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.
Kinsella didn't say it was a frivolous case. He said it would be tough to rally to their defence. Which is absolutely true.
This is a gut call. Do I feel sympathy for these lesbos? Yes. Do I believe their human rights were violated? No. Anyone entering a comedy club is potentially "at risk" of being mocked.
Caveat emptor applies here more than anything. And this guy should pay for the glasses.
Can't we all just get along?
so the audience booed him and left? there you go - instant justice by the people, for the people. no need for the state to decide.
in other news,
i'll try this again
"(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?)"
Did you see the Onion video about children being opposed to health care? "When asked whether they were opposed to health care because it represents the slow creeping in of socialized medicine and would they like a lollipop, the children resoundingly said 'yes.'"
The "breaking of the specs" is a matter for a regular old court. You couldn't smash someone's specs, for whatever reason, even before the HRCs existed. The doing it because you're Jewish part may be an aggravating factor, in a regular old court.
To get clearer intuitions, you should ask the first part, and not the second part. Is it okay for me to get yelled at by a waiter because of my Polish background? No. Is it different in a comedy club context? I would think so.
Back in my undergrad days, I went to a comedy club in Kingston. A guest comic was asking people about their background and I told him I was Polish. That turned into a 10-minute "Polish people are dumb" routine.
I don't know the precise details of the "berating" of this case before the HRC, but don't you think that expectations are different in comedy clubs? That difference is, in my mind, a matter of degree, not an absolute difference. I would take issue with a comic whose belittling of my Polish heritage went much beyond a bunch of Polish jokes. But I wouldn't think to take the guy to any sort of court on account of it. I'd just ask the manager not to ask him back, maybe threaten a boycott, request my money back, and so on.
That turned into a 10-minute "Polish people are dumb" routine.
Did it feature jokes involving the complicity of the Polish people in the Jewish genocide?
The point is that there's humour and then there's stuff that just isn't funny and shouldn't be marketed as comedy. Telling lesbians that their use of silicon strap-ons means they're still "cock lovers" isn't all that funny.
The thing that crosses the line for me is the destruction of someone's eye glasses. Is this “violence”? Many will say yes. I feel it is. Words are one thing, actions another.
As how this pertains to the HRC’s I see an opportunity here. Here is an example of just a few of the issues and groups who will become involved.
It’s been a long time since we have had these discussions. It’s certainly far more important than Richard Warman’s hurt feelings. These are real rights being violated, the right to live without violent intimidation, no matter where you’re from or what you believe.
I remember when women’s rights were in the forefront of public discourse. Perhaps it’s time to consider these arguments again. I would suggest we look at the past 40, 50 years and ask what we have learned, what was successful, what has failed and what can we still do.
I am so glad that SOMEONE actually did some reading of the charges.
No, there was no cover charge.
No, the ladies did NOT go to Zesty's to see the show. But when the patio closed, they were taken to the table by the stage by the waitresses.
The transition was too much for the comedian however...he wasn't in a good mood.
For more on that, go to the personal podcast interview of the comedian at
daveandchucksshow.com show #48
I was the only man at the protest he mentions (I'm gratified that he liked my sign!). He didn't take my advice on the sign however.
At least when the Human Rights Tribunal makes its Decision, Lorna's side of the story will be presented in a unbiased format for everyone to make a more informed and balanced judgment.
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