Comedian's lawyer wants human rights hearing quashed
The Canadian Press
Published Thursday, April 1, 2010 6:53PM PDT
The lawyer for an Ontario comedian is going back to court to quash a B.C. Human Rights Tribunal hearing into the funnyman's anti-lesbian rants, and to hold the tribunal itself in contempt.
The notice of a court challenge on Thursday came the same day one of the women involved issued her first public comments about the case, complaining she has been unfairly targeted by comedian Guy Earle in the media in a case triggered by their confrontation at a 2007 comedy show in Vancouver.
Earle's lawyer filed court notice that he plans to argue the tribunal's hearings are unconstitutional and flout a previous court ruling.
Lawyer James Millar said he filed a two-pronged motion asking the B.C. Supreme Court to find the tribunal in contempt for ignoring the court's September ruling that the human-rights watchdog had to determine jurisdiction before going ahead with the hearing.
He also asked the court to declare the hearing unconstitutional on grounds that the section of the B.C. Human Rights Code being used against Earle conflicts with the Charter of Rights protection of free expression.
"I asked that the proceedings be quashed, this tribunal," Millar said in an interview.
Tribunal adjudicator Murray Geiger-Adams told the hearing this week he would hear all the evidence in the complaint by Lorna Pardy before deciding whether he had jurisdiction to rule on it.
That decision prompted Millar to walk out of the proceeding.
Earle, who lives in Georgetown, Ont., near Toronto, said he couldn't come to the hearing for financial and family reasons. The tribunal turned down his request to testify by phone.
The hearing adjourned Thursday, and Geiger-Adams is scheduled to hear final arguments on the jurisdiction issue next Friday.
Millar said he will not take part.
Pardy was with her then-girlfriend and another woman at a table near the stage at Zesty's restaurant in May 2007 while Earle was acting as volunteer master of ceremonies at an open-mic night for standup comedians.
Earle got into an expletive-laced punchup with Pardy and her girlfriend, which he says was triggered by their heckling.
Pardy contended they were simply trying to sort out their drinks order with two waitresses when Earle launched an unprovoked homophobic tirade.
The exchange went through several rounds, which included Pardy emptying two water glasses in Earle's face and the comic breaking her sunglasses.
Pardy filed complaints against Earle and the owner of the now-defunct Zesty's under a section of the human rights code covering discrimination in provision for service.
Millar argued the section covers things such as being refused goods or services and was never meant to include Earle's rants.
In a ruling last fall, Justice Peter Willock quashed the tribunal's plan for a full hearing and ordered the tribunal to settle the jurisdiction issue first.
But the tribunal elected to proceed with the hearing anyway and deal with jurisdiction as part of it.
Millar said that decision flouts the court's ruling and puts the tribunal in contempt.
Millar said his application will likely not be heard for several weeks, because he is tied up with a murder trial.
In her first public comments since the hearing began, Pardy criticized Earle for recent comments she said minimize the things he said during their confrontation and attempt to paint her as a militant lesbian and a drunken heckler.
"He has assassinated my character and continues to use the media as a platform for his own promotion," she said in a statement released by her lawyer.
"The discriminatory and hate-filled statements made by Mr. Earle to myself and my two female friends were certainly not a part of any comedy routine."
Pardy said Earle has admitted in interviews his sexually explicit barbs were not artistic.
"If this were a Charter of Rights issue pertaining to free speech, Mr. Earle was free to testify under oath along with myself at the British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal where he could have used that forum to exercise his free speech and defend himself."