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The High Cost of Insulting a Canadian Lesbian

Article by Christian Bonk.
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On April 20th of this year, a group called the BCHRT (British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal, a sort of maple-syrup-flavored version of a Stalinist show-trial committee) fined stand-up comedian Guy Earle $15,000 for offending a lesbian woman, Lorna Pardy, from the stage at an open-mike comedy night back in 2007. The owners of the club which hosted the offending performance were also fined $7,500.

Earle is alleged to have responded to some drunken heckling from Pardy and her Pard-ner with a series of aggressive and apparently homophobic insults. Depending on your taste, the counter-heckling was either: A) abusive and not very funny; or B) abusive and rather amusing, albeit in a none-too-sophisticated, frat-boy sort of way. In any event, it’s apparently now a legal matter in Canada to determine if jokes are amusing or not. And if that sounds to students of Eastern European history like something out of Kafka, Solzhenitsyn, or Kundera, it pretty much is.

“It’s apparently now a legal matter in Canada to determine if jokes are amusing or not.”

If you have a month or two to spare, you can read the 107-page verdict online. In summary:

Earle has been ordered to pay Pardy $15,000 for injury to dignity, feelings, and self-respect.

Zesty and Ismail [club and owner, respectively] have been ordered to pay Pardy $7,500 for injury to dignity, feelings, and self respect.

Under this system the complainant needn’t pay the legal fees for their case, while the respondent pays out of their own pocket. Earle couldn’t afford to fly cross-country to attend his phony-baloney Vancouver show trial (he was living in Toronto) and rather sportingly offered to testify by videoconference. The court rejected his offer.

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