When is a comic not a comic?Â WhenÂ he takesÂ insults about “dykes” and “c*nts” off stage,Â Â when he twiceÂ marchesÂ over to the table of two lesbians in the audience, when he later grabs the sunglasses off the head of one of the lesbians after insulting her at the bar, when he hollers at the lesbians outside as they leave the restaurant, prompting one of their heterosexual female companions to holler back, “Hate speech is not free speech.” That was the position taken by Devyn Cousineau, lawyer for one of the lesbians, Lorna Pardy, at the BC Human Rights TribunalÂ during closing arguments on Friday, April 9th.
Comic Guy Earle says he was a comic that nightÂ at Zesty’s restaurant as he hurled insultsÂ – he admitsÂ to the insults and to grabbingÂ and breaking the sunglasses — at the lesbians.Â Earle’s lawyer, James Millar, said during a media scrum afterÂ he walked out of the TribunalÂ on the first day, that Earle’s right to freedom of expression as a performer is protected under Canada’s Charter of Rights & Freedoms.Â Millar was clearly exasperated with the Tribunal: “They are saying essentially that artistic expression should follow the same rules as somebody slingin’ hamburgers at Mcdonalds or some other outfit. Or that the same rules that apply to waiters apply to artists in British Columbia.”
Cousineau constantly attempted to demonstrate during closing arguments that Earle’s remarks to the lesbians were not artistic expression. “The attacks were not part of a comedy routine”,Â she said, as she began outlining what she considered the “most salient parts of the facts” of the case.
The Facts as Argued by the Lawyer for Lesbian Lorna Pardy
Pardy and the women sitting with her at Zesty’s that night were, “singled out on the basis of their sex and sexual orientation” and subjected to a “brutal and hateful” attack by Guy Earle at Zesty’s restaurant on May 22, 2007.
Pardy had worked that night until 6:30 p.m. as a meteorological technician at the Vancouver airport and then joined her friends on the patio at Zesty’s restaurant on Commercial Dr.Â She had “no intention of seeing a comedy show.”
The patio closed at 11 p.m. and the women were asked by a waitress to move inside the restaurant. When they got a table inside and were speaking to a waitress, Brandy. As the conversation went “back and forth”, a second waitress joined in. There was testimony, Cousineau said, that the “women were laughing and talking.”
Around this time, “Ms. Broomsgrove leaned over and kissed Ms. Pardy on the cheek.”
“The reliable evidence is that the women were not ‘making out’ as some of the witnesses have suggested.” Cousineau noted that “a third party” at the table, Carlin Sandor, testified that Pardy and Broomsgrove were not making out at her table, and that she would “feel quite uncomfortable with such behaviour.” This evidence that Pardy and Broomsgrove were not making out is important as making out has been “pointed to by respondents as a justification” for Earle’s attack.
The kiss “appears to have drawn Mr. Earle’s attention to the women’s sexual orientation which then became the focus.”
Earle then made a number of comments to the audience:
“Don’t mind the inconsiderate dyke table.”
“Don’t you have a strap-on dildo that you can take your girl home and fuck her in the ass with tonight?”
“Are you on the rag? Is that why you’re such a fucking cunt?”
He continued to call the women “dykes” and “cunts” from the stage.
“No one was laughing”, Cousineau said at this point.Â ”The comedy act had stopped.”
“You ruined it for everyone, you stupid dykes, you stupid c*nts.” The audience was booing Mr. Earle. Ms. Pardy was booing. Nobody from Ms. Pardy’s table was shooting insults back.
“Earle heads off the stage”, Cousineau says.
He heads towards Pardy’s table, with his “eyes locked on her”. She felt “threatened” and “splashed” water on him as he approached.
“Why do you have to be such a f*cking c*nt?”, he asked.
“She was afraid; she was smaller than him….Ms. Sandor also testified that she felt uncomfortable with Mr. Earle angrily marching toward her.”
Some of the witnesses — Cousineau said she was anticipating what Earle would say here — testified that Mr. Earle wasn’t threatening.Â The “only person” who could say whether he was threatening, Cousineau argued,Â ”is Pardy herself”. “The other male comedians were not reliable sources as to the level of fear she was experiencing.”
Mr. Earle got back on stage and again began insulting the women:
“Thanks for ruining the evening you f*cking dykes”…or “c*nts.”
“You want to be a man; that’s why you’re such an @sshole.”
“That table of b!tches threw water in my face.”
Then to Broomsgrove, “You’re a fat and ugly dyke and no man will f*ck you.”
Then he said to Pardy, “Stick a d*ck in her mouth.”
Cousineau noted, “These were not part of a comedy routine and nobody testified that they were.”
EarleÂ didn’t end it there, but continuedÂ ”calling them dykes and c*nts”, Cousineau said.
“Ms. Pardy felt shocked and embarrassed….felt like she’d been assaulted.”
“A few minutes later, again feeling threatened, she threw water at Mr. Earle, saying, ‘I told you not to come near our table.’”
“Her hands are sweating….She’s amazed no one in the restaurant would intervene.”
Earle is “not on stage now.”
Before Pardy, Broomsgrove, and Sandor left the restaurant, Pardy had to go to the washroom. “As she passed Mr. Earle, he called her a ‘f*cking dyke’”…. In the washroom, “She cried….She felt afraid at that point for her physical safety.” When she left the washroom, “She walked past the bar”, where Earle said, “You had to ruin the show, you f*cking dyke, you f*cking bitch’.” …. “He broke her sunglasses….She couldn’t hear anything over the ringing in her ears.”
As the women left the restaurant, “Mr. Earle was still talking to them…..Ms. Sandor said to Mr. Earle, ‘Hate speech isn’t free speech’….Mr. Earle told Zoey Bloomsgrove to fuck off. He began to follow them up the street but it appeared his friends tried to calm him down, so he didn’t.”
At the end ofÂ Cousineau’s outline ofÂ what she presented as the factsÂ of that night,Â she moved into her legal arguments and reiterated her position that Earle was not acting as a comic whose right to freedom of expression was guaranteed by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms: “My understanding is Mr. Earle says he was a comedian and this type of expression is subject to an enhanced protection under the Charter….But we have no evidence to support the argument that all or any of the expression in this case was creative expression as part of his comedy routine.” She went on to say that “the abuse in this case was physical as well as verbal” and therefore not deserving of a “separate status from other harassment cases that the Tribunal hears ….where a landlord harasses his tenant in the way that we’ve heard in this case.”
Non-Lawyer Sam Ismail Responds for the Defense,Â Accusing Lesbian ofÂ beingÂ motivated by “hatred”Â
One of the criticisms of the Human Rights Tribunal is that it stacks the deck by funding a lawyer for the accuser but not for the accused.Â Salam Ismail,Â who along with EarleÂ isÂ accused of discrimination based on “sex and sexual orientation”, despite the fact that all witnessesÂ except PardyÂ corroborate his claim that he was not in the restaurant when the abuse occurred, is represented by his brother, Sam Ismail, a lay person. Salam sat calmly beside Sam asÂ Sam madeÂ little attempt to conceal his outrage, respondingÂ with a shocked expression when CousineauÂ statedÂ during closing arguments that $10,000 in damages would be an appropriate award for Pardy. Â SamÂ looked atÂ Pardy at one pointÂ and accused her of being motivatedÂ by “some kind of hatred, to destroy somebody, him and his business.”Â He added, “This was a huge burden on Salam for years.”
Sam acknowledged that without a law degree, he was no match for Cousineau, saying,Â ”We are here to find facts; it’s not about who is smarter or who can twist an interpretation of the law.”
Sam Ismail asked for an extension for submitting his written argumentsÂ and was granted one byÂ adjudicator Murray Geiger-Adams, who previously said he hasÂ plenty of experienceÂ dealing withÂ defendentsÂ whoÂ appear at the Tribunal without lawyers.Â Â
Sam Ismail did makeÂ few comments in response to Cousineau’s oral arguments.
Sam Ismail objected to theÂ characterization of Pardy as an assault victim when in fact she had thrown water at Earle on two occasions that evening prior to him grabbing her sunglasses.Â “You say she was assaulted and she was insulted as well,” Sam said. “How can that claim really be put forward by a professional person, when he was assaulted?”
“I’m not looking to defend Mr. Earle; they were both wrong”, said Sam Ismail.Â He added thatÂ if Salam Ismail had been in the restaurant at the time, he probably would have kicked both of them out.
Sam Ismail, speaking in broken English, also objected to an emphasis during Cousineau’s closing statement on the fact that Salam Ismail failed to create consequences for Earle after the attack. As Sam put it, “Salam wouldn’t go after the one who assaulted [Earle}. I don't think Salam was obliged to go after that."
Sam IsmailÂ further took exception to Cousineau's presentation of Earle as an employee of Zesty's in his role as MC of the 'open mic' comedy show the night in May 2007 when he insulted the lesbians,Â a status that would makeÂ Zesty's owner Salam Ismail liableÂ forÂ Earle'sÂ behaviour.Â Referring to the fact that the comics were given a $50 beer tab for pitchers of beer in exchange for showing up, Sam Ismail argued in slightly broken English, "Then I guess all the other comedians were employees as well, because that pitchers of beer was distributed among them." He pointed out that Earle and the other comics could not be seen as employees as their relationship with Zesty's was so casual that Salam could not rely on them to show up, "You don't know who your employees are if you don't know who's coming, who's going, who's going to MC the show and who's not." He added, "It makes it very difficult for a business man to run a business when there is not a clear definition of what an employee is." He pointed out that if a definition of employee had been provided in advance, we "would not have to be here". With that commentÂ SamÂ Ismail was on the same page asÂ a real lawyer in this case,Â James MillarÂ who was representing Guy Earle.
Millar hadÂ earlier attempted to put a stop to this Tribunal by going to the BC Supreme Court.Â The Court had in turn asked the TribunalÂ not to proceed with the hearing before reconsidering a few legal questions, 'Was Earle a service-provider at Zesty's?', and 'Could the service-provision section of the Human Rights Code be used to circumvent the Charter of Rights & Freedoms which guaranteed the right to freedom of expression?' The Tribunal ignored the Supreme Court and proceeded with the Tribunal, saying they would answer theÂ questions after the hearing.Â That's the reason Millar walked out and Earle stayed at home in Ontario. "I've practised for 30 years and never been in a situation quite like this," Millar told the Tribunal on that first day. "You can't put these people through it for three years and not even make a decision concerning your own jurisdiction. â€¦ It's an abuse of process." Millar has once againÂ headed back to the Supreme Court, asking that they find the Tribunal in "contempt".
That was one c-word Cousineau avoided mentioning in her closing statement. But she stated that it "should be common ground that the Tribunal doesn't have jurisdiction to consider the Charter." This Tribunal cannot do the analysis, she argued, as to whether Mr. Earle's behaviour under Section 8 of the Human Rights Code is a reasonable limit on the Charter right to freedom of expression.
It simply cannot be the case that all a respondent has to do, she argued, "is raise the Charter and the Tribunal is instantly deprived of jurisdiction". Everyone has access to the Supreme Court, she added. "Mr. Earle could go to the Court and ask that Section 8 of the [Human Rights] Code be declared unconstitutional, but merely citing the Charter cannot in and of itself deprive the Tribunal of jurisdiction.”"
If Ms. Pardy wins”, Cousineau continued, “then that’s the point at which he would argue to the Court that Section 8 [of the Human Rights Code] is unconstitutional.”MacLeans magazine had intended to make just that argument should they have lost when the BC Human Rights Tribunal held a hearing into their publishing of the article, “The Future Belongs to Islam” by Mark Steyn. Cousineau referred to that case in fact: “The Tribunal considered Charter jurisprudence which involved the Macleans article and in that case they did take into account Charter jurisprudence regarding free speech and allowed it to influence their analysis of this case.” Steyn tells it more bluntly:
“Under BC’s shitty “human rights” code, Maclean’s and I were, as a point of law, guilty. So we dared them to convict. And, like all bullies when someone stands up to them, the gutless pussies wimped out. I understand Guy Earle doesn’t have as deep pockets, but he needs a support network that will make the political price too high for Commissar MacNaughton.”
The price would be too high, argued Cousineau, if Earle were allowed toÂ walk away from Pardy’s complaint, as it wouldÂ ”empty the Code of it’s power”.Â Â
Geiger-Adams asked Sam Ismail toÂ consider when preparing his written arguments,Â ”whether Mr. Earle, independent of Mr. Ismail and independent of Zesty’s, was providing a service to the public.”Â Â Perhaps Geiger-Adams is trying to lower the price for Salam Ismail.
janefromvancouver is a contributor to http://www.downtowneastsideenquirer.blogspot.com