Lorna Pardy ended up hurting herself when she laid a human rights complaint against comedian Guy Earle for discriminating against her as a lesbian and a woman. That was obvious this week at the BC Human Rights Tribunal where witnesses were calmly asked, “Did you hear Mr. Earle say, ‘Don’t you have a strap-on dildo so you can take your girlfriend home and f_ck her in the @ss, so you can be a man….You’re fat and ugly and that’s why you’re a dyke ’cause no man would want to f_ck you.’ “
Earle, who has a day job as a physicist, admitted in an interview posted on YouTube that he had hurled these and other insults at Pardy (pictured above) and her galpals while in the role of MCÂ of an ‘open mic’ comedy night on May 2007 at Zesty’s restaurant — the owner has since changed the name to Zawa’s — on Vancouver’s lesbian-friendly Commercial Drive. But Earle says, Â “It’s not illegal to be an asshole.”
With that attitude, Earle is in sync with Canadians accusing Human Rights Tribunals and Commissions of acting as Speech Police,Â weakeningÂ the real human right of freedom of speechÂ by upholding theÂ bogus human right to not be offended.Â Human Rights bodies have attracted negative publicity in recent years by working with offended Muslims to targetÂ writers and publishers such as Ezra Levant, Mark Steyn and MacLean’s magazine.Â It was in the midst of this turbulence that Pardy would find herself when she lodged a complaint against Earle, Zesty’s restaurant, and Zesty’s owner Salam Ishmail, claiming that they had violated the Human Rights Code by discriminating based on “sex and sexual orientation.”
Pardy, a 32 year old meteorological technician at Vancouver Airport, testified on Monday, “For two and a half years solid, it was pretty rocky for me. The life I had before this was destroyed….”Â
An article entitled, “Lesbian Targeted at Zesty’s” in XtraWest, a Vancouver newspaper catering to gays and lesbians, was the first publicity Pardy saw on the case. “How did that make you feel?”, asked Pardy’s lawyer, Devyn Cousineau, the one with the calm voice. “Terrible”, Pardy said. “I felt they’d portrayed me in such a negative light.”Â
“This is going to take a year, [with questions like] “How do you feel?, ‘How did you react?”, interjected Sam Ishmail, who is not a lawyer but is representing his brother Salam Ishmail, who could be ordered to pay $20,000 to Pardy if found responsible for discrimination in his restaurant.Â He can’t afford a lawyer for the Human Rights Tribunal which pays the legal fees of only the accuser.Â Cousineau responded that questions about feelings were justified on the basis that the “impact on [Pardy] was exacerbated by comments that were made to the media by [Earle]”.
More upsetting to Pardy than the XtraWest article was a video posted on YouTube that a friend phoned in February 2008 to bring to her attention. It was a raunchy interview recorded with Earle in Toronto in 2007 in response to Pardy’s human rights complaint, an interview in which Earle repeated the ‘dyke’ insults he had hurled at the women at Zesty’s. But he insisted he did not hate lesbians, just hecklers. The women had heckled him, he alleged, after he objected to them talking loudly and kissing, “tongue and tonsilÂ wrestling”, in front of the stage.
Pardy watched the video and recalled being “sick to my stomach”, starting “to shake”, “to sweat”. “My ears rang; I couldn’t sleep. I’d been up so long I vomited the next day.” “I didn’t sleep for two, three days after that.” She kept replaying the video over and over in her head; she couldn’t believe how he had portrayed her. “It devastated me actually.”
It would get worse. A friend called Pardy atÂ one o’clock in the morning in June 2008 to tell her that this case was now all over the internet. There was a surge in publicity after the BC Human Rights Tribunal announced on their website that they would not dismiss Pardy’s complaint, even though the B.C. Supreme Court had asked the Tribunal to “reconsider” their jurisdiction as the Charter of Rights & Freedoms guarantees the right to freedom of expression. Pardy found herself pouring over media articles with titles such as: “Guy Earle: Human Wrong”, “Canada Charges Comedian for Not being Funny”. . . .
Pardy recalled feeling “lower and lower”, as she read through the articles. “He was really stacking the deck against me publicly,” she said, adding, “I felt devastated by all this coverage….I didn’t want to be part of that public split screen and still don’t.” At the hearing, she refused to speak to reporters and ducked into the elevator with three young women who arrived daily to support her, one of them being her current partner.
Every time Pardy saw news coverage, she testified, her reaction was the same: shaking, sweating. She wanted to “isolate myself and hide.” She became much less social. “Home felt like the safest place for me to be.” She didn’t want to be around her usual crowd, “didn’t want to be around the the people on the Drive”. People would want to talk about the case with her and that would trigger uncomfortable memories: “And then I would remember, ‘And oh yeah, and then he said this’. It was pieces of what he had said, how humiliated I felt in front of everybody….” But seeking a remedy for that humiliation at the Human Rights Tribunal, involved humiliating herself further.
Here she was at the Tribunal, allowing the most private, embarrassing, details of her life to be exposed to the public. Media and members of the public packed into the hearing room soon learned that she had suffered, in her pre-Guy Earle life, from an “anxiety disorder”. She’d had panic attacks and heart palpitations which were helped with counselling and medication. The source of much of the anxiety was her parents’ divorce. The palpitations ceased when her parents assured her they were were glad to see the back of each another, “happier apart.” She stablized, no longer needing medication — she said she’s the type whoÂ doesn’t even like to take aspirin — and had not had a panic attack in three or four months. Then they came back. They came with Guy Earle.
Scribbling reporters and members of the public were treated to a report submitted by her physician, Dr. Robert Mendes, who wrote that as a result of the Guy Earle incident, she was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. She talked about this condition and how it had affected her work life. “I watch the weather”, and when there was nothing to do during her 12-hour shifts, she would find herself ruminating about the Guy Earle situation. Even when she was actively working, “it broke my concentration on many occasions.”
There were times when Pardy could not even make it to work.Â “After reading certain things, seeing Mr. Earle’s YouTube video, I had to take time off work.” Once she called in at 5:30 a.m. to ask somebody else to take her shift which began in an hour, at 6:30 a.m. The boss told her that she “could be fired” for this conduct. “I’d been up all night; I was exhausted.” She had recurring post Guy Earle nightmares too. “I could have them two, three times a week; sometimes it would be eight, ten days before I had a nightmare.” She had not had nightmares previously.
Pardy’s current partner, Eda Ertan, confirmed that the Zesty’s incident and subsequent media coverage had changed the formerly “fun” Pardy. Speaking with an accent, Ertan, a tall young woman with long wavy brown hair and pencil thin legs in tight jeans, testified aboutÂ Pardy’sÂ ordeal. Â “She said, ‘This is so scary’.Â And she hated to see her name in the news because they portrayed all the details about her so negatively.Â And I knew she wasn’t that person that they created.”Â When the two became partners,Â Ertan noticed that Pardy “never had a good sleep”, sometimes she would “wake up in the middle of the night and ask if somebody’s here, if somebody’s following her.”Â Â Ertan, who invited Pardy to live with her to prevent her from isolating, testifed, “We worked on it so hard so she can sit down in this room today.”Â Â She saidÂ Pardy’s relationship with her previous girlfriend, Zoey,Â had broken up over the Guy Earle drama.
Zoey was conspicuously absent from the Tribunal,Â although sheÂ was a key witnesses to the events at Zesty’s.Â It was Zoey who had been the target of Earle’s ‘fat and ugly dyke’ insult, according to Pardy, who is thin. And it was Zoey who had kissed Pardy that night in front of the stage, “tongue and tonsil wrestling” if you believe Earle and three heterosexual male comics; a “peck on the cheek” if you believe Carlin Sandor, a heterosexual female friend of Zoey’s who had been sitting at the table. Pardy estimated that her relationshp with Zoey ended 10 or 11 months later. The incident with Guy Earle, “took our relationship to a low point”, she said. “All of our power had been taken from each of us in front of each other.”
Pardy had never acted completely powerless though, not during the incident, not after the incident. She had splashed a glass of water in Earle’s face on two separate occasions when he approached the lesbians’ table, after insulting them from the stage. That was before he ripped the sunglasses off her head and broke them, throwing them to the floor at her feet. These are facts: Pardy, Earle, and witness after witness have confirmed them.
When Earle attempted to shame the women whose conduct he believed wasÂ a distractionÂ from the show — “Oh everyone, don’t mind that inconsiderate table of dykes over there” — Pardy wasn’t passive, according to a parade of young comics called by the defense to testify.Â Nick Roy said “there were verbal insults going back and forth”.Â Â Mike Wolfe said Pardy along with her galpals did shoot back with booing and insults, although not until they were provoked by Earle’s “harsh” language — “Stick a c*ck in your @ss and shove it in your mouth”, was oneÂ ofÂ Earle’sÂ insults whichÂ Wolfe said he remembered “verbatim”.Â “WhenÂ he started getting nasty, that’s when they started heckling back.”Â Jeremy Miedzski,Â another young comic, said, “He was yelling but they were yelling back”; they were “sharing insults”,Â a woman at oneÂ point telling Earle that his mother should have aborted him.Â Â Â Â
Sandor testified that no such insults had come from their table, just “some booing” after Earle had insulted her lesbian pals. But she portrayed Pardy as anything but passive during an encounter with Earle at the bar — Pardy says at that point,Â he “was asking me if I wanted to be a man” — just before he ripped the sunglasses off her head. “They were pointing in each others faces,” Sandor testified. “They were standing close together, they were very angry, both of them.”Â
The next day, Pardy also found the power to confront Ishmail at Zesty’s about the incident, aÂ hidden tape recorder in tow.
Then Pardy called police but when asked by the female police officer if she wanted her to speak to Ishmail, she told her to skip it. She testified that she did not believe that would get the “results” she wanted. Instead, she got a lawyer and eventually lodged a complaint with the Human Rights Tribunal.
In the years since the encounter with Earle at Zesty’s, Pardy has found herself at times in “a daze” in which she would remember “him saying these things, see him advancing on me physically.” “I felt like nobody would listen and understand it.” Monday was her day. Her side of the story was heard and transcribed. Earle was not in the room, having stayed in Ontario where he lives.
Earle was apparently aware that his lawyer, James Millar, was planning to walk out of the hearing to protest the decision by Tribunal adjudicator, Murray Geiger-Adams, to listen to Pardy and every other witness before deciding whether the Tribunal had jurisdiction to hear the case. “It would be negligent on my part to consent to what is an illegal hearing,” Millar said, as he prepared to exit. MillarÂ who was furious is headingÂ back to the BCÂ Supreme Court to ask for a judicial review.
Geiger-Adams and his Tribunal staff may find themselves parroting a Pardy line: “All of our power had been taken from each of us in front of each other.”
janefromvancouver is a contributor to the Downtown Eastside EnquirerÂ