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Jason Kenney appears at a Toronto fundraiser for comic found guilty of anti-gay remarks
As election controversies go, the one about to be spooled out here might just end up winning the Conservatives more votes among its anti-gay base, but it’s telling about the lengths the party of Stephen Harper will go to troll for votes among the more fringe elements in this country.
We’ve read lots about the party’s pandering to ethnics for votes. Now it appears the guy credited with winning minority votes for the party, citizenship and immigration minister Jason Kenney, has also been hard at work cultivating votes among the supporters of one comedian dragged before the BC Human Rights Tribunal for his anti-gay comments.
I’m speaking here of Guy Earle, the Toronto-based comedian found guilty of discrimination charges by the Tribunal last week and ordered to pay $15,000 in damages to Lorna Pardy (that over anti-gay remarks he hurled at the woman at an open-mike show in Vancouver back in 2007).
Turns out Earle had some high-placed help from Kenney in raising money for his legal defence. The former snack packer and MP from Calgary Southeast and his director of communications, Alykhan Velshi, attended a “60 seconds to offend” show held for Earle at Comedy Bar here in Toronto back in July 2008 to raise cash for Earle’s case. The minister’s attendance is confirmed by Earle and Kenney’s good friend, right-wing commentator Ezra Levant.
How much Kenney knew about the nature of the remarks that landed the comedian in hot water with the Tribunal – “fucking dyke” and “fucking cunt” are among the words attributed to Earle – is unclear. Kenney did not respond to an e-mail request from NOW for comment and as of Tuesday morning (April 26) had yet to return a call to his campaign office in Calgary requesting a response.
But the B.C. Tribunal’s decision suggests the stream hurled by Earle at Pardy and her partner at the time was more than a comedian simply testing the boundaries of free speech.
Among the comments attributed to Earle in the Tribunal’s finding of facts:
“Put a cock in her mouth and shut her up”
“You’re a fat ugly cunt. No man will fuck you”
“Do you have a strap-on? You can take your girlfriend home and fuck her in the ass”
“Are you on the rag? Is that why you’re being a fucking cunt?”
The tribunal’s decision also states Earle confronted Pardy after their verbal confrontation “and continued to physically intimidate and abuse her by the bar as she returned from the washroom.” The Tribunal’s decision says Earle removed Pardy’s sunglasses and broke them.
Earle denies making the comments attributed to him and says he plans to appeal the Tribunal’s decision to the BC Supreme Court. He has set up a website to raise money for his appeal. He says he “hasn’t had a pot to pee in” since the altercation, and that the publicity surrounding the incident has ruined his stand up career.
Earle has become a somewhat reluctant poster boy for right wing commentators like Levant, who’ve been calling for the banning of human rights commissions, or the “illiberal human rights racket,” as Levant likes to call the commissions.
Levant, the one time Reform party mouthpiece and newly-minted Sun TV host of Straight Talk, had Earle on his show last week to discuss the Tribunal’s decision. Levant could barely contain his outrage, manufactured though it seemed at times.
Levant suggested that Pardy and company deserved what they got. “They said you had a little dick. That’s discrimination based on disability,” Levant screeched.
Of course, he was half-joking. But you get the point. Levant spent most of the 15-minute spot with Earle deriding the time and money spent on Pardy’s claim and the paper supposedly wasted on the resulting 107-page decision.
Easy fodder for Levant, self-described defender of free speech, but a little convenient perhaps. Levant was hauled before the Alberta human rights tribunal for republishing the Danish cartoons of Mohammed in the Western Standard, the mag he used to run, back in 2005.
Levant also happens to be a friend of Kenney’s. And here’s where this story comes full circle – Levant also wrote about the minister’s attendance at the Earle event in a post on his website back in 2008.
Levant wrote then: “I remain optimistic that the government will move from symbolic gestures, such as Kenney’s appearance tonight, to substantive actions, such as gutting the Canadian Human Rights Act’s section 13 – the political censorship provision.”
Levant wrote in an update to that post later that comedians at the Earle fundraiser didn’t tell the same old clichéd joke about George Bush. “The comedians were not in that clichéd rut at all,” writes Levant. “There was a hilarious routine about a Chinese guy named… Raymond Chan.” That would be the former Liberal MP from Richmond B.C.
Earle also says Kenney was in attendance at his Toronto fundraiser. He talked to Kenney’s assistant who “sent regards” from the minister. Although Earler says “I didn’t actually talk to him (Kenney), but I heard he laughed his ass off!”
Back in March 2010, Kenney made headlines for ordering removed any reference to gay rights in study guides given new immigrants applying for Canadian citizenship.