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Freedom of Speech or Human Rights Violation?
April 25, 2011 11:11 PM   Subscribe

Vancouver comedian Guy Earle and the restaurant he was performing at were fined a combined C$22,500 by the British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal after a 2007 incident where Earle mocked a member of the audience.

The audience member, Lorna Prady, is one half of a same-sex couple and appealed to the Tribunal after Earle mocked with sexual insults while hosting an open mic night at the Vancouver restaurant Zesty's. The tribunal found that Earle mocked her after seeing Prady kiss her girlfriend. Earle has contended that he went after her because she and her girlfriend were disrupting the show by making out and has called them "hecklers" (audio interview)

The ruling, which Earle says he doesn't recognize, is being criticized by some as possibly having a chilling effect on comedians in British Columbia due to the restaurant being fined for the incident which may discourage rooms from offering comedy in the future.

The Guy Earle Trial Blog
BC Human Rights Tribunal Decision (Summary (PDF)/ Full Ruling (PDF)
Video interview circa 2007 (Language NSFW for both)
posted by inturnaround (190 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
Charles Demers, a Vancouver-based comedian, writer and political activist, said the case sets an unsettling precedent for comedians douchebags.

Fixed &c.
posted by dersins at 11:20 PM on April 25, 2011 [4 favorites]


The ruling, which Earle says he doesn't recognize, is being criticized by some as possibly having a chilling effect on comedians in British Columbia

Or perhaps comedians that rely on homophobic material.
posted by KokuRyu at 11:22 PM on April 25, 2011 [8 favorites]


Free speech is only for people who agree with the reigning ideology.
posted by Yakuman at 11:25 PM on April 25, 2011 [32 favorites]


Zesty's is already one of those places that you wonder how they manage to stay in business. Relatively large and well-maintained, yet they never seem to have any actual business. At least, not whenever I walk by (on average once a day) or the couple of times that I've been in there.
Can't imagine this kind of publicity bodes well for them, but who knows.

and what would that be called? 'Heckling Out'? How do you even heckle while you're sucking face?
posted by mannequito at 11:26 PM on April 25, 2011


The ruling, which Earle says he doesn't recognize

Well, that should be interesting. How does that play out, actually? Does he have to renounce his citizenship if he doesn't want to live under the legal system of the country? Can he just ignore it and there are no consequences? (Which would be surprising if a sovereign nation would let its citizens do that...) Or is "doesn't recognize" a legal phrase which has meaning in Canada which is different from what this US citizen's mind interprets it to mean?
posted by hippybear at 11:28 PM on April 25, 2011


Charles Demers, a Vancouver-based comedian, writer and political activist, said the case sets an unsettling precedent for comedians douchebags.

Well, fuck. That's the problem isn't it? Who do we trust to draw that line? This judge? You, dersins?

From what I read this guy sounds like a terrible comedian. But even good comedians should think twice before coming up to Vancouver. If comedians can't react to hecklers in a way that's "calculated to inflict as much damage as possible, in as short a time as possible, on her greatest vulnerabilities" then there's no point in even getting on stage. It's over at that point.

This comedian sounds awful. Nobody should pay to see him (and since he's an amateur nobody ever will). But the law should not get involved because of what he said. If he really did snatch the glasses of the patron's head then write him up for assault and battery, but it's asinine to criminally punish a comedian for deliberately trying to hurt an audience member's feelings.
posted by Doublewhiskeycokenoice at 11:30 PM on April 25, 2011 [46 favorites]


I presumed this was more heavy-handed nanny stateism at first. Some people can't take a joke, right?

Then I read what he actually said. Not only is it not funny, it's not even trying to be. Pathetic stuff.
posted by twirlypen at 11:32 PM on April 25, 2011


contended that he went after her because she and her girlfriend were disrupting the show by making out

No Mr. Earle; they weren't disrupting your show, they were inadvertently challenging your worldview.
posted by polymodus at 11:33 PM on April 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


From the article:
She told the tribunal she didn’t want him near their table so she picked up a glass of water and threw the water in his face. As she was leaving, she said Earle intercepted her, took the sunglasses from her head, broke them and threw the pieces on the floor.

Canadian Lesbian vs. Amateur Comedian. Two shall enter. One shall leave. Fight!
posted by quadog at 11:33 PM on April 25, 2011 [4 favorites]


Class act. Perhaps he should try being - oh, I don't know - funny?
Hell, handling hecklers and unwelcome interruptions in a funny way is the hallmark of a good comedian.
posted by likeso at 11:35 PM on April 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


Really?

So I can pound the shit out of some guy, only get a 5 minute major and a game misconduct in front of children and this guy is fined?
posted by Ironmouth at 11:38 PM on April 25, 2011 [3 favorites]



I presumed this was more heavy-handed nanny stateism at first. Some people can't take a joke, right?

Then I read what he actually said. Not only is it not funny, it's not even trying to be. Pathetic stuff.


Class act. Perhaps he should try being - oh, I don't know - funny?
Hell, handling hecklers and unwelcome interruptions in a funny way is the hallmark of a good comedian.


Maybe I'm just an asshole libertarian here, but I don't think it's Johnny Law's place to be making these calls. Don't buy his albums, disparage him on message boards, make insulting photoshops of his face for all I care. But if he's going to face criminal sanctions for saying something then I'm in his corner no matter how heinous that something is.
posted by Doublewhiskeycokenoice at 11:41 PM on April 25, 2011 [33 favorites]


Canadian Lesbian vs. Amateur Comedian. Two shall enter. One shall leave. Fight!

Flashbacks of Burning Man, Thunderdome, 2010, Mountie vs. Sherpa.

I think it was a tie.
posted by mannequito at 11:42 PM on April 25, 2011


You know, I really hate fag and dyke jokes as much as the next liberated faggot queer. But honestly, if you're walking into a comedy club, you have to pretty much be willing to take what the comedian is going to dish out, or just leave. Which it sounds like this woman did, although with some altercation between her and the guy with the microphone, apparently.

The frustrating thing is the double standard. If it had been come 40 year old guy with a 20 year old woman next to him kissing at a table, chances are, there would have been nothing said about their actions at all. But this guy thought that he could turn their apparent PDA into a comedy moment, and ended up sounding like a bigoted douchebag.

So, it's one of those odd things. They were being a couple doing couple-ish things, but they were far enough outside the mainstream (even though gay relationship have legal sanctions in Canada) that someone standing on a stage thought he could use that as part of his act. (Or he felt uncomfortable enough with their expression of same-sex affection that he couldn't let it go unnoticed.) Unfortunately, he doesn't have the improvisation skills to actually make jokes off the cuff about that topic which aren't full of the same homophobic bullshit we've all suffered under for generations.

I guess I'm glad the women won the court case, although I'm really not sure anyone is coming out of this a winner.
posted by hippybear at 11:43 PM on April 25, 2011 [8 favorites]


Or is "doesn't recognize" a legal phrase which has meaning in Canada which is different from what this US citizen's mind interprets it to mean?

Well, the case was decided by the Tribunal before they even determined if they had jurisdiction in the first place which, as far as I can tell, has still to be determined
posted by inturnaround at 11:44 PM on April 25, 2011


But if he's going to face criminal sanctions for saying something then I'm in his corner no matter how heinous that something is.

Nah. Freedom of speech does not entitle a guy with a microphone and an attitude to verbally assault folks.
posted by likeso at 11:47 PM on April 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


Nah. Freedom of speech does not entitle a guy with a microphone and an attitude to verbally assault folks.

Well shit, should I let Paul Mooney know that you're out for his ass?
posted by Doublewhiskeycokenoice at 11:52 PM on April 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


“If you say something mean to somebody, it doesn’t matter what format it’s in, it’s mean, and people see through that,” Mahoney said. “Mean spirited stuff, I’ve seen people do it and I kind of cringe, because in my mind, comedy is very smart. A good comic is smart.”



This guy, not so much.

I wasn't there. I don't know how things went down, exactly, or what the laws in Vancouver are regarding assault (is grabbing a pair of sunglasses off someone's head and breaking them assault? It sounds like it.)

But if you need to hurt people to be "funny," then you are not funny. You are an asshole. Now, it's not a crime to be an asshole in general, not punishable by a fine or anything. But it's also not a "job," nor is it an "act."
posted by louche mustachio at 11:55 PM on April 25, 2011


So wait, what? How did they hear this case? I can only assume Earle did not agree to any mediation, and from reading these links and some googling, it does indeed sound like this has not clearly been identified as discrimination (rather than just counter-heckling/assault/other charges here.) Yet, clearly, from the BC HRT's own website: "The Tribunal deals with human rights complaints that arise in British Columbia and are covered by the Human Rights Code. The Tribunal cannot deal with any other type of discrimination."

Should not an actual judge have adjudicated as to whether this was discrimination or just a bad comedian being bad, and perhaps only then referred it to the HRT for a decision?

Please excuse the tone, as a Canadian our Human Rights Tribunals/Commissions tend to strike me as some of the most free speech-quelling institutions around, even though I know they come from good intentions. Also, no, I won't cry if this guy has to eat the fine, but it's still not a precedent I necessarily agree with.
posted by pahalial at 12:00 AM on April 26, 2011


So lame if comedians have to start worrying about every little thing they say that might insult someone. What if they WERE disrupting the show? Who knows? Who even fucking cares?!
posted by ReeMonster at 12:02 AM on April 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Nah. Freedom of speech does not entitle a guy with a microphone and an attitude to verbally assault folks.

Well. I don't know what "verbally assault" is. But as a matter of law, in the US you most certainly are entitled to do exactly that. In Canada you apparently are not.

If this happened in the US, I would be scared, because it's such a short road from "no lesbian jokes" to "no jokes about religion" to "no jokes about 'the troops'" to "no criticizing the government" to "comedian = terrorist." Even happening in Canada, this strikes me as pretty crazy, but as an American I don't have much room to talk about other people's countries being crazy.
posted by drjimmy11 at 12:03 AM on April 26, 2011 [14 favorites]


The frustrating thing is the double standard. If it had been come 40 year old guy with a 20 year old woman next to him kissing at a table, chances are, there would have been nothing said about their actions at all.

Oh, every single stand-up I know would've annihilated a couple like that if the opportunity and motivation presented themselves. I've been mocked for any number of things while sitting in an audience when I've disrupted a set or talked back. That's the gig.

Freedom of speech does not entitle a guy with a microphone and an attitude to verbally assault folks.

Freedom of speech doesn't entitle the state to restrict a person's speech unless in some very specific cases. The Canadian court apparently thinks this is one of those cases.

I know nothing about Canadian law, but I know enough about American law to know this case wouldn't even have made it to a filing here. I'm a politically correct gay rights HRC-donating guy. Also, this ruling is ridiculous.
posted by incessant at 12:04 AM on April 26, 2011 [4 favorites]


Nah. Freedom of speech does not entitle a guy with a microphone and an attitude to verbally assault folks.

Sure it does, if it's complete/absolute/unlimited freedom of speech. We don't have that in Canada.
posted by juv3nal at 12:10 AM on April 26, 2011 [5 favorites]


So now clubs will think twice about hiring comedians and comedians will think twice about working in them and people will post threads on here in a couple of years time complaining how evil capitalists never put on any live entertainment anymore. If a live comedian can be fined for this kind of remark, how much could he be fined if he tells a joke that someone in the audience happens to find 'offensive'? Should there be a government maintained list of subjects you're not allowed to joke about?

If you believe in freedom of speech then this is a terrible precedent. Arguing that such legal action is fine and dandy because you don't like what he said is fraught with danger as this type of legislation will catch up with someone you happen to agree with soon enough. By bending over backwards to defend the rights of certain minorities all such legislation erodes the fundamental rights of everyone to free expression. I don't like what you say but I'll defend to the death your right to say it. Whatever happened to that? What do you think Lenny Bruce would think about this? George Carlin? Richard Pryor?

The next time there's a ritual metafilter brouhaha about some freedom of speech issue regarding the usual Christian/Republican/Conservative targets remember which side you were on here.
posted by joannemullen at 12:11 AM on April 26, 2011 [19 favorites]


HRC/HRT rulings are frequently, erm, borderline. This is not a Canada/US issue; tons of people north of the border take issue with them. It is worth noting they've gotten more high-profile the last few years, particularly when Macleans got tangled up with them, but also because .

Here's a write-up on the macleans issue.

Edit on preview: Well, except we sort of do have freedom of speech according to the charter, and our hate speech laws have not been without opposition.
posted by pahalial at 12:14 AM on April 26, 2011


Whoops, failed at posting. Meant to say "because of their obscene conviction rate", but the mispost actually made me go find the link again and it seems I was probably misled by Maclean's back when I read up on that controversy. So, internet-tube-sized grain of salt and all that.
posted by pahalial at 12:20 AM on April 26, 2011


The ruling, which Earle says he doesn't recognize, is being criticized by some as possibly having a chilling effect on comedians in British Columbia

I am no historian of comedy acts. Are there a lot of formerly or currently popular comedians who could have been similarly fined if they had played under similar rules? If so, what offensive things did they say?
posted by pracowity at 12:27 AM on April 26, 2011


He was calling her a dyke. You can be arrested or sued for that in the U.S. Just because it's uncommon for comedians to see repercussions for calling people slurs at comedy clubs doesn't mean it's impossible. Saying it has a chilling effect on free speech is kind of silly.

http://www.lgbtqnation.com/2011/04/bangor-man-arrested-after-calling-san-francisco-visitors-gay-slur/
A Bangor, Maine resident was arrested for disorderly conduct on Tuesday evening after he repeatedly called a man from San Francisco a gay slur, resulting in a fight at a Longhorn Steakhouse.

“He thought it was his right to say whatever he wanted,” said Sgt. Paul Edwards, saying he was barred from releasing exactly what Schmersal called the visiting man.

If convicted of the disorderly conduct charge, Schmersal could face up to a year in jail and a fine of up to $2,000.
oh noes, where is our free speech has gone?!@!??? I can't remember which side i is on!?
posted by stavrogin at 12:30 AM on April 26, 2011 [5 favorites]


If this happened in the US, I would be scared, because
everybody has guns.
posted by stinkycheese at 12:33 AM on April 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


If it had been come 40 year old guy with a 20 year old woman next to him kissing at a table

Hey, it's great to be back at Club Metafilter on, of all days, Daddy-Daughter Day. Give these two a big hand! But seriously, folks...
posted by codswallop at 12:33 AM on April 26, 2011 [7 favorites]


>Nah. Freedom of speech does not entitle a guy with a microphone and an attitude to verbally assault folks.

Uh... we must have very different ideas of what freedom of speech means.

The good news about this story is it may be one more nail in the coffin of these horrible quasi-judicial kangaroo courts that are the Human Rights Tribunals. Just to be clear, this isn't a criminal court, and it's not a criminal offense they were charged with, rather with violating the Human Rights Act. The penalties often involve a fine, apology, and remedy (e.g. rehiring someone). I can't recommend enough the link to the Maclean's essay on the travesty of this institution.

Last time I went to a comedy show, I made sure not to sit in front, as of course comedians will seize on any little thing and make fun. But if I did, and I got all offended, the Human Right Tribunal would supply me with lawyers, and the comedian and comedy club would have to pay for their own lawyers and probably burn through tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees, with no real guarantee of natural justice at the end of it.

As a gay man I'm so tired and embarrassed with gay people putting their 'right' not to be offended ahead of society's interest in preserving free speech.

Get over it, ladies.

And yeah, the comedian probably sucked. If that were an offense, our jails would be filled. (maybe that's what Harper's superjails are for?)
posted by kevinsp8 at 12:33 AM on April 26, 2011 [14 favorites]


And yeah, the comedian probably sucked. If that were an offense, our jails would be filled. (maybe that's what Harper's superjails are for?)

Do you guys lock people up for having weed? Because if you don't then man your for-profit prison industry is missing out. I suppose you'd have to start locking people up for insulting people if you're going to start filling those beds and giving your shareholders a return on their investment.
posted by Doublewhiskeycokenoice at 12:41 AM on April 26, 2011


Oh, Canada.
posted by KingEdRa at 1:00 AM on April 26, 2011


If your goal is to punish this guy, there seem to be a couple options:

• Fine the guy and make him a martyr to his cause; or,
• Put his act on YouTube and ridicule him to Michael Richards-proportions

Which do you think would work better?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:18 AM on April 26, 2011 [4 favorites]


Blazecock: You missed out the one where throwing things at people, snatching and breaking their glasses would constitute actual assault, a proper offense for a proper court, as opposed to a bullshit court-of-hurt-feelings, which will enjoy broad support from some segments on Metafilter until it levies thousands in fines against someone for using harsh language about Scientology or calling the Catholic Church a paedophile ring.
posted by rodgerd at 1:21 AM on April 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


If a live comedian can be fined for this kind of remark, how much could he be fined if he tells a joke that someone in the audience happens to find 'offensive'? Should there be a government maintained list of subjects you're not allowed to joke about?

Could everyone calling this an attack on free speech please take some time to actually read the ruling? Because this wasn't really about one remark or jokes being perceived as offensive; it wasn't about what he said but what he did - the guy was straight on assaulting these women, telling them, among other things:

• “Don’t mind that inconsiderate dyke table over there. You know lesbians are always ruining it for everybody.”
• “Do you have a strap-on? You can take your girlfriend home and fuck her in the ass.”
• “Are you on the rag; is that why you’re being such a fucking cunt?”
• “Stupid cunts” and “stupid dykes”.

and later, after one of them had splashed him with water:

• “Thanks for ruining the evening, fucking dykes, cunts”
• “You’re a fat ugly cunt. No man will fuck you; that’s why you’re a dyke. You fat cunt.”
• “Do you want to be a man; is that why you’re such a fucking asshole?”
• “Somebody shut her up. Put a cock in her mouth and shut her the fuck up.”

The ruling, which Earle says he doesn't recognize, is being criticized by some as possibly having a chilling effect on comedians in British Columbia


I assume that by "some", they mean Guy Earle, as the bit about "chilling effects" is taken near verbatim from the arguments made by Earle's defence (see the tribunal's ruling).
posted by daniel_charms at 1:31 AM on April 26, 2011 [7 favorites]


Could everyone calling this an attack on free speech please take some time to actually read the ruling? Because this wasn't really about one remark or jokes being perceived as offensive; it wasn't about what he said but what he did - the guy was straight on assaulting these women, telling them, among other things:

All those "straight on assaults" you're talking about seem to be references to things he said rather than did. I guess there's the fact that saying something is doing something by most definitions of the word "do," but I don't think that helps your case much if you're going to draw a distinction between the words anyway.

There's no quote you can give me that's awful enough to make me say "Oh, I guess I was wrong, he should face criminal sanctions for saying that."

I also think it's hilarious that the only actual assault you bothered to mention was the one against the comedian (not that I'd imagine he'd ever seek legal redress for having water splashed on him). You do realize that the comedian is arguably guilty of an assault himself, right?

What he said was awful. We should humiliate him as best we can. He also should have a clean criminal record.
posted by Doublewhiskeycokenoice at 1:38 AM on April 26, 2011 [6 favorites]


That was her version of events. If you listen to the interview with Earle, there's another side to the story. The other audience members were mostly his comedian buddies, who the judge disbelieved because, well, they were her buddies. The other woman who was supposedly insulted didn't testify for whatever reason.

>it wasn't about what he said but what he did

And then you list all the things he (supposedly) said. What is the distinction you are drawing here?
posted by kevinsp8 at 1:40 AM on April 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


His buddies, not her buddies.

Here's a very measured, neutral commentary on the whole situation from someone who's gone through it himself. [NSFW]
posted by kevinsp8 at 1:41 AM on April 26, 2011


What he said was awful. We should humiliate him as best we can. He also should have a clean criminal record.

Read the thread. This wasn't a criminal court, so his record should be clean.
posted by daniel_charms at 1:50 AM on April 26, 2011 [5 favorites]


metafilter: the next liberated faggot queer.

also thanks to daniel_charms for posting what the dick actually said. jokes are one thing, face-to-face insults are another
posted by marienbad at 1:57 AM on April 26, 2011


Well apparently she shouted back lots of insults at him too... asshole, etc. Mind you, he's not a member of a protected class, so no harm no foul.
posted by kevinsp8 at 2:05 AM on April 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


I refuse to allow a guy who couldn't handle dying on stage and resorted to simple insult to become some kind of martyr for freedom of speech. Freedom of speech is never a black and white absolute. You are not, whether in Canada or the US, legally entitled to incite hatred, to slander or to libel. Deal with it.

True comedians do.

We're not talking edgy, here. Lenny Bruce, Richard Pryor et al, were pushing boundaries and using expletives and insults in a creative way in order to be funny and/or raise awareness. They were pushing the legal envelope as part of their act. This guy was just venting his spleen at a rotten gig, getting booed and the fact that "it had been raining for nine months". If his insults had been creative or funny or even just less mean-spirited, thing probably wouldn't have escalated to physical contact (water, sunglasses).

I don't live in a litigation-happy country, thankfully. Situation would have been easily defused by the management offering an apology and comping the evening's tab. There *might* have been some stern letters to the editor, appearances on tv and interviews on radio. And folk over here don't as easily contract PTSD from harrowing experiences with stand-up comedians, nor do they seek financial recompense for same.
posted by likeso at 2:07 AM on April 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


The "comedian" sounds like he was being an utter dick. Being fined for that sounds far worse, and is a thoroughly chilling development.

Freedom of speech does not entitle a guy with a microphone and an attitude to verbally assault folks.

Err, yes it does. We do not live in Airstrip One. Yet. Let's not defend those who seem to be working hard to get us there, eh?
posted by Decani at 2:07 AM on April 26, 2011 [4 favorites]


That was her version of events. If you listen to the interview with Earle, there's another side to the story. The other audience members were mostly his comedian buddies, who the judge disbelieved because, well, they were her buddies. The other woman who was supposedly insulted didn't testify for whatever reason.

I think all of the things he was quoted as saying were actually confirmed by his comedian friends.

Well apparently she shouted back lots of insults at him too... asshole, etc. Mind you, he's not a member of a protected class, so no harm no foul.

Don't forget that she also threw water in his face. Twice. But in this case, it can all be interpreted as self-defence. Are you really saying that she shouldn't have done anything to defend herself?
posted by daniel_charms at 2:13 AM on April 26, 2011


Err, yes it does

Nope. See Hate Speech Laws in Canada.
posted by likeso at 2:13 AM on April 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


“At first he was professional about it,” said Mr. Miedzinski. But then they started “making fun of his mother, saying ’she should have aborted you when she had the chance… [and] your mother is a sh—y mother.’”

Two of the women “were full-on making out for a while,” he added. “It was almost like they were putting out a show, making out and everything. I guess that’s when the lesbian comments came out…. [Mr. Earle] just saw it as fodder I guess.”

source

Throwing water in his face... to defend herself... against the words he spoke... hmm... no, does not compute. That's assault/battery, which is a criminal offense. Calling people names isn't assault. Have we really lost all reason that we've forgotten what any child knows: sticks and stones...

I admit I haven't poured over all 107 pages of he said-she said... but the point is, um, it's 107 pages over some tawdry bar tiff. Costing tens of thousands in legal fees. The lesbian comedy night that the bar used to hold is gone. It's insanity. It doesn't help the gay rights movement. It probably doesn't even help this 'post-traumatically stressed' woman, as the comedian is too poor to pay.

No, but what it does is strengthen the case for abolishing these tribunals.
posted by kevinsp8 at 2:22 AM on April 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


likeso, no one has ever argued that this constituted hate speech. If it did, that is a criminal offense and a police matter.
posted by kevinsp8 at 2:23 AM on April 26, 2011


Yo Guy Earle. I'm really happy for you and imma let you finish, but Bill Hicks committed the best abusive outburst against an audience member of all time. OF ALL TIME
posted by clarknova at 2:24 AM on April 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


If I'd qualified that with "bigoted" I suppose I could have linked to Michael Richards..
posted by clarknova at 2:27 AM on April 26, 2011


no one has ever argued that this constituted hate speech. If it did, that is a criminal offense and a police matter

Agreed. I was pointing out that the "freedom of speech is absolute" statements were fallacious.
posted by likeso at 2:32 AM on April 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Throwing water in his face... to defend herself... against the words he spoke... hmm... no, does not compute.

Like I already said, there is a difference between what you are saying and what you are doing by saying these things. What he was doing was being agressive towards these women because (by his own admission) he wanted them to leave. Throwing water in his face was a reaction against him being agressive.

I admit I haven't poured over all 107 pages of he said-she said... but the point is, um, it's 107 pages over some tawdry bar tiff. Costing tens of thousands in legal fees. It probably doesn't even help this 'post-traumatically stressed' woman, as the comedian is too poor to pay.

I think the point is that sometimes, such seemingly absurd things (like taking someone to court over a verbal assault) are the only thing you can do to protect yourself. Calling the guy an asshole and throwing water in his face wasn't enough. Telling the manager apparently also wasn't enough. So she exercised her right to turn to this court for protection. You do not agree with her decision, but what else could she have done?
posted by daniel_charms at 2:52 AM on April 26, 2011


We do not live in Airstrip One. Yet. Let's not defend those who seem to be working hard to get us there, eh?

Yeah, and let's not defend those who'd have Mrs Tiggy-Winkle doing our washing! Let not fictional status or lack of any relevance to the situation deter us from seeing terrifying change around every corner!
posted by emmtee at 3:10 AM on April 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


I could support the things the comedian said, if they were all said from the stage.

Once he left the stage after completing his act and came down to their table to continue his offensive, it became a different matter.
posted by fairmettle at 3:19 AM on April 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


daniel_charms: You seem to believe people have a right not to be offended, or to have anyone be 'verbally aggressive' against them. No such right exists. On the other hand, we do have a right to free speech, albeit not absolute. She seems to have given nearly as good as she got, which is also her right.

Why did she need 'protection' from his words? She merely had to walk out.

Again, back to kindergarten. What do you do if someone calls you names? You walk away.

He was a (semi?) professional comedian doing his job. She was interfering in doing his job. What was HE supposed to do to 'protect' himself against that? Most comedians dish some trash talk.

It wasn't a court. A court would follow judicial principles and rules of natural justice. It was a quasi-judicial 'tribunal', or 'hurt-feelings court'. In face, the BC Supreme Court told this tribunal that they first need to address the issue of whether they have jurisdiction in this matter; the tribunal apparently decided sentence first, and jurisdiction later. Well, 95% of these tribunals rule in favor of the complainants anyway.

fairmettle: what is the legal distinction between saying something to someone on stage at at her table? Why is it OK on stage and not beside the person? Because not even the 'judge' made that claim.
posted by kevinsp8 at 3:24 AM on April 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


I think the point is that sometimes, such seemingly absurd things (like taking someone to court over a verbal assault) are the only thing you can do to protect yourself. Calling the guy an asshole and throwing water in his face wasn't enough. Telling the manager apparently also wasn't enough. So she exercised her right to turn to this court for protection. You do not agree with her decision, but what else could she have done?

Are you serious? You're serious. Ok.

-left the club
-organized a boycott
-mobilized the gay and lesbian community to protest at subsequent shows by the comedian
-left the club
-solicited press attention to what an asshole this guy/the club was
-left the club

It is mind boggling watching the rhetorical gymnastics necessary to justify this ruling. I have plenty of beefs with America, and even with some interpretations of the first amendment (Citizens United springs to mind) but this is ridiculous. Seriously. It sets a terrible terrible precedent. There's plenty of speech out there that you may find odious and that hurts your feelings, but that should not mean that it is legally actionable. There's simply no way to justify fining someone for saying something you dont like.
posted by to sir with millipedes at 3:26 AM on April 26, 2011 [9 favorites]


Here is a PDF explaining British Columbia's Human Rights Code regarding harassment.
posted by taz at 3:30 AM on April 26, 2011


Yep, the tribunal dutifully followed the human rights code. So if a straight couple had been similarly treated, they'd have no 'protection', but a lesbian couple does. The ultimate question is whether this human rights code is a good idea.
posted by kevinsp8 at 3:36 AM on April 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


Now we're getting somewhere! Freedom of speech is not a legal absolute. The PDF taz posted makes it clear what the legal basis for this particular suit was. Now we need to know whether the tribunal had legal jurisdiction.

THEN we can finally discuss what, if any, limits should be placed on freedom of speech in a legal sense.
posted by likeso at 3:39 AM on April 26, 2011


kevinsp8: The Human Rights Code specifies "comments that make fun of or belittle or insult ƒ
people because of their sex", which does not preclude a straight couple from the same protection under these laws.
posted by BigYesh 2 at 3:51 AM on April 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Sorry, I meant "jokes based on gender, sexual orientation"
posted by BigYesh 2 at 3:52 AM on April 26, 2011


So if a straight couple had been similarly treated, they'd have no 'protection', but a lesbian couple does.

Do straight couples generally need protection from verbal abuse on the basis of their sexual orientation?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 4:13 AM on April 26, 2011 [4 favorites]


Do straight couples generally need protection from verbal abuse on the basis of their sexual orientation?

Maybe, if they are in a lesbian bar with a lesbian comedian perhaps? I have witnessed verbal taunts at straight couples walking down the streets of Provincetown.

When we claim the legal right to not be offended, we are on a very slippery slope indeed.
posted by Seymour Zamboni at 4:25 AM on April 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


Yeah, there's a lot the human rights tribunals (and BC in particular) do that really seems unreasonable. But I'm going to be one of the people who says that this was an assault. And for those of you saying that its not an assault because it's just words, well most assaults are just words. If someone singled me out and yelled this kind of invective at me I would feel not just offended, but afraid and I think reasonably so, which I believe makes it an assault in most common law countries.

And yes, straight couples, men, white people etc. all have protection under the Human Rights Codes. While the US has "protected classes,' Canada does not. Instead Canada has "prohibited grounds for discrimination" which means anyone discriminated against on those grounds can file a complaint.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 4:31 AM on April 26, 2011 [5 favorites]


"Free speech is only for people who agree with the reigning ideology."

You do realize that Canada is a whole new country with a whole different constitution right?
posted by Blasdelb at 4:36 AM on April 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Maybe, if they are in a lesbian bar with a lesbian comedian perhaps?

This seems more like a theoretical or statistical aberration, rather than something lesbian comedians make a habit out of doing at lesbian comedy shows. Whereas one can go to most any comedy show and find regular use of "faggot", "dyke" and other violently-directed abuse towards gays and lesbians.

I have witnessed verbal taunts at straight couples walking down the streets of Provincetown.

I suppose this is a possibility, but I suspect it doesn't happen too frequently, and the insinuation of violence is for all practical purposes never part of any verbal tirade against the odd straight couple.

My specific question was whether this is a general need. I asked this, because straight people are everywhere, including gay havens like Provincetown. Gay people are often segregated away by society, as a historical result of social stigmatization.

That stigmatization has historically been backed by epithets that carry implied and real threats of violence, as well as, ultimately, violent acts that regularly lead to physical assault and murder.

Straight people already live with the inherent social protections that their "normal" sexual orientations afford them. Straight people do not, generally, need to ever worry that their sexual behaviors will get them beaten or killed by gay people. The converse is, unfortunately, rarely true.

When we claim the legal right to not be offended, we are on a very slippery slope indeed.

I'm of a mixed mind about whether Canada's rules about regulating speech are always right, but this seems less about offense over language, than the implied threat of violence behind the choice of language.

Despite the cherished First Amendment, the US added race as a protected class as a means to delineate and prosecute hate crimes and other crimes of discrimination. The US isn't Canada, of course, but making exceptions for free speech here hasn't led, IMO, to any kind of disastrous, catastrophic slippery slope of reverse discrimination or privilege, as far as I can tell.

A line was crossed here, I think, and punitive measures were merited. I acknowledge that it is sometimes hard to know where that line is, exactly, which is why we have courts and lawyers to discuss this sensibly, with full understanding of the laws, general historical and social precedence, and the accounts of plaintiff, defendant and witnesses.

Despite that, I think the only thing a fine does is make Earle look like the victim. A worse punishment the court could have handed down would be to post his act for all to see. Shaming bigots works much better for pushing social change. Promoting bigots as false victims perpetuates bigotry.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 4:52 AM on April 26, 2011 [7 favorites]


Time to book mr. Warmth, Don Rickels into British Columbia, Lets set the record straight and limits on jokes and insults.
posted by taxpayer at 5:04 AM on April 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


I don't usually go to live comedy, but last night I saw Stephen K Amos. He made fun of a software engineer, someone from Manchester, and an American. Could he be in trouble under human rights laws?
I honestly don't know, but I don't support laws like this at all. Free speech is absolute. I disagree with homophobia and racism and sexism and all that but the counter to speech is MORE SPEECH, not laws against free speech. I realize that's uncontroversial in American and an extreme postion in Canada and Australia but it's the only way to ensure liberty.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 5:06 AM on April 26, 2011


If this happened in the US, I would be scared, because it's such a short road from "no lesbian jokes" to "no jokes about religion" to "no jokes about 'the troops'" to "no criticizing the government" to "comedian = terrorist." Even happening in Canada, this strikes me as pretty crazy, but as an American I don't have much room to talk about other people's countries being crazy.

As an American you absolutly should fight things like this. Our belief in Free Speech is one of the best things about this country and by exporting it we can help fight the creeping tides of fascism.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 5:10 AM on April 26, 2011


ugh, bad jokes are free speech too. since when do sticks and stones AND words hurt? guess what, verbal assault is not actual assault, you can't die from someone making fun of your unspecial lifestyle.
posted by Mach5 at 5:13 AM on April 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


I agree with you, Blazecock, that shaming bigots is a great punitive measure (I.E.: all the people who get apoplectic about being posted on "People Who Said Nigger Today.") Believing in free speech doesn't mean believing in consequence free speech.

I also don't believe that hate crime legislation is wrong, or that minorities, racial or otherwise, should be protected under law from those people who benefit from their inherent social benefits of being white, straight, male, etc.

However, I'm just having trouble seeing where the line you think was crossed begins. He said hateful, ignorant, bigoted things, and plenty of attention is being drawn to it, as it should be. But he didn't threaten them. He didn't incite anyone else to hurt them.

I'm curious what the point of no return is, and how we apply this metric in future situations. Is it something that simply requires an understanding of the nuance of each individual situation? Is it gauged by how upset the victim is? Is it like the Miller test, and based on community standards of offensiveness? Is it the whim of the judge?
posted by to sir with millipedes at 5:13 AM on April 26, 2011


LIB, please, we were just getting the terminology clear. Freedom of speech is not a legal absolute. But I understand that you mean that it should be.
posted by likeso at 5:14 AM on April 26, 2011




LIB, please, we were just getting the terminology clear. Freedom of speech is not a legal absolute. But I understand that you mean that it should be.


It is a legal absolute, or at least it is in America. I've found out things are different outside of America and that should be changed.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 5:16 AM on April 26, 2011


He said hateful, ignorant, bigoted things, and plenty of attention is being drawn to it, as it should be. But he didn't threaten them. He didn't incite anyone else to hurt them.

Somebody put a cock in her mouth and shut her the fuck up seems pretty threatening and inciting to me.
posted by taz at 5:20 AM on April 26, 2011 [6 favorites]


It is a legal absolute, or at least it is in America.

Nope. And firstamendmentcenter.org has a pertinent article. Look, my point is, blanket statements that are not based in legal fact won't help the discussion here.
posted by likeso at 5:22 AM on April 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


Our human rights tribunals up here are definitely problematic and the system is deeply flawed, but please find a way to fault them without believing a word of that McLeans article. That was all about Ezra Levant, and he's one of the biggest neocon assholes Canada has to offer.
posted by rocket88 at 5:33 AM on April 26, 2011


Free speech is absolute...I realize that's uncontroversial in American

No, it isn't an uncontroversial statement in America, nor is freedom of speech absolute in the US. There are many limits on free speech in the US, as there are anywhere. You cannot yell fire in a crowded theatre, you cannot slander or libel, you cannot engage in sedition, or share state secrets with foreigners or anyone not entitled to have them. You cannot stand on the street and yell poetry at 3 in the morning.

There are limits on free speech everywhere. The question is not whether free speech should be limited -- even you think it should, though you say it shouldn't -- but whether this limit is reasonable. You don't think it is. Fair enough. That's an entirely reasonable stance to take. That free speech is absolute is not.

And as for people saying comedians can't make jokes about X, Y, Z..note that this isn't the case. He was not fined for making jokes, but rather for the invective directed at a particular person. Had it been part of his act there would have been no case here.

I'm not saying I support the tribunal. I often don't and I'm not convinced that this was the best way to handle this situation, but let's be clear on what the issues are here rather than getting caught up in inaccurate and irrelevant statements.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 5:41 AM on April 26, 2011 [6 favorites]


"People Who Said Nigger Today."

Well, that is a lovely little cess-pool. If those people aren't trolls (not that that would be ok) they can't really care too much for their future. Don't these people know how the internet works by now?
posted by pickinganameismuchharderthanihadanticipated at 5:47 AM on April 26, 2011


Threatening people is assault in Canada. If he was aggressive enough that the women felt threatened, it's probably grounds for either a criminal complaint or a HRT.

This Sun papers are right-wing rags. They're Canada's printed equivalent of Fox News. I don't really trust that their account of the story is accurate.
posted by Pseudoephedrine at 5:49 AM on April 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


And for those of you saying that its not an assault because it's just words, well most assaults are just words.

I'm going to insult you so hard you'll need stitches!
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 5:52 AM on April 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


This is as ridiculous a fight over pissy sensitive people being offended as I ever seen. Leave, demand your money back, whatever. As tired as some of you are of insult comedians, bad or otherwise, that's how tired I personally am of even pretending to give a shit about what offends anyone.

This silly crap has built up a callous on what used to be a more sensitive nature. You're offended? So? Leave. Turn the channel. Pull the plug. Who cares. You're offended. We're all offended. You offend me. Who cares. You shouldn't. Offense ain't oil: there's big accessible pools of it everywhere: we'll never run out.

"Whenever I hear someone say 'you don't have the right to be offended', I just know that person is an asshole," is the response I got last time I read one of these threads. Yeah, well at least I'm not some easily-offended asshole. And asshole or not, I'm sorry, that is still not a right that I think anyone needs to give a damn about, cause it's vague, and subjective, subject to the vagaries of personal circumstance and agenda. So keep complaining about the heavy-handed fascist governments who wage war and blah and blah at the same time you support this lame 'human rights' shit. Cut off that nose to spite that face! Herd yourself into those pens. And then wonder how you got there.
posted by umberto at 5:55 AM on April 26, 2011 [10 favorites]


to sir with milipedes: But he didn't threaten them. He didn't incite anyone else to hurt them.

“Somebody shut her up. Put a cock in her mouth and shut her the fuck up.”

Riiiiight...
posted by Dysk at 6:09 AM on April 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


uhhh... they could have gotten up and left if they felt the comedy act was distasteful.
posted by zombieApoc at 6:11 AM on April 26, 2011


They could, but they also had the right to stay without being threatened by another patron (as Earl was no longer acting in his capacity as comedian).
posted by Dysk at 6:14 AM on April 26, 2011


My specific question was whether this is a general need. I asked this, because straight people are everywhere, including gay havens like Provincetown. Gay people are often segregated away by society, as a historical result of social stigmatization.

The language in BC, as well as in the US in states that have laws hate crimes laws on the books, is agnostic: it protects people based on their sexual orientation, which even straight people possess.
posted by rtha at 6:17 AM on April 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


since when do sticks and stones AND words hurt? guess what, verbal assault is not actual assault, you can't die from someone making fun of your unspecial lifestyle.

Hi. Have you heard of the It Gets Better Project? And how bullied kids sometimes kill themselves because people hurt them with actions AND words?
posted by palomar at 6:20 AM on April 26, 2011


(Not to say I feel this is an "It Gets Better"-worthy bullying... just making the point that saying "words don't hurt" is kind of ridiculous given how much attention we've given the bullying issue in the past year. Come on, people.)
posted by palomar at 6:23 AM on April 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


I know it's only an act in a TV show, but here's the best way to deal with a heckler [NSFW].
posted by King Bee at 6:25 AM on April 26, 2011


Free speech is absolute. I disagree with homophobia and racism and sexism and all that but the counter to speech is MORE SPEECH, not laws against free speech.

That rather breaks down when the people in question are part of minorities with little to no political power, media presence, or money, like trans people, disabled people, travellers, and others. I can yell AS LOUD AS I POSSIBLY CAN but when there are no trans politicians in my country, no portrayals of trans people by trans people in the media of my country, and one of the largest and most influential queer rights pressure groups not only does not include trans people but often actively works against us, where does that leave me? Shouting?

My speech can be as free as the wind, but it's not being heard where it matters.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 6:30 AM on April 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


Fighting words lead to fights. In bars and courts.

People do stupid things. In bars and courts.
posted by warbaby at 6:33 AM on April 26, 2011


The ruling, which Earle says he doesn't recognize, is being criticized by some as possibly having a chilling effect on comedians in British Columbia due to the restaurant being fined for the incident which may discourage rooms from offering comedy in the future.

Why are multiple people quoting the above, but purposely truncating it to:

The ruling, which Earle says he doesn't recognize, is being criticized by some as possibly having a chilling effect on comedians in British Columbia


I think it's a valid concern to consider whether or not fining not just the comedian but also the venue itself represents good policy.
posted by the other side at 6:36 AM on April 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


The Human Rights Code says that in the event of harassment the people should have contacted the manager of the venue and he should have taken steps to remedy the situation ("Employers, landlords, and other service providers have a responsibility to provide a harassment-free environment for their employees, tenants, and customers"). If they did contact the manager with their concerns and nothing was done then it does make sense to fine the venue for not stepping in. However, I don't know if they did contact the manager.
posted by BigYesh 2 at 6:44 AM on April 26, 2011


I think it's a valid concern to consider whether or not fining not just the comedian but also the venue itself represents good policy.

Excellent point.

If they did contact the manager with their concerns and nothing was done then it does make sense to fine the venue for not stepping in. However, I don't know if they did contact the manager.

Okay, I now have two points on my need-to-know list:
1) did the tribunal have legal jurisdiction
2) was the manager informed, if yes, what did manager do/not do

*sigh*

I'm gonna hafta read the whole 107 pages, aren't I?
posted by likeso at 6:54 AM on April 26, 2011


I'm gonna hafta read the whole 107 pages, aren't I?

It's worth it if only for this: "I refer to Mr. Ismail and Zesty collectively as the 'Zesty respondents.' "
posted by cjelli at 7:02 AM on April 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


Mmph! Something to look forward to, cjelli.
posted by likeso at 7:07 AM on April 26, 2011


Here's a very measured, neutral commentary on the whole situation from someone who's gone through it himself.

Hardly neutral, hardly measured. You dredged up some commentary from Mark Steyn, who self-styled Canadian Christopher Hitchens who has had his own problems with human rights tribunals.

Canada has different rules than the US about things like hate speech. You can go to jail for making false statements about the Holocaust, which is a good thing.

The ruling will only have a chilling effect on homophobes and unfunny comics.
posted by KokuRyu at 7:21 AM on April 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


Our belief in Free Speech is one of the best things about this country and by exporting it we can help fight the creeping tides of fascism... I've found out things are different outside of America and that should be changed.

Naw, I think we're good, thanks.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 7:25 AM on April 26, 2011 [5 favorites]


umberto: Yeah, well at least I'm not some easily-offended asshole.

That's funny. You sound offended. In fact, you sound like you're throwing a tantrum. Screaming and shouting about how other people are over-reacting just makes you look thin-skinned and not very self-aware.

It doesn't sound here like the issue is whether lesbians are a protected class, but rather whether comedians are a protected class - because that kind of treatment in a place of business would be uncontroversially harassment if, say, a waiter had done it.
posted by running order squabble fest at 7:26 AM on April 26, 2011 [10 favorites]


SQWAAK! FREE SPEECH! SQWAAK!

SWAAK! Money is speech! SQWAAK!

Mah fella Amurikans, the time of American moral superiority has ended! Give it a rest! Better still, STFU and learn something.
posted by Goofyy at 7:30 AM on April 26, 2011


I think this sets a dangerous legal precedent. Worse, it gives ammunition to all the assholes out there who think that straight white men have become the only real oppressed class.

However, I'm also disappointed that so much of the criticism has been directed at the women who brought this suit, rather than the law and the judge who interpreted it. Perhaps I'm not as morally pure as everyone else, but given that this scumbucket told these women someone should "put a cock in [their] mouth[s]" to shut them up, I can't quite find it in myself to condemn them for doing something about it rather than sitting there and taking it like good minorities.
posted by en forme de poire at 7:57 AM on April 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think this sets a dangerous legal precedent.

The ruling is not a legal precedent. It just reflects Canada's existing hate speech and human rights laws.
posted by KokuRyu at 8:04 AM on April 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


KokuRyu: perhaps I'm wrong -- I'm not that familiar with the Canadian justice system. But the following, from the summary, sounds like an interpretation of the law to me:
However, the Tribunal considered whether exercising freedom of expression could justify what would otherwise be discrimination under the Code. Based on Supreme Court of Canada authority, the Tribunal concluded that the Code's provisions are not ambiguous and do not need Charter values to interpret them.
posted by en forme de poire at 8:11 AM on April 26, 2011


I think the fine was just too much...I'm thinking that a public apology from the comedian would have been enough. Well, I don't know if that's enough for the offended person but the fine's just too much.
posted by detrujillo at 8:13 AM on April 26, 2011


Earle's side in an interview.
posted by klangklangston at 8:24 AM on April 26, 2011


It's a human rights violation to be verbally abused by a comic in the middle of his act that you paid to attend? Hey, at least that makes one amusing joke associated with this act.

Somebody call Amnesty International... we have a prisoner of conscience comic that needs a support march. Paper maché puppets, too.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 8:31 AM on April 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


It's a human rights violation to be verbally abused by a comic in the middle of his act that you paid to attend?

According to page 12 of the full ruling -- "Ms. Pardy was not aware that Zesty’s was putting on an open mic comedy night, was not there to see the show, did not hear any announcement that it was starting or any invitation to attend, stayed on the patio after she became aware that it had started, and only came inside when her server told her that the patio was closing, and conducted her inside. "

So if we accept the tribunal's findings, she (a) didn't pay to see the performance, and (b) did not come to the restaurant to see a comedy show. I'm undecided on what to make of the eventual ruling, but it (appears to be) factually false that she came to the restaurant to watch a comedy act and then got offended.
posted by cjelli at 8:41 AM on April 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Things to note from the video interview:

Guy Earle (Here's his demo reel) was hosting an open mic night. He admits that he was taking it out on the other comics (introducing them as 'here's some douchebag' ...) and the audience because he was having a bad 6 months or whatever.

The other comics were booing him too.

Have to be honest; I don't really feel like this guy is some super free speech crusader.
posted by Comrade_robot at 8:43 AM on April 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'm undecided on what to make of the eventual ruling, but it (appears to be) factually false that she came to the restaurant to watch a comedy act and then got offended.

She came into a restaurant that hosts a weekly open-mic night which was in progress. She sits down at the front of the in progress performance and proceeds to not pay attention, but to make out with her companion. And then start heckling.

I WISH Earle was as as skilled as Bill Hicks was. Bill would have torn this patron a new one AND made the rest of the crowd laugh. Bill would have put the whole show on hold and spent his stage time abusing the crowd and been worth listening to. Earle committed the sin not of abuse, but of clumsiness.

She didn't just walk around some random corner and encounter some random dude shouting abuse.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 8:52 AM on April 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


She came into a restaurant that hosts a weekly open-mic night which was in progress. She sits down at the front of the in progress performance and proceeds to not pay attention, but to make out with her companion. And then start heckling.

Again, from the tribunal's findings (around page 15), she did not come into an open-mic night that was in progress. She came into the restaurant and went to the patio, not to the stage. When the patio closed, her party came into to the stage. They were not there to see a show and did not (if I'm reading the timeline correctly) arrive when a show was in progress. The show started while they were on the patio and away from the stage, and they only came inside because the patio closed.

Further, from the tribunal's findings: " I find the following facts. When Brandy brought Ms. Pardy, Ms. Broomsgrove and Ms. Sandor in from the patio at approximately 11:00 p.m., and seated them in booth 3, Mr. Roy was just finishing his comedy set, and soon left the stage. While he was performing, the three women did not heckle, or otherwise disrupt the performance." (pages 21 and 22, emphasis mine)

I'm not sure I agree with the tribunal's ruling, but absent a very good reason I'm inclined to accept their factual findings since I don't think anyone is or has been in a better position to hear and consider both sides.
posted by cjelli at 9:10 AM on April 26, 2011 [4 favorites]


However, the Tribunal considered whether exercising freedom of expression could justify what would otherwise be discrimination under the Code. Based on Supreme Court of Canada authority, the Tribunal concluded that the Code's provisions are not ambiguous and do not need Charter values to interpret them.

Actually, you're right and I was wrong, the ruling could be some sort of legal precedent (however, I'm no lawyer, so what the hell do I know?), as the ruling seems to empower the authority of the BC Human Rights Tribunal, which is, as far as I know, unaccountable and appointed by the government of the day. Good law, perhaps the wrong mechanism for implementing it.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:20 AM on April 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


She came into a restaurant that hosts a weekly open-mic night which was in progress. She sits down at the front of the in progress performance and proceeds to not pay attention, but to make out with her companion. And then start heckling.

Did you even read the paragraph immediately preceding the one you quoted, or do you read as selectively as you quote? Your fantasy narrative here represents a preposterous (agenda-driven?) distortion of what the tribunal found the facts to be, which is that

A: she didn't know there was an open-mic show;
B: when she found out there was, she tried to sit somewhere she wouldn't be in the audience (i.e. the patio, well away from the stage);
C: She was subsequently told by a staff member at the establishment that she had to sit in the audience (i.e. she had to leave the patio and sit inside by the stage)

This is not just "her side of the story." These are the Tribunal's findings after hearing all sides of the story. The section of the ruling [pdf] where you find this even called the "summary of factual findings." Seriously, check it out:

IV (Facts);
B. (Events at Zesty’s on May 22, 2007);
2. (On the patio at Zesty’s);
[b](Summary of factual findings: On the patio at Zesty’s.)

...and then come back and tell your story again about how it was her fault for going to a comedy show and she was asking for it by sitting where she did.
posted by dersins at 9:20 AM on April 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


She came into a restaurant that hosts a weekly open-mic night which was in progress. She sits down at the front of the in progress performance and proceeds to not pay attention, but to make out with her companion. And then start heckling.

Doesn't appear to be the case. From the full ruling:


[72] Brandy, Ms. Semczyszyn, Ms. Sandor, Ms. Pardy, and Ms. Broomsgrove all then
engaged in a fairly noisy discussion of whether the party wanted to order more drinks, whether more Corona was available, and, if so, whether it was cold or warm. Ms. Semczyszyn left the booth during this discussion, returned with a case of beer, and continued the conversation. Ms. Pardy and Ms. Broomsgrove sat down facing the stage; Ms. Sandor had her back to it.

[73] In view of their closeness to the stage, and the relatively small number of other people in the restaurant, this exchange created a short disruption to the amplified open mic performance taking place on the stage. However, the Zesty’s staff initiated this exchange, and fully participated in it. The short disruption and level of noise was consistent with the operation of a restaurant which was serving food and beverages to the public, and simultaneously offering a comedy performance to that same public. No witness testified that any of the conversation at the booth at this point was directed to anyone on the stage, or related to the performance taking place there.

[100] I find the following facts. When Brandy brought Ms. Pardy, Ms. Broomsgrove and Ms. Sandor in from the patio at approximately 11:00 p.m., and seated them in booth 3, Mr. Roy was just finishing his comedy set, and soon left the stage. While he was performing, the three women did not heckle, or otherwise disrupt the performance, other than by taking part in the discussion initiated by Brandy about drinks.

[101] Mr. Earle took the stage. He was there to introduce Mr. Wolfe. At that point, the three women had said nothing to him. I do not have the benefit of any evidence from Mr. Earle, but I infer that he had either witnessed the conversation among the three women and the servers before he took the stage, or that it continued after he did so, or both, and that he considered that the noise of their conversation might disrupt the show. Then he saw Ms. Broomsgrove kiss Ms. Pardy.

[102] There was no public display of affection between Ms. Pardy and Ms. Broomsgrove, beyond a kiss – what one often sees in restaurant, bar or club settings between other young couples, lesbian or not. In Mr. Franson’s words, “That’s when it all started”. In Mr. Wolfe’s words, Mr. Earle “saw them kiss [and said] ‘that’s what I’m going to go after until you shut up’”.

[103] I conclude from the evidence of Ms. Pardy and Ms. Sandor, corroborated by that of Mr. Miedzinski and Mr. Wolfe, and by the inferences I have drawn from the evidence of Mr. Franson, Mr. Espaniel, and Mr. Roy, that in the next very short while Mr. Earle, from the stage, using a microphone, and in his capacity as host or master-of-ceremonies of the open mic night, said the following words, directed exclusively at Ms. Pardy, Ms. Broomsgrove, and Ms. Sandor, or words to substantially the same effect:
• “Don’t mind that inconsiderate dyke table over there. You know lesbians are
always ruining it for everybody.”
• “Do you have a strap-on? You can take your girlfriend home and fuck her in the
ass.”
• “Are you on the rag; is that why you’re being such a fucking cunt?”
• “Stupid cunts” and “stupid dykes”.

[104] I further find that these comments were not made in response to any “heckling” by any of the women. Rather they were a response, generally, to the noise associated with their being moved by Zesty’s staff from the patio to their booth, and asked if they wished to order drinks. Mr. Earle’s words were a response, specifically, to him seeing Ms. Broomsgrove kiss Ms. Pardy.

[105] I find that all three women, and others present, responded to Mr. Earle’s comments by booing him, and that Ms. Sandor engaged him to the extent of calling him “ignorant”, saying that he was not telling jokes anymore, and that he was not funny. I find, on the evidence before me, that no one at Ms. Pardy’s booth insulted Mr. Earle’s mother or his looks, or swore at him repetitively, or at all. [italics mine]

(going over the ruling again. preliminary impressions: judge did a good job sifting often contradictory testimony about an incident which took place 3 years previously. Earle did not have the best of lawyers - yikes - unbelievbeable lack of precedent citation. Earle also DID NOT APPEAR in court. 15,000CAD against Earle seems exhorbitant, as does 7,500CAD against Zesty's.)

(also: note, cjelli, the judge doesn't know what youtube is - calls it "U-Tube". aww.)
posted by likeso at 9:23 AM on April 26, 2011 [5 favorites]


Ezra Levant interviews Guy Earle on FOX News Canada Sun TV. Earle says at about 11:38: "If they're coming after the comics, guess who's next? The lesbians. Hellooo?" I'm not sure that he'll be changing any minds with that.

Ezra Levant has had his own run-in with a Human Rights Tribunal in the past, when his now-defunct magazine re-published the controversial Danish cartoons of Mohammed.
posted by Kabanos at 9:33 AM on April 26, 2011


en forme de poire Worse, it gives ammunition to all the assholes out there who think that straight white men have become the only real oppressed class.

That's probably true, but, really, those guys don't need ammunition. If there isn't a real data point, they'll invent one. I remember a fantastic moment when a guy argued (on the Internet, natch) that the rates of spousal murder were almost exactly equivalent across the sexes, as long as you acknowledged that men who died of heart attacks were all poisoned by their wives. Classic stuff.

There are plenty of reasons to be iffy about this, but worrying about what this group will make of it is like worrying what Glenn Beck will make of it - because the answer is always they will make shit up.

Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey I WISH Earle was as as skilled as Bill Hicks was. Bill would have torn this patron a new one AND made the rest of the crowd laugh. Bill would have put the whole show on hold and spent his stage time abusing the crowd and been worth listening to. Earle committed the sin not of abuse, but of clumsiness.

I think you can do both. Michael Richards certainly lost the audience, but I think it's fair to say that he also racially abused some hecklers. The summary of the judgement in this case says:
There were measures available to accomplish the purpose of ending any disruption of the show well short of attacking Ms. Pardy’s sex and sexual orientation.
If he had asked them to be quiet, or engaged them without homophobic insults, he could have been fine. They might have been quiet, or finished their drinks and left, or heckled back. Who knows He didn't give them that option.

I'm sure the patrons of Zesty's also wish Earle had been as good as Bill Hicks, although the misogyny in Bill Hicks' act was by some distance the least endearing or useful thing about it - Earle seems to have swiped one line directly from Hicks (YT, NSFW). However, the way Hicks dealt with that heckling was quite different. I've seen comics lose it at insensibly drunk hecklers, because they are deadly - you can't work them into the act because they don't respond comprehensibly, and they don't know when to quit. When a sober heckler shouts "you suck" in a pause, riffing on the drunken heckle, he rewards a good heckle by bringing it into the act. He knows he can't do that with the drunk heckler, so he has to either shout her down comprehensively, so she leaves, or goad her until she can reasonably be ejected by security.

There's no evidence to my knowledge that Pardy was insensibly drunk. In fact, it says that Earle's public representation of her as a drunken heckler was dishonest. There is evidence that they had been talking amongst themselves. But when Earle went straight for the homophobic abuse, he lost any chance of the situation ending well, or ending funny.
posted by running order squabble fest at 9:42 AM on April 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


There's no evidence to my knowledge that Pardy was insensibly drunk.

Actually, Pardy testified (and this was corroborated by her companions, two members of Zesty's wait-staff and her receipt) that she had ordered 2 beers, and drunk only half of the second.
posted by likeso at 9:46 AM on April 26, 2011


We don't have absolute freedom of speech in Canada. We do have hate crimes and we do have freedom of speech within the realms of what would constitute a reasonable democracy and so on. Our Charter rights fall into this and thus so does freedom from sexual discrimination, which a lesbian is facing if she's being treated differently than a man would, as I understand, not being a lawyer. In Canada, situations like this are also weighed against community standards. On the West Coast, especially in Vancouver, I think most people would be terribly offended by the "comedian"'s words. But, to top it off, this was on Commercial Drive, the heart of the lesbian community and a long-time place of settlement for people looking to escape repression and build a better life. So this interaction would be even more obscene than if it had happened in some other Canadian community.
posted by acoutu at 10:16 AM on April 26, 2011


Section 318 of the Criminal Code makes it illegal to incite hate based on sexual orientation, too, I might add.
posted by acoutu at 10:18 AM on April 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


My description of the facts did not match the findings of the tribunal. I concede that.

Not showing up and sending a shitty lawyer was probably not the smartest choice Earle made, if only because it allows the opposition to dictate the narrative.

Earle obviously chose entitlement to care less over commitment to care more. This does not speak well of his character.

But in the end, he's a comic on stage. You say what you say, take the hits if you bomb, take the social rejection if you get bigoted and hateful while bombing. If he's being bigoted and hateful and drunk, he's a shitty comic and bad at his job. People shouldn't go to his shows or maybe his career tanks and he has to go sell sneakers in a striped jersey. The picket lines out front a week later, rock on.

But a Human Rights Violation? Against a comic on stage being an abusive asshole?

Section 318 of the Criminal Code makes it illegal to incite hate based on sexual orientation, too, I might add.

I guess so. Sic Transit Adveho Canadiensis*

*I'm not saying comedy requires abusive hatefulness, I'm saying that when the court jester is judicially punished for going to far (even when he obviously has), that feels really, really wrong to me. Because pushing the boundaries is part of the job description. This is why we cage them up put them on stage rather than on let them loose on street corners.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 10:52 AM on April 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think the fine was just too much...I'm thinking that a public apology from the comedian would have been enough. Well, I don't know if that's enough for the offended person but the fine's just too much.


I agree. I'm a little surprised they cite Bro & Scott as the basis for the reward. Call me crazy, but Bro & Scott seemed a little more serious than this. The claimant here has anxiety disorder and now can't go to Zesty's anymore because a comedian verbally attacked her once. Bro & Scott were harassed over a long period and physically attacked by their landlord and his son, which to me is far more serious because of the nature of the relationship and the potential effects on Bro's & Scott's immediate need for, well, shelter. What Guy Earle did was disgusting and must have been an awful experience for Prady, but $22,500? That's half a year's salary for the average Canadian, rewarded for an event that mustn't have been longer than 10 minutes long at most and then finished forever with very little real consequence.
posted by Hoopo at 11:03 AM on April 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


There's simply no way to justify fining someone for saying something you dont like.

In America, it could have been a third-degree felony.

“Somebody shut her up. Put a cock in her mouth and shut her the fuck up.”

As stavrogin noted, inciting to violence is a crime in many American states.
posted by mrgrimm at 11:29 AM on April 26, 2011


Err, yes it does

Nope. See Hate Speech Laws in Canada.
posted by likeso at 10:13 AM on April 26


I'm afraid I don't base my opinions on the meanings of words on the laws of one particular country. I would respectfully suggest that to do so would be unproductive. I would also suggest that you missed the point of my reference to Airstrip One.
posted by Decani at 11:40 AM on April 26, 2011


re: pushing the boundaries, etc.: I think it's a mistake to conflate this with a professional comedy act and venue. First, Earle solicited the open mic night thing with himself as emcee from the restaurant owner, and wasn't a paid performer. Presumably, the owner actually agreed because he figured he could at least sell some food/drinks to the friends and supporters of the amateur comedians, and perhaps entertain some of his regular customers. I very much doubt he would have knowingly signed on for "edgy" insult humor (which I don't even think this was) and attacks targeting a group that constituted his main source of revenue.

This was a restaurant, not the Laugh Factory, and the guy wasn't even a paid performer. The women were trying to order their drinks and were attacked for it. I very much doubt this is what the owner was hoping for. I just don't see this setting as a protected platform for launching a specifically personal and targeted, hate-fueled, outrageously abusive attack that wasn't even part of the "comedy" routine, by some guy who was working for beer.
posted by taz at 11:48 AM on April 26, 2011 [4 favorites]


Just to be clear, Guy Earle was not criminally prosecuted or convicted under the hate speech sections of the Criminal Code. He was found in violation of the B.C. Human Right Code by the BC Human Rights Tribunal.

Though I expect both Guy Earle and Lorna Pardy (or their lawyers) will end up in a real court anyways.

According to the BC Human Rights Tribunal rules of practice and procedure, a participant who disputes a tribunal decision or order may seek judicial review by bringing a petition in the British Columbia Supreme Court under the Judicial Review Procedure Act. I think Earle's lawyer has already indicated they will be doing that.

The rules also state that a party who wants to enforce a final order of the tribunal may ... file the certified copy of the decision containing the order in British Columbia Supreme Court for the purposes of enforcing the order. I expect this will need to be done before Earle coughs up a cent.
posted by Kabanos at 11:58 AM on April 26, 2011


I'm afraid I don't base my opinions on the meanings of words on the laws of one particular country. I would respectfully suggest that to do so would be unproductive. I would also suggest that you missed the point of my reference to Airstrip One.

Decani, no, I've read 1984, and I assumed you were using hyperbole to emphasize your distaste for absolute state control of speech.

The point I obviously missed was that your comment "Err, yes it does" was not in reference to existing law in Canada. I mistakenly assumed you were interested in the realities of the particular case under discussion. But indeed, referencing actual cases and discussing laws currently on the books which are being enforced is in fact productive only inasmuch as you wish to decide to influence reality.
posted by likeso at 12:18 PM on April 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


Neither hate crimes nor the criminal prohibition on inciting hatred against and identifiable group is relevant here. Hate crimes are things that are already crimes and would be crimes regardless of motivation (e.g. murder, vandalism etc.) that are sentenced more severely because they are motivated by prejudice. This wasn't what was happening here as there was no crime prosecuted. Also, this isn't a free speech issue since murder, etc. isn't a kind of speech (I suppose vandalism can be speech).

The prohibition against promoting hatred against an identifiable group requires that it seem likely that the actions would incite violence against members of the group. I would think here that if any danger here was not to the group per se, but to one or two members of the group (yes, as members of the group, but still the individuals more than the group that are targets).
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 12:44 PM on April 26, 2011


This doesn't appear to be strictly a free speech issue either--it's his actions as a whole that are under scrutiny. It's possible this case would still be before the Human Rights Tribunal if he had left it at an unfortunate drunken open-mic-night screed (we have no way to know, unfortunately), but it's hard to separate Earle's words on stage from his subsequent harassment and intimidation and possible assault of Prady at the bar.
posted by Hoopo at 12:45 PM on April 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


There is continuing confusion about what the comedian was actually ‘charged’ with. I think this stems from the fact that ‘violating the Human Rights Code’ is a novel transgression that may not have an analog in U.S. law. To be clear:

-he was NOT charged with assault. Words are not assault unless they contain a credible threat. If he actually said ‘someone stick a cock in her mouth and shut her up’ that’s not a _credible_ threat/incitement.

-he was NOT charged with hate speech

-he (and the bar owners) were found to have ‘denied services’ to the pair based on their sexual orientation.

Some other points:

-As Canada has a Common Law regime, every judicial decision in Canada creates a precedent.

-Canada DOES have protected classes. Canadian courts have ruled that human rights codes do not protect men, for example, from discrimination based on gender as they have not faced historic discrimination. So it is not at all likely a straight couple would receive this protection, even though they have a sexual orientation. Furthermore, only certain characteristics are protected. So if the same insults had been hurled at an ugly person, she would have no redress, as that isn’t one of the prohibited grounds. If it had been hurled at a Scientologist, that could result in punishment, because religion is one of the prohibited grounds. Page 71 of the ruling, the tribunal states "she belongs to a protected group."

-As one wag pointed out, most people know that if you go to a low-end comedy night, the main service you are buying is the service of being insulted. If the comedian had quietly said ‘oh, sorry to be interrupting your kissing/heckling, I’ll just go home now’, THEN he would have been denying them service.

-page 11 of the ruling, Pardy was aware there was a comedy show going on. Earle claims that he went out to the patio a couple of times during the night and asked them to join the show but they declined. When the patio closed, he said they were told they had to either come inside where the show was or leave. They chose to stay.

-she did go back to talk to the bar owner to complain on another day (page 38 on) and she brought a hidden tape recorder. The bar owner initially offered to pay for the broken sunglasses but then reneged as he found her rude. She claims he called her a bitch, which the 'judge' actually didn't believe.

-she complained to the police and they took a report but no further action was taken by the police.

-Earle has repeatedly claimed that he did start by asking them politely to be quiet, that they insulted his mother and said she should have aborted him, called him ‘every name in the book’, that they said ‘they wanted to drive a broken bottle into his neck’, that he had a little dick (discrimination based on disability?), and he disputes saying some of the things the complainants said he said. He refused to attend the tribunal based on his lawyers advice that the proceedings were illegal given the BC Supreme Court ruling, and thus attending them would legitimize the process. He states he is unable to find work following this incident.

>please find a way to fault them without believing a word of that McLeans article. That was all about Ezra Levant, and he's one of the biggest neocon assholes Canada has to offer.

It’s a funny thing about free speech, the people who are in trouble for their speech tend not to be cuddly, popular, likable chaps. They are generally in trouble for ugly, controversial speech. The test of whether you are for free speech is not whether you are for speech that you agree with, it’s whether you are willing to defend someone’s right to say things that you completely disagree with. If you think only ‘appropriate’ speech should be allowed, then remember that it goes both ways... if you ever have an unpopular opinon, expect that your speech too could be restricted. And yes, I understand that free speech has legitimate limits, such as shouting fire in a crowded theatre, slander, plotting murder, etc., which are covered by the Criminal Code and as potential civil torts.

>Hardly neutral, hardly measured.

Yeah, that was tongue-in-cheek, I’m aware it’s a profane rant, which is why I put [NSFW]. And I said that he’d be through the system as well. As a point of reference, Steyn was condemned for negative comments about Muslims, and Ezra Levant for publishing the Danish cartoons depicting the prophet Mohammed.

>The ruling will only have a chilling effect on homophobes and unfunny comics.

In other words, it's OK if we suppress speech that we don't like? Gays and lesbians are familiar with having their expression stifled quite a bit in the recent past because they were an unpopular group. It’s scary that you think it’s OK that people who are unfunny or anti-gay should be ‘chilled’. Also, presumably, people with political views that are ‘unacceptable’ should be chilled as well. Kind of scary, given how subjective humor is. The truth is, any comedy show I’ve seen contains lots of jokes at the expense of various protected groups, and this ruling has the very real potential to make Canada a ‘comedy-free zone’, or at least a ‘comedy-lite’ zone. Humor and satire has a long history of being a way of expressing unpopular ideas. As the National Post wrote, "No human right is more basic than freedom of expression, not even the ‘right’ to live one's life free from offence by remarks about one's ethnicity, gender, culture or orientation.”
posted by kevinsp8 at 1:29 PM on April 26, 2011 [8 favorites]


Have to be honest; I don't really feel like this guy is some super free speech crusader.

They so rarely are, yet we often have to protect the rights of douche-bags, if for no other reason to make sure our own rights are protected.
posted by KingEdRa at 1:38 PM on April 26, 2011 [4 favorites]


The truth is, any comedy show I’ve seen contains lots of jokes at the expense of various protected groups, and this ruling has the very real potential to make Canada a ‘comedy-free zone’, or at least a ‘comedy-lite’ zone.

Ever seen the Daily Show or the Colbert Report? It's entirely possible to be wickedly funny without making racist or homophobic jokes.
posted by KokuRyu at 1:58 PM on April 26, 2011


Humor and satire has a long history of being a way of expressing unpopular ideas.

While humor and satire are worth defending, an unpopular idea does not necessarily make it humor or satire.

Saying, "Somebody put a cock in her mouth and shut her the fuck up" in a violent, threatening context can arguably not meet reasonable criteria for humor or satire. Where that line is crossed can depend on context, which is why court systems exist.

One exception would be where being violent and threatening is funny, which could be argued is a value system for some societies.

Do Canadians strive for a society where threatening violence is not only acceptable speech, but speech that must be defended? Apparently, the answer is no, at least based on the laws on their books. In some contexts, threatening speech in the United States is also not protected. Free speech has never been an absolute ideal.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:26 PM on April 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Get back to us when some sort of decision has been rendered by an actual court.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 2:27 PM on April 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


KokuRyu: Political affiliation is a protected class under the Canadian Human Rights Act. Does Colbert/Stewart ever tell jokes about people with different political affiliation?
posted by kevinsp8 at 2:28 PM on April 26, 2011


>While humor and satire are worth defending, an unpopular idea does not necessarily make it humor or satire.

And humor or satire are not the only classes of speech that should be free.

If the speech was truly 'violent and threatening', then it constitutes a criminal assault. The police did not think it did. If anything, she was the more violent, throwing water on him twice, and allegedly telling him she wanted to cut his throat with a broken bottle, and again allegedly getting 'chesty' and saying things like 'come on, you want to go at it, etc.' (based on Earles' interview statements). The concept that he must be punished because it was 'violent threatening' speech isn't convincing. And that isn't the basic of the judge's award: he gave her the award because she was denied services based on her sexual orientation and sex. You seem to be inventing reasons why the judgement is correct that don't accord with what he was 'charged' with.
posted by kevinsp8 at 2:34 PM on April 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


So it is not at all likely a straight couple would receive this protection, even though they have a sexual orientation. Furthermore, only certain characteristics are protected.

This seems in direct contradiction with the judge's own statements in this case: "There is no dispute that, as a woman and a lesbian, Mr. Pardy is within the enumerated grounds in s. 8. I emphasize that this is because the Code protects all persons from discrimination based on sex or sexual orientation: men and heterosexual persons have equal protection from discrimination based on those characteristics." (Page 80 of the ruling)
posted by BigYesh 2 at 2:45 PM on April 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


-he was NOT charged with assault.

-he was NOT charged with hate speech


You're right, he and Zesty's were charged for violating sec 8 of the BC Human Rights Code. That doesn't mean the words and actions he chose are not germane to the ruling. They found that Earle and Zesty's discriminated "against a person or class of persons regarding any accommodation, service or facility customarily available to the public because of the race, colour, ancestry, place of origin, religion, marital status, family status, physical or mental disability, sex, sexual orientation or age of that person or class of persons." It's worth pointing out that the matter is also going to be appealed and hopefully will better define what the BC Human Rights Tribunals can actually do and how sec 8 of the Human Rights Code is applied. $22,500 for "hurt feelings" is pretty steep, regardless of the basis of the offending insults.

I disagree with the Tribunal that a violation of sec 8 really happened here. Based on what I've read, there's a lot of witness testimony suggesting the women did not appear or act as though they felt threatened, and also suggesting that the Pardy and the other women weren't even denied any services based on anything other than getting into a loud argument in a restaurant. The Tribunal seems to feel that because they were merely being loud during the performance rather than heckling that it doesn't mater that Earle asked them to be quiet more than once before he went on his tirade. To me it looks like they were thrown out for drunk and loud behaviour, not their sexual orientation, which isn't controversial at all until Guy Earle started in at them with the slurs.
posted by Hoopo at 3:02 PM on April 26, 2011


That's true, that does seem contradictory with his previous statement that Ms. Pardy was part of a 'protected group'. Because then doesn't pretty much everyone have a gender and a sexual orientation? I think the Tribunals statement here may be unclear; I mentioned where a male before tried to claim discrimination based on his gender, and the courts ruled that it didn't apply because he wasn't part of a group that had been historically disadvantaged. But even if it's true, and if female comics who tell jokes about men (there have been a few, I think?) could be charged with violating the Human Rights Code, that would also be wrong.
posted by kevinsp8 at 3:02 PM on April 26, 2011


My description of the facts did not match the findings of the tribunal. I concede that.

But I think in this case it's pretty critical to get the facts straight. For example, from this link:
"I saw him come down off the stage," Pardy testified. "I put my hand on a glass of water because I knew he was coming to our table, and when he came to the table he put his hands on it and leaned over me. I threw water in his face and said, 'Don't come near our table.' Then he looked at me and screamed in my face 'Why do you have to be such a fucking cunt?"

..."Guy Earle came over to me again and said, 'Why'd you have to ruin the show, you fucking stupid dyke? You fucking bitch.' Then he stands over me right in front of me. I'm frozen. I cannot move at this point. Everyone's watching me, this is centre stage at this point. Guy Earle is standing over me and says, 'You want to be a fucking man don't you?' He reaches over and grabs the glasses off my head, breaks them right in front of my face, cutting his hand in the process and throws them on the floor. At this point I can't hear anything, my ears are ringing, my face is red."
If this reading of events is true (and I grant that we can't really know, in part because the comedian has refused to participate in the hearing), this totally ceases to be about a comedian telling off-color jokes. Placed in the context of physical intimidation, his words take on a completely different valence from someone making a joke about dykes from the safe distance of the stage or screen.
posted by en forme de poire at 3:29 PM on April 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


But en forme, even if he hadn't come up to her, or broke her sunglasses, all the 'judge's' reasoning would still apply. While he may or may not have been physically intimidating, that wasn't necessary for the judge to find he violated the Code.
posted by kevinsp8 at 3:37 PM on April 26, 2011


>$22,500 for "hurt feelings" is pretty steep

This does seem particularly steep for hurt feelings, but the details in the ruling itself seem a little more reasonable: "Dr. Menzies stated his diagnoses: Ms. Pardy suffers from Generalized Anxiety Disorder with Panic Attacks aggravated by the event and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) caused by the event. (emphasis in original)" (page 53 of the ruling). There are additional details in this section of the ruling explaining the effect that this incident had on the defendant, with the conclusion being that "Mr. Earle’s two sets of comments from the stage, his cornering of her and his continued verbal abuse of her by the bar as she returned from the washroom, and his grabbing and breaking of her sunglasses, had a significant and lasting physical and psychological effect on her, as detailed in her evidence and recorded in Dr. Menzies’ report."


> Based on what I've read, there's a lot of witness testimony suggesting the women did not appear or act as though they felt threatened

The Tribunal seems to have looked at a lot of that evidence but found that many of the reports by Earle and Zesty's contradicted each other or were otherwise less than reliable. There are numerous witnesses that, broadly, support the women's depiction of events over Earle's and as such the Tribunal chose to favour that evidence as it seems more reliable. I apologize for not being able to direct you to specific passages, but the ruling is quite long and it is quite late. I would recommend reading through some of the evidence analysis sections.

>weren't even denied any services

Specifically, as far as I can tell, the service they were being denied was being allowed to use the restaurant like any other customer.

>thrown out for drunk and loud behaviour

The people were not thrown out of the restaurant. They left on their own. In fact, when they left the restaurant there was an additional exchange with Earle (page 41 of the ruling).
posted by BigYesh 2 at 3:38 PM on April 26, 2011


The judge implied in two places the award would have been even higher if the Pardy hadn't thrown the water twice.

The judge accepted the medical evidence (her doctor's report), but if the other side had shown up, I expect it would have been challenged. Specifically, PTSD requires witnessing an event with "threat of or actual death or severe injury" (page 50). Maybe the sunglasses have PTSD, but I don't see how she does.
posted by kevinsp8 at 3:51 PM on April 26, 2011


One night I was in a comedy club in New Westminster (near Vancouver), and a blatantly lesbian comedian came on the stage. She was pretty funny at first, but then she started ragging on the guys in the first set of tables, for no apparent reason. They weren't heckling her. Her act moved from genuinely funny to pretty offensive. During this part she started groping her own breasts and asking "What the fuck is interesting about doing this?! Why does it get you assholes off? Why are you dickheads so interested in tits?" (wording not exact, but it was pretty close). Frankly, I was offended...not because what she was doing was wrong, nor that she was causing a serious problem, but because I had paid for comedy not some rant from someone with the intent to take all the fun out of the evening.
posted by swimming naked when the tide goes out at 3:57 PM on April 26, 2011


Specifically, as far as I can tell, the service they were being denied was being allowed to use the restaurant like any other customer...

The people were not thrown out of the restaurant. They left on their own. In fact, when they left the restaurant there was an additional exchange with Earle (page 41 of the ruling)

You're right, but it's not on page 41 I don't think, and Earle was already outside. I used "got thrown out" interchangeably with being made to feel unwelcome, denied the use of the open mic night. My understanding is that the other customers were aware of the open mic night, and were acting as if they were at an open mic night, so the expectation is that "like any other customer" would be watching the performance.

I am in no way excusing Earle. A number of comedians and staff recall them making noise, and Earle obviously thought they were making too much noise. A couple of comedians say there was some heckling. The comedians on stage at the time when they were supposedly being loud do not recall a disturbance at all. This was 3 years ago, there are bound to be some inconsistencies.

Earle was apparently wrong in thinking they were distracting or disrespectful to the comedians, and was very wrong in his verbal assault on them. The situation escalated, neither Earle's insults nor Pardy's throwing water is the way to calm it down. But I just don't see this as Earle denying them use of the restaurant on the sole basis that he doesn't like lesbians, let alone the restaurant itself.


There are numerous witnesses that, broadly, support the women's depiction of events over Earle's


Earle wasn't there, was he? Earle's depiction of events was relayed through Zesty's witnesses...which are picked at to establish the veracity of Pardy's claims but not Zesty's and Earle's...unless I'm missing something.
posted by Hoopo at 5:09 PM on April 26, 2011


I never to get pissed off when somebody who falls in the "contemptible asshole" group gets fucked over by the system and people start reacting like it's a good thing. You've either got principles about this kind of thing or you're just a sports fan cheering for your team.
posted by tehloki at 5:12 PM on April 26, 2011 [5 favorites]


Blergh. You know, I am usually kind of smug about our lack of free speech in Canada. I look at something like the Westboro Baptists and think, "Well thank god we would squelch those bastards in a heartbeat here." But I think a lot of the reason why that works is because we're generally very empathetic to our fellow Canadians and not very litigious -- it could easily be abused, but mostly I see it being used "for good".

Two things about this case make me nervous though. First, the fact that the venue was fined. This sends a message that businesses are responsible for every word that comes out of the mouth of their entertainment. This will result in gun-shy businesses, and kind of covertly puts the onus on venues to censor their talent where I don't think it belongs.

Secondly.. I dunno, I'll admit that this is just me being a fussy Canadian, but did this really have to be taken to tribunal? I mean, dude was clearly being mean (not unsuccessfully funny, just mean), and I have no doubt that the women were justifiably outraged and hurt by his talk. But it sounds like it kind of devolved into both parties being a little childish (throwing water, breaking sunglasses), and I think this could have been solved with a little media attention or word of mouth or some other way than tribunal. I don't like seeing policy or legal decisions being made out of revenge or grudges, and just feel like in a liberal gay-friendly city like Vancouver there must have been a better way to handle this.
posted by jess at 5:27 PM on April 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


>The ruling will only have a chilling effect on homophobes and unfunny comics.

In other words, it's OK if we suppress speech that we don't like? Gays and lesbians are familiar with having their expression stifled quite a bit in the recent past because they were an unpopular group. It’s scary that you think it’s OK that people who are unfunny or anti-gay should be ‘chilled’. Also, presumably, people with political views that are ‘unacceptable’ should be chilled as well. Kind of scary, given how subjective humor is. The truth is, any comedy show I’ve seen contains lots of jokes at the expense of various protected groups, and this ruling has the very real potential to make Canada a ‘comedy-free zone’, or at least a ‘comedy-lite’ zone. Humor and satire has a long history of being a way of expressing unpopular ideas. As the National Post wrote, "No human right is more basic than freedom of expression, not even the ‘right’ to live one's life free from offence by remarks about one's ethnicity, gender, culture or orientation.”


THIS.
Anti-Americanism is not a good reason to defend fascism.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 5:37 PM on April 26, 2011


I don't think it's anti-Americanism, it's anti-American exceptionalism. The United States is not the destination, the best of all possible worlds, or the ultimate possibility of what can be achieved by society. The US is a great country, obviously, but we're fine here in Canada, thanks very much.
posted by KokuRyu at 5:41 PM on April 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


but we're fine here in Canada

I think you mean fined
posted by Hoopo at 5:45 PM on April 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


Anti-Americanism is not a good reason to defend fascism.

Anti-Americanism != fascism.
Americanism is not a good defence against fascism.
posted by Dysk at 5:57 PM on April 26, 2011


Comedians are not to be excused from verbally attacking people. And it is entirely possible to respond and distract from an obnoxious heckler in a way where you aren't continually, persistently and hatefully insulting them. Anybody with a brain in their head would know that throwing out homophobic slurs is PROBABLY a bad way to try and win over an audience member or win over the rest of the audience.

Except this guy.
posted by darlingmagpie at 6:33 PM on April 26, 2011


but we're fine here in Canada, thanks very much.

Yeah.. I mean if this had happened in the US I'd be pissed. It goes against what I think is the general US idea of free speech, most Americans agree you have absolutely no right to not be insulted (not 100% of people agree, but I'd say a very strong majority).

But if Canada wants to go a different way, thats fine with me. If I thought Canada was so far gone I'd be in trouble if I opened my mouth there, I might avoid it. But while I would dislike this decision here, it doesn't make me worry that I'm likely to get arrested or fined in Canada, since I don't insult people like this. I'm not going to worry about what other countries decide on this unless it affects me -- my own country would be a different matter.
posted by wildcrdj at 6:36 PM on April 26, 2011


As far as I can tell, this is all going to go to court again, right, either on appeal or to contest the fine, or the power of the court to levy it? But what it has done is gather witness statements saying that Earle verbally abused these women and later put hands on Pardy, to remove her glasses and break them. The physical aggression and breaking of the performer/audience separation is one way that this is different, as far as I can tell, from Michael Richards, and the lack of video evidence another - without which, and without this hearing and the gathering of witness statements, this would have remained he said/she said.

So, hypothetical. Would the people who think that it is overly harsh to level a fine (which I would agree with pretty much up until he physically approached her and then broke her glasses) be happy if the fine was removed but it was made a matter of official record that he had delivered the homophobic abuse without adequate provocation, physically confronted Pardy, put hands on her person and destroyed her property with the intent to threaten and intimidate her? Or is this one of those "why ruin a man's career because of one mistake" things?
posted by running order squabble fest at 7:11 PM on April 26, 2011


But en forme, even if he hadn't come up to her, or broke her sunglasses, all the 'judge's' reasoning would still apply. While he may or may not have been physically intimidating, that wasn't necessary for the judge to find he violated the Code.

I don't know about "necessary," but it seemed to me from reading the decision that the physical intimidation was actually a major factor in evaluating what impact the event had on the plaintiff (pp. 43, 50), whether she was unfairly singled out (p. 81), and the amount of renumeration (p. 94).
posted by en forme de poire at 7:12 PM on April 26, 2011


So, hypothetical. Would the people who think that it is overly harsh to level a fine (which I would agree with pretty much up until he physically approached her and then broke her glasses) be happy if the fine was removed but it was made a matter of official record that he had delivered the homophobic abuse without adequate provocation, physically confronted Pardy, put hands on her person and destroyed her property with the intent to threaten and intimidate her?

Absolutely. Have him arrested fr assault. Don't fine him (abd the venue!) for saying things you did offensive.
posted by to sir with millipedes at 8:08 PM on April 26, 2011


I never to get pissed off when somebody who falls in the "contemptible asshole" group gets fucked over by the system and people start reacting like it's a good thing. You've either got principles about this kind of thing or you're just a sports fan cheering for your team.

I don't think it's inconsistent for me to be on the one hand seriously concerned about the scope and application of these laws, and on the other hand happy that the gay female plaintiff didn't allow herself to be cowed into submission by some physically aggressive jerk. You're of course welcome to your own conclusions regarding what this says about my principles.
posted by en forme de poire at 8:36 PM on April 26, 2011


I have definitely learned something about Western Canadian laws and mores today.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 9:48 PM on April 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


"That little faggot with the earring and the make-up..."
posted by Jaybo at 9:54 PM on April 26, 2011


I don't think it's anti-Americanism, it's anti-American exceptionalism. The United States is not the destination, the best of all possible worlds, or the ultimate possibility of what can be achieved by society. The US is a great country, obviously, but we're fine here in Canada, thanks very much.

You're fine because you don't have to worry about getting fined or arrested. Unless you say the wrong thing.
Some things America does do the best and one of them is safeguarding free speech. That's a value that should be fought for everywhere.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 10:07 PM on April 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


After thinking about this a lot, I keep coming back to a few issues that seem to be at the heart of the matter to me: 1) How much of a carte blanche should declaring oneself a "comedian" offer? If you step out of your role as an entertainer to engage in a personal diatribe of hate, can you simply say that you are immune to consequences of otherwise illegal/sanctioned actions or speech because anything you say or do is art? If this guy exhibits the same behavior on a bus or in the mall, can he just say that he's practicing guerrilla comedy, so hands off?

If an ordinary customer of the restaurant had repeatedly screamed sexist and homophobic slurs at these women, approached their table, grabbed her sunglasses and broke them... what would have happened to that person?

Was this part of Earle's comedy routine? Or was it him being in a shitty mood, possibly confused about what was happening offstage, and half drunk on vodka (as he mentions in the video)? Was this a comedian's performance meant to entertain the crowd, or was it just an attack by a guy in a bad mood who doesn't like lesbians?

However, 2) I also think that if a heckler inserts himself or herself into an act, this (to me) is essentially a de facto agreement to participate, even if they become a personal target. (Or, likewise, they may become a part of the entertainment as a one-upper, if they are good enough).

Were these women heckling, or were they ordering a round of drinks in a restaurant (where one can reasonably expect to be able to order a round of drinks)? If they actually instigated the incident by heckling first, then they willingly became part of the show by soliciting attention and subsequent interaction.

I also feel that 3) willing patrons of an insult-comedy show/venue sign off on the possibility that they may become personally offended by some material, and that they may become the target of some bit by the comedian. Were these women there as patrons of an insult comedy club, or as customers of the restaurant? Did they go out to see a comedy show, or did they go out to a bar/restaurant to relax?

Finally, 4) if the restaurant is hosting insult comedy as an entertainment venue, then they need to make it clear to their customers that they are attending a show, not hanging out in a restaurant. If the restaurant is operating primarily as a restaurant that also occasionally offers entertainment along with their regular service, then they need to warn the entertainers that at least part of the floor can be expected to an "accidental audience" of normal restaurant customers (who will be entering and exiting at any time, and also ordering and possibly chatting amongst themselves), and outline what sort of material or interaction is acceptable.

These are simply my own thoughts on the matter. I suspect that what happened is that the women were too loud ordering and settling themselves, but weren't necessarily aware because to them they were just transitioning from outside to inside. I think that Earle had some sort of elevated, grandiose idea about what he was doing there, plus personal anger about his own circumstances, plus vodka. (Based on how he attacked them, I can also imagine him feeling entitled to their respect and attention, and becoming enraged because they weren't acting like Good Women and giving it to him. I think he interpreted their noise trying to order, one of them sitting with her back to the stage, and their attention to each other instead of him – the kiss – as a direct insult.)
posted by taz at 1:48 AM on April 27, 2011


Was this a comedian's performance meant to entertain the crowd, or was it just an attack by a guy in a bad mood who doesn't like lesbians?

Given that he continued this behaviour off stage and long past any point when the crowd considered it funny, it would seem to be the latter. This is discussed in the ruling and they make the determination that is was not (page 22).

Were these women heckling, or were they ordering a round of drinks in a restaurant

In the ruling they find that the evidence points to the women being led inside off the patio by staff at the restaurant and that it was a discussion with those staff about drinks that seemed to get Earle's attention. They do not find any convincing evidence that the women were heckling (page 17 of the ruling).

3) willing patrons

The ruling provides evidence that they were not aware that there was a comedy night on. When they were made aware they avoiding becoming involved and stayed outside until they were required to move inside by the bar staff, due to the patio closing (~page 12-15).
posted by BigYesh 2 at 2:03 AM on April 27, 2011


Lovecraft In Brooklyn: Some things America does do the best and one of them is safeguarding free speech. That's a value that should be fought for everywhere.

Laughable. 'Does best' indeed.
posted by Dysk at 2:52 AM on April 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


Stop being an asshole.
posted by to sir with millipedes at 4:46 AM on April 27, 2011


In Lovecraft in Brooklyn's defence, Brother Dysk, he's an American video games enthusiast transplanted to Australia, a country which is currently seizing copies of Mortal Kombat at the border.

taz: After thinking about this a lot, I keep coming back to a few issues that seem to be at the heart of the matter to me: 1) How much of a carte blanche should declaring oneself a "comedian" offer? If you step out of your role as an entertainer to engage in a personal diatribe of hate, can you simply say that you are immune to consequences of otherwise illegal/sanctioned actions or speech because anything you say or do is art? If this guy exhibits the same behavior on a bus or in the mall, can he just say that he's practicing guerrilla comedy, so hands off?

This goes back to my initial question - are comedians a protected class? And do they continue to be a protected class when they leave the stage? When they confront a member of the audience directly at their table? When they do so after the show? When they break their sunglasses as part of a physically threatening confrontation after the show? At what point does this stop being freedom of expression and become something else?
posted by running order squabble fest at 5:34 AM on April 27, 2011 [4 favorites]


running order squabble fest: In Lovecraft in Brooklyn's defence, Brother Dysk, he's an American video games enthusiast transplanted to Australia, a country which is currently seizing copies of Mortal Kombat at the border.

Not only is America not the world, nor is Australia.
posted by Dysk at 11:37 AM on April 27, 2011


No, but if you put them together with Antarctica and North Africa they are a Voltron.
posted by running order squabble fest at 11:50 AM on April 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


Some things America does do the best and one of them is safeguarding free speech. That's a value that should be fought for everywhere.

Well, you don't do so well safeguarding other things, like gay marriage. I guess it's time for an invasion from north of the border, led by an army of Scott Thompson clones.
posted by KokuRyu at 12:33 PM on April 27, 2011


>This goes back to my initial question - are comedians a protected class? And do they continue to be a protected class when they leave the stage? When they confront a member of the audience directly at their table? When they do so after the show? When they break their sunglasses as part of a physically threatening confrontation after the show? At what point does this stop being freedom of expression and become something else?

I don't think they're a protected class. I think words and actions have to be taken in context (e.g. if someone says 'someone put a cock in her mouth and shut her up' and it's in a back alley with 5 leering guys surrounding a trapped woman, that's different than saying it up on stage.)

At some point, yelling insults and breaking sunglasses becomes something else: it becomes assault, a criminal offense. Or disturbing the peace, or disorderly conduct, or hate crime, or a consensual fight, or whatever. We already have criminal laws that cover boorish and/or threatening behavior. Why do we need to have some parallel system that judges whether someone's 'human rights' have been violated in an altercation (a system which seems mainly designed to fetter a very basic human right, freedom of speech)? And this parallel system creates different classes of people, some of whom are protected against offense and some aren't. And it has to hear every complaint, unlike in the criminal system where the police and prosecutors have discretion not to pursue every complaint. And it finds in favor of the complainant 95% of the time. And the complainant's legal fees are paid for but the defendant's aren't. Maybe in theory it's a good idea (e.g. prevent housing discrimination based on racism) but cases like these indicate it's casting a much wider net than it should. This very tacky catfight has probably cost taxpayers a few hundred thousand dollars, with no visible positive effect.
posted by kevinsp8 at 3:29 PM on April 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


And it has to hear every complaint, unlike in the criminal system where the police and prosecutors have discretion not to pursue every complaint. And it finds in favor of the complainant 95% of the time.

Where are you getting this "has to hear every complaint" from?
I mean I suppose it could be true, but unless something has drastically changed in the last 5 years, the numbers from 2006 as mentioned upthread don't seem to support it at all:
In other words, only 9.3% of complaints were ever referred to a tribunal for a hearing: the rest were either rejected at the outset, dismissed along the way, or settled (often for an apology, or for a nuisance amount paid without any admission of any violation of the law).
posted by juv3nal at 4:33 PM on April 27, 2011


In Lovecraft in Brooklyn's defence, Brother Dysk, he's an American video games enthusiast transplanted to Australia, a country which is currently seizing copies of Mortal Kombat at the border.

I love how people keep seizing on the most seemingly trivial of my arguments, as if it changes my point about free speech. Lawsuits like the one against this comedian have a chilling effect. They make people afraid to speak their minds in public or online.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 5:03 PM on April 27, 2011


juv3nal: I missed that link, and I see your point about the imprecision of my statement. A further confusing factor is that that link refers to the Canadian Human Right Tribunal, whereas the one in this case is the British Columbia HRT. It is true that for more trivial offenses, probably an apology, donation etc. will suffice. That's still kind of suppressing speech though, even if the Tribunal didn't have to actually do much. I imagine tons of people 'admit their guilt' rather than pay the high cost of a lawyer to fight before the tribunal, especially seeing that of those cases that do go through a full hearing almost always result in a decision for the complainant, as per that link.
posted by kevinsp8 at 5:08 PM on April 27, 2011


Lawsuits like the one against this comedian have a chilling effect. They make people afraid to speak their minds in public or online.

I'm not a professional comedian but, as a Canadian, I feel neither chilled nor frightened by this lawsuit. Frankly, it might do the States some good if hateful people felt less entitled to their "free speech". I've been to many countries in this world but I have never felt less free to state my opinions than in the U.S. for what that's worth.
posted by stinkycheese at 5:15 PM on April 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


Sounds like your opinions aren't unpopular in Canada, stinkycheese, so you don't have to worry. It gets back to whether you value free speech or not, because if you do, it involves tolerating speech and ideas that you disagree with, rather than having government dictate which ideas are 'correct' and thus 'legal'. It's a pretty fundamental concept for a free, liberal society.

It's easy to characterize it as you're just banning 'hate' but it's not that simple. For instance, let's say country X and country Y are at war. Some people may think X is in the right, others may think Y is in the right. Let's say you think X is in the right. Expressing this opinion may result in you being accusing of 'hate' against Yians. Opinions often involve valuing one thing over another, and it's easy to cast this as 'hate' and thus include it in opinions that should be 'less entitled'.

Out of curiosity, what makes you feel less free to state your opinions in the U.S.? Despite what commentators have said in this thread, I'm not so sure the U.S. is a such a world leader in free speech, but I'm curious as to whether you felt this because of certain laws/police actions or from pressure from those around you, or what.
posted by kevinsp8 at 5:50 PM on April 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


Let's say you think X is in the right. Expressing this opinion may result in you being accusing of 'hate' against Yians.

I probably shouldn't even get into this here, it's subjective and basically conjecture. But, as a matter of course, I feel safer expressing an opinion in Canada than in the U.S. The culture stateside is a far more violent one, and guns are an ever-present threat; you never know when someone might find their reprisal in the form of shooting you. That might sound extreme - but I have family in the U.S. and, believe it or not, historically some of those people shot each other.

Someone pulling a gun on me is something I *never* worry about in Canada, not even in seedy booze cans, low-income neighbourhoods, back alleys, or poorly lit underpasses. I have known a few guys in Canada who owned guns and liked you to know that, but even they didn't carry a gun around on them.

As to your quoted remark -

If I had expressed the opinion that the events of 9-11 might have possibly had some reason for happening (other than crazy people being crazy) in the U.S. in the months following September 2001 - in the places I frequented in that time (pretty normal clubs or restaurants) - there is not a doubt in my mind that I would quickly have met with, at best, a severe public beat down. I have never felt that level of raw anger and seething resentment among normal people anywhere else in my life, and I hope to never again.

I can honestly think of nothing a person could say in Canada overall (as opposed to some smaller part of Canada, ie. ethnic slurs in an ethnic neighbourhood) where the same would be true. So the idea that the U.S. is some bastion of free speech post 9-11 is really ridiculous on its face: you couldn't even discuss how to react to that event with any degree of freedom, let's be honest.
posted by stinkycheese at 8:56 PM on April 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


there is not a doubt in my mind that I would quickly have met with, at best, a severe public beat down. I have never felt that level of raw anger and seething resentment among normal people anywhere else in my life, and I hope to never again...

So the idea that the U.S. is some bastion of free speech post 9-11 is really ridiculous on its face: you couldn't even discuss how to react to that event with any degree of freedom, let's be honest.


The issue, as a 'Murrican, is not "How will my neighbors react to what I say", but "Will the government protect my right to say it".*

If I get a beatdown because of what I say, they go to jail because I have the right to say it. The police are supposed to protect me and, if they can't, pursue them and bring them to justice for breaking the law and (as we view it) violating my First Ammendment** rights (LAWSUIT!).

It's when it's the gummint saying "You can't say/publish that, and you will suffer civil and/or criminal penalties if you do" OR "We don't give a shit that you're getting beat up, your speech is unpopular" that 'Murricans start wailing about "FREE SPEECH".

We don't fear our neighbors trying to shut us up. We fear the gummint trying to shut us up, and determine which speech is allowable. Which is why freedom of speech is culturally framed as a "We must protect even the speech we despise, because gummints change party hands every 4-12 years" way here.

The Bush years were dark, proto-fascist years in general for free speech in America. But they are also generally regarded as such.
---
*Can't yell fire in a crowded theater absent actual belief that there is a fire, can't espouse violent revolution/secession, can't plot to murder someone, etc... These are not covered under "free speech".

**Making such a big deal about reminding people "They put that right up at #1 for a reason" is also part of the'Murrican free speech tradition.

posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 10:33 PM on April 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


...as a 'Murrican...the gummint...'Murricans start wailing...the gummint trying to shut us up....gummints change party

You may have some valid points, but this inexplicable faux-infant/redneck schtick is not helping you get them across.
posted by dersins at 10:41 PM on April 27, 2011


Not actually intended as schtick. 'Murrican and gummint are two words I use every so often. Gummint I picked up from Molly Ivins, 'Murrican from the Steve Guttenberg character's roommate in the first Police Academy movie, when he admits the foreign accent he puts on for the ladies is fake, he's "Just a regular 'Murrican".

It's a fine line between inexplicable and Steve McQueen
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 11:02 PM on April 27, 2011


The issue, as a 'Murrican, is not "How will my neighbors react to what I say", but "Will the government protect my right to say it".*

THIS
I could still be beaten up by some drunken bogan in Australia for, say, singing the Star Spangled Banner loudly when they're trying to sing Advance Australia Fair. Would probably deserve it, too. But random idiots don't have the full force of law behind them.
Of course, there are also laws limiting my ability to protect myself from those who are physically stronger than me, but that's another issue.

I should never be afraid that what I said could get me arrested. That's just insane.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 1:16 AM on April 28, 2011


Lovecraft in Brooklyn: I love how people keep seizing on the most seemingly trivial of my arguments, as if it changes my point about free speech.

Woah, solder - easy there. I think that stopping material at the border as a very bad thing - a far less trivial thing than this, in fact, which is something like a club owner being fined for failing to make sure the fire exit wasn't chained closed - a failure to maintain the premises in a fit state for enjoyment.
posted by running order squabble fest at 1:39 AM on April 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


(Solder? Oy. Never comment after midnight PST...)
posted by running order squabble fest at 1:41 AM on April 28, 2011


kevinsp8: I don't think they're a protected class. I think words and actions have to be taken in context (e.g. if someone says 'someone put a cock in her mouth and shut her up' and it's in a back alley with 5 leering guys surrounding a trapped woman, that's different than saying it up on stage.)

The altercation continued once Earle had left the stage. It's not entirely clear to me whether the comment you reference was made before or after Earle ceased acting as a comedian (left the stage) and assumed the role as fellow patron. What he said from stage, yeah, you may have a point, but as soon as he left it and approached someone's table, he's no longer acting in his capacity as a comedian or entertainer. Anything even vaguely like the line referenced, when not made from a stage, can quite easily be construed as a threat, especially with the right tone of voice.

I do believe that I would be arrested, regardless of whether or not I claim to be comedian, if I called up the White House and threatened to rape and kill the President, even if I later claimed it was a joke. Threats are illegal.
posted by Dysk at 1:49 AM on April 28, 2011


I should never be afraid that what I said could get me arrested. That's just insane.

You know there are limits to speech in the United States, and that you can indeed get arrested for saying certain things, right?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 7:30 AM on April 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


>Threats are illegal.

Only if credible. From the Criminal Code of Canada:

265. (1) A person commits an assault when

[...]

(b) he attempts or threatens, by an act or a gesture, to apply force to another person, if he has, or causes that other person to believe on reasonable grounds that he has, present ability to effect his purpose; or

[emphasis mine]
posted by kevinsp8 at 8:07 AM on April 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Given that this was a heated exchange (glass of water, sunglasses, etc.) it's not unreasonable to think it entirely possible that a strongly implied credible threat was experienced.
posted by Dysk at 8:41 AM on April 28, 2011


Given that this was a heated exchange (glass of water, sunglasses, etc.) it's not unreasonable to think it entirely possible that a strongly implied credible threat was experienced.

The police had the opportunity to concur and declined.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 8:53 AM on April 28, 2011


That's not what an absence of charges means. An absence of charges means that the police do not feel there is evidence to support a conviction. That's not quite the same as saying that it didn't happen.
posted by Dysk at 10:36 AM on April 28, 2011


But that's kind of missing my point... whether or not he committed assault/criminal threats is not what I'm concerned with. Maybe he did, maybe he didn't. My question is, should he be 'convicted' of service denial based on prohibited grounds as defined by the B.C. Human Rights Code, and/or is this code a good idea. Responses that point to what he did as maybe sort of being some kind of assault kind of miss the issue. An assault is not needed for the Tribunal's result. If he maybe did commit an assault but there wasn't enough evidence is a side issue, and a much less interesting one.
posted by kevinsp8 at 10:53 AM on April 28, 2011


Or take this hypothetical. A scientologist goes to a comedy show. The comedian tells all sort of anti-Scientology jokes and when he finds out this audience member is a Scientologist, he hurls all sorts of insults at him and his religion from the stage. The Scientologist's ears start ringing, etc. etc. and leaves all upset and everything. Misses two days of works and can't stop thinking about the incident. Scientologist has been denied service (ability to stay in the bar and hear the show and continue enjoying the bar and food etc.) because of discrimination on a prohibited ground (religion). $22,000?
posted by kevinsp8 at 4:35 PM on April 28, 2011


An assault is not needed for the Tribunal's result. ... If he maybe did commit an assault but there wasn't enough evidence is a side issue, and a much less interesting one.

Yes, it might be less interesting (to you), but in fact it looks like the judge did actually take that aspect of the case heavily into account when rendering the verdict. So if we're trying to figure out what precedent exactly this case sets, I think we should look at all of the evidence that was used to make the decision, because a superficially similar case with subtle differences might yield totally different results. For instance, I think your recasting of the story actually changes it substantially, because it completely elides the physical intimidation (and, incidentally, the implication of sexual violence). These aren't side issues -- in fact I'd argue that they are the most important features of the case.
posted by en forme de poire at 11:35 PM on April 29, 2011


Someone pulling a gun on me is something I *never* worry about in Canada

You obviously do not live in or around Vancouver.
posted by KokuRyu at 11:47 PM on April 29, 2011


You obviously do not live in or around Vancouver.

I worked at Hastings and Carroll for years, and lived on Clarke, then moved to Whalley. Before any of that I worked night security at Terminal and Knight.

In Vancouver I never worried about someone pulling a gun on me, even when walking in east Van at night. I rarely felt concerned about my safety in Whalley either.

Having spent time in L.A. and San Fran, I'd say it's an exponentially different factor of personal safety. I was scared of just about everything in Hollywood at night, but never had the same issues with anywhere in Vancouver.
posted by swimming naked when the tide goes out at 11:22 PM on May 5, 2011


I was scared of just about everything in Hollywood at night

That may say more about you than it does about Hollywood.
posted by dersins at 11:37 PM on May 5, 2011


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