Get rid of destructive human rights commissions
On April 21, a verdict came down in a human rights tribunal case dating back to 2007. That was when Guy Earle, a stand-up comic, got into an altercation with a couple who’d dropped in on his open mike night.
Lorna Pardy and her (then) partner exchanged words with Earle while he was onstage. According to Earle, Pardy threw a drink at him. He broke her sunglasses and remarked upon Pardy’s sexual orientation after she and her partner began making out in the front row.
It wasn’t pretty and it sure wasn’t comedy. Sounds like a matter for management, maybe the police. But the British Columbia Human Rights Commission?
Pardy thought so. She complained to the BCHRC about Earle’s “homophobia,” insisting she’d subsequently suffered “post-traumatic stress disorder.”
Now Guy Earle is out $15,000, the club owner another seven grand, and both men have already spent thousands in legal fees.
Pardy? Her legal fees are covered by you, the taxpayer. That’s just one of the quirks that make Canada’s unelected, $200-million a year human rights ideological complex a blot on our international reputation.
Steyn: NO LAUGHING MATTER
This is an assault on one of the most basic principles of justice - equality before the law. Instead, one citizen has different rights than another according to which preferred identity groups he (or more often she) falls into. In his newspaper column, my friend Ezra Levant wonders if, under the Geiger-Adams Comedy Regime, it's okay for Chris Rock and Eddie Murphy to use racist words for which pastier types would be prosecuted. But this isn't even a hypothetical fancy: This very month at the University of Connecticut, an anthropology professor teaching a class on the cultural significance of "the N-word" showed clips of Chris Rock and Richard Pryor using "the N-word". Shortly thereafter the professor was reported for, er, using "the N-word". The prof is white. The student who reported him is the "Multicultural and Diversity Senator" on the student council, a member of the Black Students' Association and an activist who wants to "instigate unity on campus". And let's face it, the easiest way to "unity" is to "instigate" it, isn't it? So the hapless professor is now being forced to take "diversity training", because nothing says "diversity" like mandatory "unity". And to think American students have run up a trillion dollars in college debt for the privilege of being "taught" by the kind of pansies who agree to submit to "diversity training" for commiting the crime of using "the N-word" in a class about the cultural significance of "the N-word".
The great strength of Common Law is its antipathy to "collective rights" - because the ultimate minority is the individual. If you elevate group rights over individual liberty, you're mainly empowering not "minorities" but the state, which becomes the sole legitimate arbiter of relations between various groups. And empowering the state means empowering the likes of Commissar Geiger-Adams to preside over four-year investigations into the precise degree of smooching between two patrons of a late-night comedy club. That's why group rights are "the key Nanny State concept". What we are witnessing, from the comedy clubs of Vancouver to the groves of academe in Connecticut, is not just the collapse of liberty but the death of the human spirit. There is something deeply sick about the willingness of freeborn citizens to submit to statist enforcers like Geiger-Adams.
Nanny-state interference now extends to stand-up comedy
Question: How do you turn a nasty confrontation between a stand-up comic and a heckler — something, I would guess, that has happened more than a few times before, without state interference — into an international embarrassment?
Simple. Get one of Canada’s government-backed busybodies — a.k.a. human rights bodies — involved.
Stand-up comedy shows are notoriously raw and edgy. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea. But do we really need the government’s do-gooders policing the scene?
If this was worth $22,500, I won’t be surprised if people with very thin skins are soon out trolling comedy clubs looking to get, you know, offended.
The overreaching of Canada’s human rights commissions and tribunals into matters of free speech, as regular readers know, has been a problem for many, many years. But most politicians have lacked the fortitude to tackle the problem.
Instead, they’ve mouthed their dismay but, for the most part, left it to the courts to slap down the most outrageous decisions of these powerful quasi-judicial bodies.
The complainant’s case is argued on their behalf by the state, at taxpayers’ expense. The accused, meanwhile, must pay for their own defence.
In this case, Earle, who readily admits he’s not a man of great means, asked if he could testify electronically — it being 2010, video conferencing was well beyond the experimental stage — rather than have to fly back to Vancouver and pay for lodgings. The tribunal said no. Its ruling, however, noted only that oral submissions were heard from "all parties who chose to participate."
The tribunal deserves all the scorn now being heaped upon it.
Canada's kangaroo courts strike a rocky mountain low
But because Earle made a dyke joke, he was found by the government of B.C. to have been a law-breaker. That’s why he has to pay Pardy 15 grand.
And the bar owner has to pay her $7,500, too. His name is Sam Ismail, a refugee from Iraq. He’s actually a booster of gay rights. The bar’s clientele was 60% gay, and he hosted a weekly lesbian comedy night. But he’s being punished because one of his comedians said something that he didn’t censor.
So what’s the rule now? If Guy Earle can’t call someone a dyke, even if they’re necking with their girlfriend at a comedy club, can a lesbian comedian say that? Is there a special rule that you can be offensive, if you’re part of the offended group?
If you took the n-word out of Chris Rock or Eddie Murphy’s stand-up routine, there really isn’t a lot left. Is it OK if minorities say racist words, but not whites?
How would that rule apply to Barack Obama, who is half black and half white? Could he only tell PG-rated jokes?
Let’s accept that Earle was rude. So what’s that got to do with the government? Do we now have official joke-testers?
Does Commissar Geiger-Adam, the chief kangaroo, have some special, official sense of humour? So if he laughs, it’s legal, but if he doesn’t, it’s not?
Should we have a 1-800 number that comedians can call to be directly connected to a government agency that will give them a quick answer on whether or not a particular joke is OK?
Guy Earle told some bad jokes. But the biggest joke of all is the B.C. human rights tribunal — and our freedom is the punchline.