Friday, April 30, 2010

Brenda Prosken: Donating Money to Human Rights Abusers she is supposed to be Supervising

I was at the Vancouver Public Library central branch and there was a gigantic tourquoise banner hanging in the window. You couldn't miss it as you walked in. Brenda Prosken's name was on it along with other top financial donors to the library.

Prosken is giving money to the Vancouver Public Library while allowing VPL abuses to continue at Carnegie, under her supervision. She supervises Carnegie in her role as Deputy General Manager of Community Services; people who complain about Carnegie abuses to City Mgr. Penny Ballem are given Prosken's card. Prosken collects a six figure pay cheque from taxpayers while apparently doing nothing about the fact that the VPL directly participates in or colludes with rampant human rights abuses at Carnegie, allowing people to be barred from VPL computers or from the entire VPL branch inside Carnegie for merely speaking up...or even for getting elected to the Board.

It works like this: Say a staff person on the second or third floor, or in the basement Seniors Lounge at Carnegie doesn't have the communication skills to deal with a member and instead calls security to bully them -- a regular scenario -- the member is likely to be barred from public-access VPL computers throughout the building as punishment. The member may even be barred from the entire Carnegie building -- common if they know their rights and assert them -- punishment which automatically includes being barred from the VPL branch on the first floor.

The barring from the VPL is not always instigated by staff working in areas of Carnegie Centre external to the library though. Some library staff are prone to calling security on members rather than develop communication skills to deal with issues that come up, and the targeted member more often than not gets barred from the library, sometimes from the entire Carnegie Centre.

One thing that can usually be predicted is that the perspective of the accused is not heard, not represented in the Incident Report, and if they want to appeal the barring, it can take up to a month to get a copy of the Incident Report.

How can Prosken properly supervise Carnegie where many of the services are provided by the VPL, when she is a celebrated VPL donors? She's not going to want to displease people who hang her name in their window. In fact, she may have hired some of the VPL staff who prefer bullying over communication. When she first arrived in Vancouver from Winnipeg, she ran the VPL Human Resources Department.

Since Prosken got her new job at City Hall last year, there has been no sign of life from her. At least Carnegie members haven't seen any.

This week I dropped in to use a computer in the Seniors Lounge and all three were out of order. The coffee seller, Devor, told me that they had broken down one after another and nobody had bothered to fix them. There has been a noise issue with those computers in the Lounge, with computer-users complaining that the noise from the television is deafening (the coffee seller who runs the lounge is hearing impaired). Carnegie has never been able to deal with the conflict that arises from the noise and people who make an issue of it have been known to be barred from using those VPL computers. Now the solution seems to be to allow the VPL computers in the Lounge to die.

Maybe it's no coincidence that along with Carnegie, Prosken has also been assigned the job of supervising Mountainview Cemetery.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

UBC Learning Exchange Cleans Up

Photo: George, who the Learning Exchange forces to stand outside on the sidewalk.

Computer aid or Molly maid?

Have you ever read one of the media interviews granted by UBC Learning Exchange Director Margo Fryer, assuring funders and taxpayers that the Exchange is helping Downtown Eatsiders. In a Globe & Mail interview, Fryer said she learned so much from "troubled" people and that there is really little difference between the homeless and the rest of us, other than a bed. Well, there is only one troubled person who goes to the Learning Exchange and that is homeless George Cartier with his shopping cart. They make him stand out front on the sidewalk. Priceless.

But other Downtown Eastsiders are spending more time out front on the sidewalk too. They have been locked out every Monday since March 8th, under the pretense that Co-ordinator Dionne Pilan had to write two grant applications. Those grant apps are taking a looooooong time.

But after Pilan spends a day without Downtown Eastsiders, it must be tempting to take another. She put a poster on the door, "Closed Tues. April 20 for Spring Cleaning". That meant staff were getting essentially a four day weekend, time when they didn't have to work with the clientele they are funded to work with.

When Pilan and Fryer decided to lock Downtown Eastsiders out last Tuesday, they didn't choose just any Tuesday. They chose the busiest day of the month, the Tuesday before welfare cheque Wednesday, when it is common for people to be broke and eager to occupy themselves working on computers. The Learning Exchange opened again on Welfare Wednesday, the slowest day of the month, the day when most people have shopping to get done and errands to run.

UBC has 17 staff persons working for the Learning Exchange, many of them fundraising. Because every day, the Learning Exchange is cleaning up.


In February, I was walking out of Nester's Market in the Woodwards building and saw a fire across the street. It was apparently a simulated fire in the Simon Fraser University art studio
New SFU studios will be opening in the Woodwards building.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Get a Cash Advance on Your Welfare Cheque

A woman on the Downtown Eastside -- actually she is a "trans" something or other, a man dressed as a woman -- told me that at Pigeon Park Savings people can get a cash advance on their welfare cheque. On the Tuesday before welfare Wednesday, you can get a $20 advance. But you have to be an established customer in good standing, she said.

Another Downtown Eastsider who lives at the Cobalt Hotel has since confirmed the existance of the $20 cash advance. He said his friend gets it every month.

Pigeon Park Savings is operated by VanCity at Hastings and Columbia on the Downtown Eastside. I guess they know their customer base and they're meeting their needs.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Kim Kerr's Defense: BC Housing Didn't Give DERA Enough Money

The Statement of Defence was filed on Thursday in the BC Housing v. DERA Housing case. Thanks to a reader who sent us this update:

"Cameron Ward (lawyer) is pleading if Kim Kerr was corrupt (that is, not doing what he should ) then it was because BC Housing did not give him enough money to do his job so he had to cook the books. The DTES housing providers are going to love this as all they do is complain about lack of funding and Kim is going to become their champion. Commit fraud and become the poster child of the DTES."

Human Rights Trial Wrap-Up: When is a Comic Not a Comic?

Photo: Painting behind chair in which adjudicator Murray Geiger-Adams sat at BC Human Rights Tribunal while hearing lesbian's complaint against comic

When is a comic not a comic? When he takes insults about "dykes" and "c*nts" off stage, when he twice marches 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 Tribunal during closing arguments on Friday, April 9th.

Comic Guy Earle says he was a comic that night at Zesty’s restaurant as he hurled insults – he admits to the insults and to grabbing and breaking the sunglasses — at the lesbians. Earle’s lawyer, James Millar, said during a media scrum after he walked out of the Tribunal on the first day, that Earle’s right to freedom of expression as a performer is protected under Canada’s Charter of Rights & Freedoms. 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", 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. 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. "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. The "only person" who could say whether he was threatening, Cousineau argued, "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."

Earle didn’t end it there, but continued "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 of Cousineau’s outline of what she presented as the fact of that night, Cousineau 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, Accusing Lesbian of being motivated by "hatred".

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. Salam Ismail, who along with Earle is accused of discrimination based on "sex and sexual orientation", despite the fact that all witnesses except Pardy 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 as Sam made little attempt to conceal his outrage, responding with a shocked expression when Cousineau stated during closing arguments that $10,000 in damages would be an appropriate award for Pardy. Sam looked at Pardy at one point and accused her of being motivated by "some kind of hatred, to destroy somebody, him and his business." "This was a huge burden on Salam for years", he added.

Sam acknowledged that without a law degree, he was no match for Cousineau, saying, "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 arguments and was granted one by adjudicator Murray Geiger-Adams, who previously said he has plenty of experience dealing with defendents who appear at the Tribunal without lawyers.
Sam Ismail did make few comments in response to Cousineau’s oral arguments.

Sam Ismail objected to the 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. "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. He added that 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 Ismail 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, a status that would make Zesty’s owner Salam Ismail liable for Earle’s behaviour. 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 comment Sam Ismail was on the same page as a real lawyer in this case, James Millar who was representing Guy Earle.

Millar had earlier attempted to put a stop to this Tribunal by going to the BC Supreme Court. The Court had in turn asked the Tribunal 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 the questions after the hearing. 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. … It’s an abuse of process." Millar has once again 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 [Heather] MacNaughton."

The price would be too high, argued Cousineau, if Earle were allowed to walk away from Pardy’s complaint, as it would "empty the Code of it’s power".

Geiger-Adams asked Sam Ismail to consider when preparing his written arguments, "whether Mr. Earle, independent of Mr. Ismail and independent of Zesty’s, was providing a service to the public." Perhaps Geiger-Adams is trying to lower the price for Salam Ismail.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Ujal Dosanjh: Proud Man or Con Man

Photo: Suzanne Dahlin, 2007

I heard Ujal Dosanjh interviewed on CKNW radio yesterday morning about today's Vaisakhi parade in Surrey, the one he was advised not to show up at as his safety couldn't be guaranteed.

Dosanjh was giddy during the interview; he giggled several times -- odd, since the topic was violence -- and at other times he was busy portraying himself as an upright man. The interviewer never once giggled.

I laughed out loud when Dosanjh told the interviewer: "I'm a very proud man." That's funny, the evidence points more toward him being a con man.

I used to live with a woman who did some work at Battered Women's Support Services in Vancouver when Dosanjh was BC Attorney General. Dosanjh was hardly an upright guy; he had a 'You scratch my back and I'll scratch yours' relationship to BWSS. He funded BWSS and they gave him an election endorsement to their entire newsletter mailing list. I doubt that he included that endorsement in his election campaign costs. While he was funding BWSS, the top dyke there -- the one who put out their newsletter -- discussed in the newsletter how she had been sent to a conference in Texas where she sat in a hot tub.

But here's why I would never vote for Dosanjh.

While Dosanjh was throwing money at BWSS, there was evidence that men were being fast-tracked to "batterer" status there. Here's just one example: A guy's common law wife told him she was leaving him so he stopped buying her monthly carton of cigarrettes, which earned him the label "economic batterer" at BWSS, a label eventually abbreviated to "batterer". Even the common law wife in that case apparently questioned whether he was a batterer and said her psychiatrist, whom she was seeing for agoraphobia, told her she wasn't a battered woman. But the label "batterer" was used liberally at BWSS. If a man called to challenge these labels, he was at high risk of being labelled a "harasser" -- a catch-all label that they reportedly used relentlessly.

This labeling mattered because BWSS had an office at the court house and they threw their weight around in court cases, including child custody battles.

One of the top women in the BWSS "collective" was a lesbian who didn't like men and wasn't a big fan of heterosexual women either, and to go anywhere in that organization....well, let's just say your career opportunities improved once you switched to lesbianism.

Anyway, a few men and women began to demand that BWSS be held to a higher standard. Even a psychological governing body was critical of BWSS. But one woman involved in BWSS, said that if you spoke up about anything, staff could tell you to take your medication, that sort of thing -- crazybaiting is a predictable tactic used against whistleblowers. When it came to imposing standards, Ujal Dosanjh, was not proud enough to do it. He ignored complaints from both men and women.

Dosanjh would sometimes refer complaints to Suzanne Dahlin, a highly paid bureaucrat in Victoria who ran Victims Services, part of the Attorney General's office. (I have looked Dahlin up: she is aboriginal and worked on land claims.) One woman said she was talking to Dahlin on the telephone and she could hear Dahlin typing, clickity click, clickity click, on her keyboard, and then Dahlin suddenly interrupted her, snarling, "Are you finished?" The woman asked Dahlin if she had even been listening. And Dahlin banged the phone down in her ear.

Dosanjh was asked at that point to do something about Dahlin's abuse. He replied with a letter stating that her behaviour had been "exemplary". (I previously saw a copy of the letter but I've emailed the recipient to get her to send me a copy.)

Dosanjh' ability to just gloss over reality showed up in the CKNW interview too, when he said he had not had to fear violence in British Columbia, that violence had not been a problem for him. I thought, "Huh?" He had his skull cracked when a Sikh extremist waited for him when he left his office and whacked him across the head with a steel pipe. The interviewer reminded him of that fact.

Battered Women's Support Services was never intended to be what it became under Dosanjh. It was intended to be for women who were physically abused or being physically threatened, not for smearing non-violent men and disadvantaging them in custody battles. The most man-hating lesbian who worked at BWSS has since left. The place may have been cleaned up now that she and Dosanjh are gone. I don't know because I no longer know anybody on the inside there.

It's time Iggy looked closely at past behaviour that Dosanjh should be ashamed of.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Sarah Palin's Canadian Roots

When Sarah Palin spoke last night in Hamilton, Ontario, she said the Palin family -- her husband's family -- have two grandfathers from Canada, one from Saskatchewan and one from Manitoba. But she said she visited Canada often as a child with her own family.

Here's a verbatim transcript of Sarah Palin's comments about Palin ancestors in Canada:

"Relatives from Canada too. We have the foundation of the Palin family, one grandfather was born in Manitoba, this was a farming family there. And then another one born in Saskatchewan and there were some pretty funny stories of our relatives who were bootleggers I guess. This was many, many years ago. Don't blame me. There's never a boring story when it comes to the Palins."

Todd Palin's grandfather, Frederick Palin, was born in southern Manitoba, in the town of Hartley, Brad Coe, a history buff in Hartley, told the Toronto Sun. Coe says Frederick Palin eventually moved to Washington state where his son James Palin -- Todd Palin's father -- was born. Todd Palin was born in Alaska.

On her comment that some of the Palin ancestors were "bootleggers", Coe said that was a common way to make money in Canada during prohibition in the U.S. “A lot of guys fed their families that way. It was money, and you couldn’t get it otherwise. We had a lot of connections with rum-runners. They would make hooch up here, and then run it down to the States."


I've always thought the vilification of Palin in the media was rooted in classism. Rex Murphy had that take on it too in his recent column in the National Post. He thinks Palin is "smart" and that the vilification of her is rooted in class snobbery.

I recall when Palin was running as VP, I was listening to Ian Punnett hosting Coast to Coast radio, a guy who presents himself as a liberal Episcopalian minister. He opened the show by sneering at Palin for "dropping her g's" during a debate. He didn't talk about positions she took during the debate, just the fact that she was dropping her g's. I saw Punnett as a snob at that moment, and have never really shaken that impression of him.

These phony liberals are a constant on the Downtown Eastside. Like Brenda, who years ago worked at the Livingroom on Powell. Her ex-boyfriend told me that she lived on Bowen Island so that she didn't have to run into anybody from the Downtown Eastside on her off hours.

This morning I was walking up Main St. with a guy who was complaining about Pivot hypocrisy, but I told him I hear far more complaints about Carnegie. He said he knew what I meant, that management at Carnegie expects you to act meek. "Just look at the way they talk to people", he said, as though he knew he didn't have to elaborate.

Leonard, a guy who drops in to Carnegie but is not prone to criticizing staff, was chatting about them a few months ago. "They look down on us, you know", he said in a voice tone that suggested he thought they didn't that know he knew.

Just as it upset povertarians when Downtown Eastsiders started blogging to reach taxpayers with their opinions, I think it bugs elites that Sarah Palin can sit at her kitchen table in Alaska and twitter and reach voters.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Art Bell Spends $18,000 on Flying Cats

They're not unidentified flying objects. They're cats.

Art Bell said on Friday night while guest-hosting the Coast to Coast radio show, that since marrying a Filipina woman, he has moved back and forth between the U.S. and the Philippines -- and he's moved his three cats with him.

Bell has spent $18,000 flying his cats back and forth. He realizes that's "ridiculous", but says he has a "No Cat Left Behind" policy.

I heard Bell talking last year too about the $18,000 his frequent flyer felines have cost him. Actually, they're not frequent flyers; he said it costs a lot to fly a cat even once.

Human Rights Trial: The Lesbian Who Won't Talk

Where was Zoey? The lawyer for lesbian Lorna Pardy appeared thrown by a question about the failure of Pardy’s ex-girlfriend’s to testify at the BC Human Rights Tribunal. The question was asked by adjudicator Murray Geiger-Adams during last Friday’s wrap-up of a hearing into homophobic remarks that Pardy was subjected to by comedian Guy Earle, just after her then girlfriend kissed her at ’open mic’ comedy night at Zesty’s restaurant in Vancouver.

“Zoey Broomsgrove’s absence: What do you think I should or shouldn’t make of it?”

There was a prolonged pause after Geiger-Adams asked that question of Devyn Cousineau as she concluded closing arguments on behalf of her client, Pardy. “It’s up to the complainant to chose who can testify,” Cousineau said, after pointing out that Pardy and Carlin Sandor, the two women who had been sitting at a table with Broomsgrove at Zesty’s, had testified. “We have evidence about why Ms. Broomsgrove did not testify which I mentioned in a pre-hearing conference”, adding that it was “on the advice of her doctor”. Cousineau could be heard catching her breath, just as she had been doing at the beginning of her closing arguments, before she settled in and calmly rhymed off Earle’s insults about a “strap-on dildo”, “c*nts”, women who “must be on the rag”, and a “fat and ugly” lesbian who “no man will f*ck.”

No “adverse” inference should be drawn from Broomsgrove’s failure to testify, Cousineau told Geiger-Adams.

An adverse inference should definitely be drawn. That was the position of Sam Ismail, who was repesenting his brother Salam Ismail, Zesty’s owner, who can’t afford a lawyer. Sam Ismail pointed out in slightly broken English, “Ms. Broomsgrove was the one that was most insulted by the words”, and Cousineau has been “bringing them up all the time”. “So I wonder why Ms. Broomsgrove didn’t put the complaint forward and sue Salam.”

At the end of closing arguments, Cousineau requested that the Tribunal award Pardy $10,000 in damages for discrimination based on "sex and sexual orientation", and it's after effects.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Human Rights Trial: Free Speech Chilled at Zesty's 'Open Mic' Comedy Night, Owner Testifies

It was a human rights hearing that at times sounded like an ad for Corona beer.

A discussion with waitresses about getting a round of cold Corona was the first in a chain of events that led to a hearing last week at the BC Human Rights Tribunal, a hearing in which Zesty’s restaurant in Vancouver and an MC at their ‘open mic’ comedy night were accused of discrimination based on "sex and sexual orientation." At the hearing, Zesty’s owner Salam Ismail, revealed that he had not waited for a Tribunal decision; he had gone ahead and chilled free speech during comedy nights at his restaurant.

First, the beer.

Lorna Pardy, a lesbian who lodged the complaint with the Human Rights Tribunal, had been sitting on the patio at Zesty’s with her girlfriend Zoey and a few of Zoey’s friends, drinking cold Corona beer on May 22, 2007 . At roughly 11 p.m., a waitress told them she was closing the patio and asked them to move inside. Pardy, Zoey, and Zoey’s heterosexual friend Carlin Sandor, got a table inside the restaurant and interacted with the waitresses in an attempt to order another round of Corona. That interaction — the waitresses didn’t have any more cold Corona — reportedly distracted from the show on stage and coincided with the launch of an anti-lesbian tirade by the MC on the stage, Guy Earle.

Pardy testified that while the attempt to order another round of Corona was underway, her girlfriend Zoey, leaned over to give her a kiss — other witnesses said they were "making out". But Pardy was clear during questioning by Salam Ismail’s brother Sam Ismail — Salam can’t afford a lawyer — that she believed it was not the kiss, but the attempt to order more Corona, that set Earle off:

Sam Ismail: "You claim you sat at the first table. You said Guy Earle got upset because you kissed your friend. Am I right?"

Pardy: "No you’re not right….He confused us trying to straighten out our drink order with the waitresses as us trying to disrupt his show." […]

"[Earle] saw [Zoey] kiss me on the face when we sat down. He didn’t say anything right away", she said, explaining that they then spent "not even five minutes" interacting with the waitresses, "standing by the booth, trying to figure out if we were going to have another drink."

"[The waitress, Samantha] brought out another case of beer to show us. ‘Oh yeah, we do have another case of beer ladies, and if you’d like one, you can drink it warm’," Pardy testified, imitating Samantha’s little-girl voice. Pardy, who said she’d had a total of 1 1/2 bottles of Corona that night, turned down the offer for a warm beer.

"It was after Zoey had said a couple of things to me, [Earle] called us fucking dykes and cunts."

Sam Ismail: Where you conversing loudly?

Pardy: No.

Sam Ismail: Did you say anything to him then?

Pardy: No….I booed him, other than that, nothing.

Samantha, a twenty-something waitress with short brown hair and a little girl-voice that I realized Pardy had nailed with her imitation, testified about the Corona order not going smoothly. She had not been the waitress for Pardy’s table though; it had been a new waitress, Brandy.

Samantha: I remember getting a case of Corona from the back.

Sam Ismail: Why?

Samantha: Brandy asked me if we had any.

Sam Ismail: Was she serving them Corona?

Samantha: Yes
Samantha: I went and got her a case of Corona, it wasn’t cold enough.

When Carlin Sandor testified about the attempt to order Corona beer that had drawn them to Guy Earle’s attention, she acknowleged that the conversation with the waitresses had been a little loud. They had to raise their voices so that they could hear one another, she explained, as "there were people on stage talking through a microphone."

Sandor recalled a waitress being "unsure" if they had any more Corona and asking if they would like to order something else. At that point, according to Sandor, "Another waitress came up with a case of Corona; we were saying, "Oh Yeh!, there’s more Corona." We were laughing; the waitresses were laughing."

Sandor was aware that there was a comedy show going on. "Zoey leaned over and kissed Lorna on the cheek." That was when Earle said, "Don’t mind the inconsiderate dykes over there; you know lesbians, they’re always ruining it for everybody."

Contradicting claims by Earle and male comics who were at the show, Sandor testified that the women had not provoked Earle by heckling. "The only person we’d spoken to at that point were the waitresses." Then, according to Sandor, Earle scolded the women, "You know I just don’t understand; don’t you wanna be a man? I mean all you’re gonna do is go home and put a strap on and f*ck your girlfriend anyway." She recalled calling out to Earle that he was "ignorant".

Sandor's version of events was partially corroborated by Mike Wolfe, a comic who was on stage when the women walked in from the patio. Wolfe told the women not to be so loud and recalled them being polite in response. He says it wasn’t until Earle, who had a reputation for "harsh" language, began insulting the women, telling them to put a "cock" in their mouths, that they hurled insults back.

Earle has admitted in interviews — he didn’t testify — that he he hurled insults at the women about putting on a "strap-on dildo" and wanting to be a man. But he accuses them of being loud, heckling him, and creating a distraction by kissing, "tongue and tonsil wrestling", in front of the stage.

In this case, a precedent may be set by the Tribunal as to whether speech in a comedy club will be free or pc. Or maybe not, if the BC Supreme Court finds the Tribunal in contempt of court. Earle’s lawyer has asked the court to find the Tribunal in contempt for proceding with the hearing before reviewing whether they actually had jurisdiction in this case, a review the court previously ask them to carry out.

But a decision on free speech has already been made by Ismail, an Iraqi immigrant who says this process has left him, "exhausted, emotionally, financially, physically." In sometimes broken English, Ismail testified that before Earle insulted the lesbians, "we didn’t have that much experience to tell comics what to do and not to do." Ismail didn’t have an official policy but would "tell them I don’t want you to be so loud, don’t want bad language. But sometimes they do it."

They won’t be doing it now.

"Now I do have a policy because I don’t want to repeat the same problem. I tell them, ‘Don’t pick on customers. Your job is only on stage and that’s it."

Pardy’s lawyer, Devyn Cousineau, asked Ismail to state again his new policy for comics at his restaurant, which he has re-named Zawa's. "I don’t want you to go to tables picking on customers, don’t want any bad language. don’t want, what you say, someone with bad language, all this stuff."

When you go to Zawa’s now, you can only hope to find the Corona beer as chilled as the free speech.

Friday, April 2, 2010

‘Ugly Dyke’ and ‘Dildo’ Insults by Comic, Leave Lesbian Attempting to Replace Human Right to Free Speech with Bogus Human Right Not to be Offended

Photo: Lorna Pardy leaves Human Rights Tribunal on Monday

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 and her galpals while in the role of MC 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, "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, weakening the real human right of freedom of speech by upholding the bogus human right to not be offended. Human Rights bodies have attracted negative publicity in recent years by working with offended Muslims to target writers and publishers such as Ezra Levant, Mark Steyn and MacLean’s magazine. 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…."

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."

"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. He can’t afford a lawyer for the Human Rights Tribunal which pays the legal fees of only the accuser. 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 tonsil 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 at 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 who 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 Pardy's 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. "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 about Pardy’s ordeal. "She said, ‘This is so scary’. And she hated to see her name in the news because they portrayed all the details about her so negatively. And I knew she wasn’t that person that they created." When the two became partners, 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." 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." She said Pardy’s relationship with her previous girlfriend, Zoey, had broken up over the Guy Earle drama.

Zoey was conspicuously absent from the Tribunal, although she was a key witnesses to the events at Zesty’s. 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.

Photo: Nick Roy, a comic, standing in the lobby of the Human Rights Tribunal after testifying

When Earle attempted to shame the women whose conduct he believed was a distraction 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. Nick Roy said "there were verbal insults going back and for forth." Mike Wolfe said Pardy along with her galpals did shoot back with some booing and insults, but not until they were provoked by Earle's "harsh" language -- "Stick a c*ck in your @ss and shove it in your mouth", was one insult Wolfe said he remembered "verbatim" from Earle's tirade. "When he started getting nasty, that's when they started heckling back." Jeremy Miedzski, another young comic, said, "He was yelling but they were yelling back", they were "sharing insults", the women at one point telling Earle that his mother should have aborted him.

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, 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."

The next day, Pardy also found the power to confront Ishmail at Zesty’s about the incident, a 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. Millar who was furious is heading back to the BC 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."