Calgary lawyer and right-wing activist Ezra Levant’s sides aren’t splitting over this week’s B.C. Human Rights Tribunal case involving stand-up comic Guy Earle.
“I do not want to live in a country where there is a ”˜joketester general’, to whom we must all answer for our taste and aesthetic senses,” Levant, author of Shakedown: How Our Government Is Undermining Democracy in the Name of Human Rights (McLelland & Stewart, 2009), told the Straight. “I would like to live in a country where a wide range of humour and comedy and expression is allowed by law, and that any disciplining is done through peer pressure and the free market of ideas, rather than”¦the state.”
However, barbara findlay, a lesbian lawyer, told the Straight that “you can’t hide under the cover of freedom of speech” if you attack a minority whose rights are protected by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Because equality on the basis of sexual orientation was enshrined last, findlay said, some believe “it’s okay” to make homophobic jokes because of charter guarantees around freedom of religion and freedom of speech.
“We the lesbians and gay men get to say, ”˜Wait a minute. How come you get to believe something and your belief restricts my actions?’ We don’t think that’s right,” findlay said.
The four-day hearing was originally scheduled to wrap up today (April 1). But on its opening day, March 29, Earle’s lawyer, James Millar, walked out, citing the charter.
In May 2007, Earle, now based in rural Ontario, volunteered as emcee at the Vancouver eatery Zesty’s Restaurant for an open-mike comedy show. According to tribunal documents, Lorna Pardy alleged she and her partner were subjected to “a tirade of homophobic and sexist comments by Mr. Earle” during the show. Earle has denied discriminating against Purdy.