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Comedian Fined $15,000 For Heckling Lesbian Couple

The British Columbia Human Rights Commission has ordered Canadian comedian Guy Earle to pay a lesbian couple $15,000 for "a tirade of homophobic and sexist comments" made during a stand-up performance in Vancouver in 2007. Guy Earle lost the four-year legal battle which was brought on by Lorna Pardy and her partner.

  The Vancouver Sun reports:

GuyearleEarle had countered that he and others appearing on stage that night had been severely heckled by Pardy and as tempers flared, she threw drinks in his face. He also admitted that at one point, he broke her sunglasses.

In a judgment this week, the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal agreed with Pardy's argument that Earle's comments insulted her dignity, self-respect and feelings. The tribunal ordered Earle to pay her $15,000 and the owner of the restaurant, Salam Ismail, to pay her $7,500. The commission also ordered another $320 be paid to Pardy for lost wages.

"Mr. Earle's treatment of Ms. Pardy was both verbal and physical, and involved both aggressiveness and physical contact," wrote tribunal member Murray Geiger-Adams. "It is important both to Ms. Pardy and to the public to clearly identify that the conduct engaged in by Mr. Earle, in particular, was a breach of Ms. Pardy's human rights under the code.

Earle's attorney has accused the Tribunal of being in contempt and the comedian says that he will not pay the $15,000 fine.

Watch an interview from 2007 wherein Earle tells his side of the story about that night, AFTER THE JUMP.

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Comments

  1. What kind of politically correct BS is this? If she threw a drink at him, then she doesn't really have much "dignity" or "self-respect." And what lost wages? Was she supposed to be at work? How was that the comedian's fault?

    Sorry, you don't get to throw things at people and then cry homophobia. Well, I guess you can in Canada.

    Posted by: Max | Apr 24, 2011 3:41:16 PM


  2. If we start fining comics for being insulting and offensive, where will we get accurate news about the Republicans?

    Seriously… This is beyond grotesque.

    Posted by: Bryan | Apr 24, 2011 3:51:02 PM


  3. I'm no expert on the Canadian legal system, but this seems crazy. First, there's no government action to be protected from here--this is two citizens in a restaurant.

    Second, free speech means free speech for everyone (including, and really especially, for those we find offensive). If we get to invoke principles of free speech to persuade people that queer people should be treated equally, or even just to express our dislike of those that oppose our views, the principle shouldn't change when wielded by people we find offensive. Free speech for me but not for you is not free speech at all.

    If they want to sue each other for assault and personal property damage, have at it. But fining someone for saying something offensive is a pretty dangerous slippery slope.

    Posted by: Steven | Apr 24, 2011 3:56:32 PM


  4. This kind of BS makes me embarassed to be Canadian sometimes. This is just more proof of what a joke the HRC's are. Everyone knows, if you make a scene at a comedy show you're going to get made fun of.

    Posted by: Josh | Apr 24, 2011 3:57:07 PM


  5. @Steven: you don't know the half of it. HRC's aren't a court of law, they're a goverment beuracracy presided over by unelected politicians, none of whom have legal training of any sort. Any real court would have thrown this out in a second.

    Posted by: Josh | Apr 24, 2011 3:59:58 PM


  6. What about her side of the story? It seems like all we're hearing is his version of event, which may or may not be true.

    Posted by: Fern | Apr 24, 2011 4:01:35 PM


  7. INSANE. And Canada has had these extra-judicial [the people on these 'Tribunals' aren't competent jurists and they aren't courts] since 1977. Parliament funds them. This is the kind of poo that gives 'Progressives' a really bad name. I can't comprehend how Canada's judicial system, especially the Supreme Court, allows them.

    Posted by: ratbastard | Apr 24, 2011 4:03:34 PM


  8. Seems a bit ridiculous, if anything he should be fined for not being funny.

    Posted by: patrick nyc | Apr 24, 2011 4:37:09 PM


  9. @ ANDY - correction to your story: this is not a legal battle. This is a Human Rights Commission decision.

    @ BRYAN and STEVEN: This is why I am totally against this decision, and against the Human Rights Commissions in Canada. They are EXTRA-LEGAL. They are not part of the judicial system, they are not subject to its benchmarks (evidence, proof beyond reasonable doubt, etc). They are quasi-governmental, and they DO have the right to fine, etc. They ruin people's lives. There is nothing in these HRC's that can not be dealt with in the criminal justice system. If he threatened her, it should be an assault charge. If he physically attacked her, it's battery. All of this is, and should, remain under civil and criminal law. As a member of a minority whose existence "offends" a large number of the majority, I am extremely against being able to be charged for "offending" someone.

    These Human Rights Commissions should be abolished, they are an embarrassment to us in Canada.

    Posted by: Strepsi | Apr 24, 2011 4:55:40 PM


  10. Before you get too worked up, read the published opinion and read what he actually said and did.

    http://www.bchrt.bc.ca/decisions/2011/pdf/april/101_Pardy_v_Earle_and_others_No_4_2011_BCHRT_101.pdf

    While you're on your Free Speech high horse, consider the American Nanny State rules about swearing and nudity on network TV or the right to free speech at any US airport. Canadian hate speech laws have created a more civil discourse without limiting anyone's right to express a (non-hateful) opinion.

    Posted by: Hue-Man | Apr 24, 2011 5:02:39 PM


  11. @Hue-Man: Strawman. Being American doesn't imply that one supports all US laws; therefore, your attempt to expose inconsistency in the arguments of others is fallacious.

    Moreover, free speech should only be limited by the harm principle. In other words, if the speech doesn't endanger someone's safety (yelling "Bomb!" in an airport) it shouldn't be subject to legal action. Even people with "hateful" opinions (read: unpopular) should have their speech protected. It isn't the role of the government to mediate our "discourse" to ensure that it's "civil."

    Posted by: Thomas | Apr 24, 2011 5:37:57 PM


  12. @HUE-MAN,

    Buddy, you're full of it.

    No, you can't yell fire in a theater [or say I have a bomb in an airport] and not expect consequences.

    The rules on network TV are well known by those who operate and work in front of and behind the cameras. It was designed I suppose to create '...more civil discourse without limiting anyone's right to express a (non-hateful) opinion [or vulgarity some may find 'Hateful']'

    'Canadian hate speech laws have created a more civil discourse without limiting anyone's right to express a (non-hateful) opinion.'...LOL...WHO decides the definition of 'Hateful' and 'Non-Hateful'? On public airways [network TV+terrestrial public radio airways I kinda understand the reasoning, but in comedy clubs?! So-called Human Rights 'Tribunals' are OUTRAGEOUS examples of limited free speech, political correctness gone wild, and the nanny state. But there are so many examples of grotesque nanny state and PC behavior gone wild in Canuckistan, I wouldn't know where to begin.


    Posted by: ratbastard | Apr 24, 2011 7:05:47 PM


  13. I'm not going to suggest that I know anything about Canada's legal system. I would argue that this isn't a case of free speech. It's a misnomer for people to think "oh free speech, I can say anything I want at anytime." This isn't true. If a person makes a verbal attack against your person to defame you it's slander. In this case, or so it appears, he said vicious comments to them in front of a group of people. Furthermore, I would argue, the fact that the intended insults were about being defined as lesbian. To them they identify themselves as lesbians and feel nothing wrong in this identification. To him he does identify the concept as a a lesser and derogatory status. So I would argue he needs to stand by that hate and take responsibilty. Her beers in the face were directly in reaction to his insults.

    Posted by: Tim | Apr 24, 2011 7:42:47 PM


  14. @Tim: A statement must be false to be defined as slander. Saying "All lesbians are pedophiles" would constitute slander because it's untrue, but saying "Lesbians suck" is unfalsifiable and therefore not slander and therefore protected by free speech.

    Posted by: Thomas | Apr 24, 2011 8:23:46 PM


  15. Tim, who decides what is "derogatory"? The Bible? The Pope? The majority? The most oppressed minority? A council of male elders? An unelected Human Rights Commission with no appeals process? You?

    This isn't just a problem in Canada. In the UK, burning a Koran gets you 70 days in jail.

    Posted by: Max | Apr 24, 2011 8:24:13 PM


  16. Free speech doesn't include a lot of things.

    Let's repeat that.

    Free speech doesn't include a lot of things.

    I think it should, but the fact is that it does not. We make exceptions for obscenity, copyright, trademark, libel, slander, verbal abuse, promotion of genocide, and a whole bunch of other things.

    In that environment, I have no problem with this slimeball getting exactly what he deserved.

    Posted by: Randy | Apr 24, 2011 10:15:48 PM


  17. Generally, any statement said in knowing jest or as a function of satire cannot be considered slander, libel or defamation. (Caveats apply for very direct statements that may occur, particularly in jurisdictions outside the US.) Attempts to claim that such humor represents a "hostile environment of hate" would overturn decades of precedent in legal circles. Move such powers over to administrative law, as in Canada, however, and the miracles of politically appointed outcomes can occur. There are various ways that this can crib social discourse over time.

    Posted by: anon | Apr 25, 2011 12:23:07 AM


  18. This kind of BS makes me ashamed to be Canadian and gay. The Human Rights Tribunals were designed to protect us from true hate speech - but cases like this render the HRTs a joke. What is deemed "offensive" is so loosely undefined that it renders the entire exercise moot. When it does go all the way to the Supreme Court, it will undoubtedly get thrown out - and we'll all cry and cry. But we abused the system on stupid cases and rendered the process irrelevant.

    Also - seems to me that alcohol is a big factor in all of this. A drunk lesbian takes on a lousy comic and things get ugly.

    Posted by: drumstick | Apr 25, 2011 1:05:41 AM


  19. As many problems as I have with the US, I never forget to appreciate the depths of our free-speech laws. Most other free countries have free-speech rules, but in many cases they're not part of the Constitution and are much more restricted. You can't make anti-Semetic remarks in Germany and not long ago you couldnt insult the Queen in a British newspaper. The only grounds for curbing speech in this country is safety (personal safety, public safety, national security). Saying something hateful is obnoxious but it shouldnt be a fine-able offense. I hate Christians--should I be fined for saying that in public? Or making if i make a joke about a priest and a teenage boy?

    Posted by: dizzy spins | Apr 25, 2011 1:10:52 AM


  20. You hypocritical assholes were all frothing at the mouth when Kobe called the referee 'faggot'. What if he is one?

    Typing senselessly whilst speaking out of your asses making one rule for one and another for one.

    Take a chill pill, the world hasn't ended and I'm sure the comic appreciates a bunch of gays fighting to support him on a gay blog. Or maybe, he doesnt care and he thinks we're all fags?

    What would he say if he argued with me? Go away you black guy! Yes, I am black. Hmm, yes, he's just been pedantic, not racist. That's right Thomas.

    Ok v

    Posted by: Rowan | Apr 25, 2011 4:59:36 AM


  21. Girls! Girls! The First Amendment doesn't apply in Canada. Duh!

    Attacks on human dignity are simply not tolerated. Clearly, this comedian should have known thew rules and how far he could go.

    Posted by: wimsy | Apr 25, 2011 9:03:35 AM


  22. To dizzy spins

    "The only grounds for curbing speech in this country is safety"?? I wonder how safe the two lesbians felt after being verbally attacked and humiliated in front of a crowded audience because of their sexual preference.

    Furthermore, mocking priests and Christians in public is also a very weak analogy. I hardly consider either a minority who ever have to fear for their personal safety.

    Posted by: Jim | Apr 25, 2011 2:09:58 PM


  23. First of all, freedom of speech does not mean you can say whatever you want. The first amendment was created as a guideline for the government telling them what they CAN'T prosecute you on. It's not a law that allows you to say whatever you want in a public setting. Besides the first amendment is an American law, not a Canadian one.

    If you say bad things to a person, don't expect them to be nice back, and don't expect the law to back you up. He had it coming.

    Posted by: Brandon | Apr 25, 2011 4:07:05 PM


  24. If this were really about heckling, I would have more support for Earle. But by all accounts -- and I mean by literally all the witness accounts that figured in this case -- his story is far from being the definitive version of events. The evidence of other patrons and staff suggests it was more like a tirade of harassment and verbal abuse that HE initiated and continued both on the stage and on the floor. The judge also accepted evidence from a doctor that the target of the abuse had suffered anxiety, panic attacks, etc, as a result of the experience.

    Simply accepting Earle's side of the story at face value yet rejecting the report out of hand is a trick the right-wing media (Sun TV News, etc) are playing in Canada on this one, and it doesn't really do justice to the facts of the case.

    Posted by: David L Rattigan | Apr 25, 2011 4:23:21 PM


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