Yesterday, this case looked like a bit of HRT over-reach, with Mr. Earle under the gun merely for telling jokes and making rude remarks. However, having read the decision that has sent this case to the tribunal, I am no longer so sure. It states:
 Ms. Pardy alleges that she was discriminated against in the provision of a service, in breach
of s. 8 of the Human Rights Code, on the basis of her sex and sexual orientation.
 Ms. Pardy alleges discrimination in the provision of services based on the prohibited grounds of sex and sexual orientation.
 Mr. Ismail and his company, Zesty, are public service providers. Mr. Earle, as an employee or agent of Mr. Ismail, or Zesty, was involved in the delivery of the service to Ms. Pardy. These are clearly matters over which the Tribunal has jurisdiction.
And you may ask: so what? Well, firstly, unlike the Steyn case, Pardy vs. Earle is NOT about the mere employment of hateful language. Note that Earle is being charged under Section 8 of the B.C. Human Rights Code, which is entitled "Discrimination in accommodation, service and facility". The language is quite dissimilar to Section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act, which governs hate messages. Now, the B.C. code does indeed have a section 13 doppelganger; it is section 7, which covers "Discriminatory publication ", and indeed that is the section of the code that Steyn allegedly violated.
So what does this difference amount to? Well, I am not a lawyer, but I am going to attempt an explanation anyhow.
Imagine our two lesbians wander into the comedy club, pay their cover and buy their drinks, and find themselves listening to a cheap Andrew Dice Clayton knock-off, who is making crude anti-lesbian jokes to the audience in general. Later they leave, and as they leave one of the comedy club patrons says something nasty. That would be the kind of situation where they might launch a section 7 complaint against the club and comic; they have been exposed to hatred and contempt etc. through the words of the comic. And here we may argue over the free speech implications raised by such a complaint.
On the other hand, imagine the following situation (which I think is closer to the one actually outlined in Pardy v. Earle). Our Lesbians have paid their cover charge (I am assuming Zesty's levied one, though I am not sure of this), paid for their drinks and perhaps food, and then our comedian--an employee or agent of the club--goes off on them personally with an anti-Lesbian tirade, to the point where they can no longer enjoy their beverages (in reality our comedian wound up wearing these beverages). And, in the end our comedian plucks the specs from the nose of one of our lesbians, and breaks them. During all this time, none of the other club patrons were singled out for abuse, nor their eye-glasses smashed. Were the services provided by the comedy club provided to our Lesbians in a discriminatory fashion? That's the question addressed by a section 8 complaint.
Now, there are a lot of caveats here. For one thing, alcohol seems to have played a (somewhat disputed) role in the incident, and there is a kind of comedy club justice where obnoxious hecklers can be subject to a certain amount of abuse. The question to be answered by the tribunal will be: did Earle go too far? (As an interesting aside, the club audience apparently took sides with our two Lesbians and against Earle, walking out on him and booing his tirade).
In any case, the take-away message, I think, is that:
1) The National Post bungled this story by playing up the "hateful remarks" aspect of it at the expense of the "provision of services" aspect, not to mention completely ignoring the physical confrontation that occurred between the comedian and our lesbians. (Imagine you walked into a restaurant, and your waiter abused the hell out of you for being, lets say, Jewish, then busted your specs. A legitimate Human Rights complaint?)
2) WK is wrong about this complaint necessarily being frivolous. And everyone (but me!)is wrong about its being primarily about the limits of free speech.
3) Ezra's post on the matter is another pile of foaming hot spittle.
4) Sorry dude, I changed my mind back.