. I guess bigcitylib likes the offensive, eh? too bad the jerk can't bear being offended
This article is bullshit, and so are you
Mr. Hicks, as I am sure anyone else reading these comments will notice, your responses have degenerated into blithering.
So you won't answer my question. As I already stated, any assault or battery issues are rightly under the purview of the Criminal Code. Any civil issues can be dealt with in civil courts. "Courts" being the operative word. Rule of law, evidence, reasonable doubt....all those pesky legal concepts. What I'm asking you is if you are comfortable having Stockwell Day judging the 'appropriateness' of your opinions, no matter how rudely they might be expressed? With the power of the state behind him? Able to fine you (or worse) for calling a comedian you don't like - just to use a pertinent example - a "no talent thug"? Remember, truth is not a defence!
This article is bullshit, part III
Again I'll ask, should a Stockwell Day type....
If you are asking: if I were MCing a comedy club in one part of a bar, and Stockwell came in from the balcony when it was closed and had a drink in front of me, and I went off on him due to his religious beliefs, followed him to the men's room, and waited until he came out and began in on him again, and then broke his glasses...and nobody in the place including the management pulled him away, I would think Stockwell would have good grounds for a human rights complaint.

That's what happened here. Maybe Purdy should have filed an assault charge. You weren't the person harassed by a restaurant flunky, so it isn't for you to say.
"It's not a matter of telling anyone what to say..." Umm...yes, that's precisely what this is about. State bureaucrats not held to the standards of a court of law arbitrarily deteremining what speech is 'acceptable' (and whatever assault and/or battery occurred is a matter for the criminal justice system). Again I'll ask, should a Stockwell Day type social conservative have the power to punish you for supposedly offensive speech? "The author of this piece is glorify a no talent thug". Calling someone a "third-rate comedian" sure seems to be a strange way to "glorify" someone.
This article is bullshit
It's not a matter of telling anyone what to say, its a matter of verbal and physical assault. From the ruling against Earle:

Mr. Earle made two sets of comments from the stage at Zesty’s, to and about Ms.Pardy and her friends, and recorded above, including referring to them as “fucking cunts”, “stupid cunts”, “stupid dykes”, and “fucking dyke cunts”;

• Mr. Earle cornered Ms. Pardy and continued to physically intimidate and verbally abuse her by the bar as she returned from the washroom, including referring to her as “fucking stupid dyke, stupid fucking bitch”, and he grabbed and broke her sunglasses;

• The Zesty respondents failed to restrain Mr. Earle, protect Ms. Pardy from his verbal or physical assault, or otherwise take effective steps to remedy his treatment of her.

The author of this piece is glorify a no talent thug.
can't take a joke in Canada, eh?
dykes like these eat beaver and sue people who want to laugh. Because of you idiots, no one tells jokes anymore. For more information: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=szg15oo9sRg


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