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By Robert Core on Tuesday, August 20th, 2013

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If you’re not filled with a great dread by this, you haven’t been paying attention, and I am afraid I haven’t time to explain to you why this is such a terrible thing right now, but rest assured, this is a terrible fucking thing.

It’s also worth bearing in mind it was a situation like this that did Lenny Bruce in. If history teaches us anything it’s that history teaches us nothing.

From Daily Extra:

The BC Supreme Court has upheld a decision by the BC Human Rights Tribunal which found that Lorna Pardy’s complaint against comedian Guy Earle and the owners of Zesty’s restaurant was justified.

Pardy filed a human rights complaint against Earle and Zesty’s (now known as Zawa’s) in 2007, saying they discriminated against her when Earle shouted homophobic and sexist slurs at her during and after his performance, and broke her sunglasses.In her testimony to the tribunal, Pardy said Earle called her a “fucking dyke” and a “fucking cunt,” suggested she take her girlfriend home and fuck her up the ass with a strap-on, and suggested somebody stick a dick in her mouth to shut her up.Pardy also testified that Zesty’s owner and manager Salam Ismail “did not intervene to prevent the tirade or the harassment from continuing.”

On April 20, 2011 the Tribunal ruled in Pardy’s favour.

Earle and Ismail turned to the BC Supreme Court for judicial review. They argued that Section 8 of the BC Human Rights Code, which prohibits discrimination by any service or facility customarily available to the public, should be declared unconstitutional because it is “impermissibly vague, overbroad and an unjustified infringement of the right to freedom of expression guaranteed to all Canadians.”

“The prohibition has the potential of a chilling effect on free expression,” they told the court.

Earle is disappointed with the BC Supreme Court’s June 19 decision against him and Ismail.

“This is a total breakdown in common sense and makes a mockery out of justice, but what else is new?” he tells Xtra by email. “So the bottom line is that in BC, a comedian must not make a remark that a human rights tribunal member later finds to be discriminatory. It’s unbelievable.”

In his 87-page decision, Justice JS Sigurdson says the limits on freedom of expression in Section 8 are a reasonable limit on free speech and are, therefore, constitutional.

The judge rejected Earle and Ismail’s request for a declaration specifying that Section 8 “was never intended to apply and does not apply to the content of entertainment and the arts, such as the standup comedy performance in the case at issue.”

“I do not think that [Section 8] requires a provision that it does not apply to artistic performances or comedic performances in order for it to be minimally impairing,” Sigurdson writes. “The Tribunal must consider the factual context of a complaint which would include whether the alleged violation of [Section 8] formed part of an artistic performance.”

Sigurdson is satisfied that the Tribunal gave “due weight” to the context in this case. “In the restaurant that night, Mr Earle was an emcee who reacted to the disruption caused by the movement of some patrons, including Ms Pardy, to a new table (by the restaurant management). Ms Pardy and her companions that night were not hecklers. And Mr Earle was not giving a comedy performance when he launched into his tirade of ugly words directed at Ms Pardy.”

Based on the words and conduct of Earle that evening, his right to freedom of expression was “minimally infringed,” Sigurdson rules, and the Tribunal correctly balanced Earle’s right to free speech with the Charter-protected values of equality.

“In the end, this is not a case about the scope of expression in a comedy performance or an artistic performance,” Sigurdson rules. “It is about verbal and physical abuse that amounts to adverse treatment based on sex and sexual orientation.”

Sigurdson illustrates his points, in part, by including some of Earle’s comments from that evening in his decision:

“Do you have a strap-on? You can take your girlfriend home and fuck her in the ass.”
“You’re a fat ugly cunt. No man will fuck you; that’s why you’re a dyke. You fat cunt.”
“Somebody shut her up. Put a cock in her mouth and shut her the fuck up.”

Sigurdson also cites the February 2013 Whatcott decision in noting that the proper application of Section 8 reasonably imposes a “minimal impairment” of freedom of expression. In that decision, the Supreme Court of Canada upheld part of a 2005 Saskatchewan Human Rights Tribunal ruling against Bill Whatcott, a self-described Christian activist who distributed flyers targeting gays and lesbians.

To the extent that it affects expression, it “only does so in connection with discriminatory conduct in the course of providing a service customarily available to the public,” Sigurdson says.

Earle maintains that he did not single out Pardy or her friends because of their sexual orientation. He says he did it “because they were disrupting the show” and describes their behaviour as aggressive, combative and abusive.

“It is gob-smacking stuff – that an artist is not protected during an act,” he writes. “I have been out of work for six years now. My crime was providing a stage for amateur comics and volunteering my evenings for a dead art form.”

Pardy’s lawyer could not be reached for comment before press time.

“I haven’t read the decision yet,” Ismail says. “So I don’t know why they decided that and I’ll talk to you once I’ve read it.”

Here’s Earle’s response from today, via Laughspin.

I am thoroughly disappointed and disturbed by the British Columbia Supreme Court review of the BCHRC process against me. I was very confident that the court of the land had the sense to see the fundamentals of this case but I underestimated the power of bad publicity. I was never drawn into a “he-said-she-said” debate. I believed in the inherent ridiculous nature of this claim to begin with. In fact, I have never offered a true defense of my words or actions because I never thought it necessary, as again, my lawyer and my focus has always been on constitutional issues. We are fighting for artists no matter what I said or am proposed to have said.

Truthfully, my complaint and companions were not “singled out due to their sexuality” nor were they “intimidated”. They were rude and obnoxious and threatened me physically, off stage. Their behaviour was unsocial when I was trying to defuse tension after a debacle of a comedy show; it happens. I never called them the ‘c’ word – my rebuttals were always in the form of jokes – with punchlines and setups; 1,2 and 3.

Now the Supreme Court of British Columbia has decreed that I am a liar. I am currently, six years, virtually unemployable – I am challenged daily to provide for my family. I have been painted a homophobic monster, which I am patently not.

Obviously, we have to fight this – appeal it – whatever it takes. This is a dangerous precedent to set. The bottom line is that any words uttered by a comic on stage can be taken out of context (or even fabricated) and put before an HRC member and if that member finds the material offensive, it will be deemed discriminatory. I have said it before, stand-up comedy is the canary in the coal mine of free speech; when they start locking up the comics, you’re next. Ironically, I am fighting for the very tenants that support the expression of alternative view points and lifestyles.

I played the part of an edgy comedic host to unruly, aggressive, unchecked hecklers. I gave them three warnings and they persisted, at which time, I opened up on them. They were verbally abusive to me, said horrible things about my mother, talked about attacking my neck with a broken beer bottle and made many more crass comments designed to hurt and belittle me. At one point, they followed me out to the road and yelled at me demanding to know what my annual salary was. Apparently, the complainants girlfriend was “more of a man” than me because she earned more money. It was a juvenile, tactless and hateful display of alcohol driven bravado of which I have been six years paying for in reputation. I am a perceived liability.

When I started into them, one of the audience turned to her friend and said, “Ya know, we could take him to the HRC for saying this stuff…” Imagine what kind of response that is going to illicit from a hardcore, socially driven, idealistic comic. Of course, I used this opportunity to try and educate them about the ethics and mechanics of ‘free speech’ at a comedy show, in the style of Lenny Bruce, George Carlin – “no holes barred commentary”. I was out-maneuvered by a wall of pathological ignorance. It can happen to the best of us, admit it. People, who haven’t seen me perform, call me a hack comic – I was upholding the essence of the principles of authentic urban stand-up. In a live setting, my retelling of what I actually said, gets a laugh EVERY time – but not in BC.

In fact, I didn’t discriminate at all. I actually, in jest, accused them of not really being lesbians – I suggested they were “drunk – in college – and experimenting” – same material you would hear at any comedy club. Had this show been in a proper comedy club, instead of a pub, the girls would have been thrown out after the third warning and none of this would have ever happened.

This was conceived as a quick cash grab that has ballooned into a full-on façade. Legal advisors will recommend paying a fast settlement over lengthy court battles but we could not let this transpire based on issues of freedom of speech, especially concerning the speech of a comedian on stage, during a comedy show and especially in response to hecklers. I will continue to fight. I have no choice in the matter; these results are against everything I have worked on and have taken away an artform that I have loved since I was a toddler. I’m grief struck and momentarily at a loss but the war wages on and we won’t lose it, no matter how many battles it takes.

I am unclear, at this stage, what my appeal process will be or what legal representation or tact I will employ. I am open to suggestion and comments of support. Email me at guy@guyearle.ca.

— By Robert Core on Tuesday, August 20th, 2013

By Akira The Don on Saturday, September 11th, 2010

From Bad Science:

This week the pope is in London. You will have your own views on the discrimination against women, the homophobia, and the international criminal conspiracy to cover up for mass child rape. My special interest is his role in the 2 million people who die of Aids each year.

In May 2005, shortly after taking office, the pope made his first pronouncement on Aids, and he took the opportunity to come out against condoms. He was addressing bishops from: South Africa, where somebody dies of Aids every 2 minutes; Botswana, where23.9% of adults between 15 and 49 are HIV positive; Swaziland, where 26.1% of adults have HIV; Namibia (a trifling 15%); and Lesotho, 23%.

This is ongoing. In March 2009, on his flight to Cameroon (where 540,000 people have HIV), Pope Benedict XVI explained that Aids is a tragedy “that cannot be overcome through the distribution of condoms, which even aggravates the problems.” In May 2009, the Congolese Bishops’ Conference made a joyful announcement: “in all truth, the pope’s message which we received with joy has confirmed us in our fight against HIV/AIDS. We say no to condoms!”

This is not a remote problem. The pope’s stance has been supported, in the past year alone, by Cardinal George Pell of Sydney, Australia, and Cardinal Cormac Murphy O’Connor, the Archbishop of Westminster. “It is quite ridiculous to go on about AIDS in Africa and condoms, and the Catholic Church,” says O’Connor. “I talk to priests who say, ‘My diocese is flooded with condoms and there is more AIDS because of them.’”

Some have been more imaginative in their quest to spread the message against condoms. In 2007, Archbishop Francisco Chimoio of Mozambique announced that European condom manufacturers are deliberately infecting condoms with HIV to spread AIDS in Africa. Out of every 8 people in Mozambique, one has HIV.

It was cardinal Alfonso López Trujillo of Colombia who most famously claimed that the HIV virus can pass through tiny holes in the rubber of condoms. Again, he was not alone. ‘The condom is a cork,’ said Bishop Demetrio Fernandez of Spain, ‘and not always effective.’

In 2005 Bishop Elio Sgreccia, president of the Pontifical Academy for Life, explained that scientific research has never proven that condoms ‘immunise against infection’. He’s right, they don’t. They stop the virus which kills you from being transmitted during sex. Which is very, very useful of them.

How effective are condoms? It’s wise not to overstate your case. The current systematic review of the literature on this question published by Cochrane found 14 observational studies (because it’s unethical to do a randomised trial where you actively stop people using condoms, since you know that they work, but just want to find out how well they work).

These studies generally looked at HIV transmission in stable couples where only one partner has HIV. Many of them looked at transfusion patients and haemophiliacs. Overall, rates of HIV infection were 80% lower in the partners who reported always using a condom, compared to those who said they never did. 80% is pretty good. I’d like 100%, for everyone’s sake. I have 80% (although condoms do also protect against cervical cancer, gonorrhea, chlamydia, and more).

In fact, there is no single perfect solution to the problem of Aids: if things were that easy, it wouldn’t be killing 2 million people every year. Telling people to abstain doesn’t make everyone abstain, and telling people to use condoms won’t make everyone instantly and consistently use condoms.

You do everything all at once, urgently, because 2 million people are dying every year. ABC is a widely used prevention acronym in Africa: abstain, be faithful, use a condom. Picking one effective measure out and actively campaigning against it is plainly destructive.

Ratzinger has proclaimed that “The most effective presence on the front in the battle against HIV/AIDS is in fact the Catholic Church and her institutions.” This is a ludicrous claim. They’re the only major influential international political organisation that actively tells people not to do something that works, on a huge scale.  Their own figures show that their numbers are growing in Africa, even faster than the population does.

I don’t mind what anyone believes, I’m happy for you to suggest abstention. But sabotaging an effective intervention which prevents a disease that kills 2 million people a year makes you a serious global public health problem.

07 Thanks For All The AIDS by Akira The Don

— By Akira The Don on Saturday, September 11th, 2010

By Akira The Don on Wednesday, December 3rd, 2008

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From Playlouder:

Jon ‘The Reverend’ McClure has set up a petition over at number10.gov.uk, the official website of the Prime Minister’s Office, protesting the use of Form 696, an ugly piece of paper that basically stops people like Big Narstie putting on gigs.

Mcclure calls the form “racial discrimination”, which it is, since it is used for “risk assessment of gigs”, asking for details of the ethnicity of music fans set to attend events, plus the style of music that will be played. Hence Big Narstie’s raves getting raided and shut down before they open, and that sort of thing.

Even born-again Neo Labour stooge / head of music industry representation umbrella group UK Music Feargal Sharkey doesn’t get down with the thing. he reported the use of the form to the Equality and Human Rights Commission, and has called for a judicial review into its use.

The petition is over at Petitions.number10.gov.uk/scrapthe696.

— By Akira The Don on Wednesday, December 3rd, 2008