A lesbian walks into a bar and is harassed to the point that she develops post-traumatic stress disorder.
In a recent blog post, Derek James From expressed confusion about the facts of a decision by the B.C. Supreme Court, which upheld Lorna Pardy's discrimination case against Guy Earle. There need be no confusion.
Two lengthy and reasoned judgments by the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal and the B.C. Supreme Court have set out the facts of Lorna Pardy's case. Let me boil them down and allow you to judge whether Ms. Pardy was the subject of unlawful discrimination.
Ms. Pardy and her friends were enjoying a pleasant evening on the patio of a local restaurant. At 11 p.m. they were asked by restaurant staff to move inside where -- unbeknownst to them -- the restaurant was hosting an open mic comedy night. The evening's master of ceremonies was Guy Earle.
Ms. Pardy and her friends spoke to a waitress about a drink order, and then Ms. Pardy's girlfriend kissed her. According to the Tribunal and Court, that was when it started.
In direct response to this simple kiss, Mr. Earle directed the following comments at the women:
"Don't mind that inconsiderate dyke table over there. You know lesbians are always ruining it for everybody."
"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 such a fucking cunt?"
"Thanks for ruining the evening, fucking dykes."
"You're a fat ugly cunt. No man will fuck you; that's why you're a dyke. You fat cunt."
"Do you want to be a man; is that why you're such a fucking asshole?"
"Somebody shut her up. Put a cock in her mouth and shut her the fuck up."
There was no heckling, the Tribunal and Court found. This was not part of a comedy routine. There was no evidence that this was a form of artistic expression, the Tribunal and Court explained.
This was a man with a mic losing his temper.
As a result of her experience in the restaurant on that night, and the actions of Mr. Earle afterward, Ms. Pardy was diagnosed by a doctor with post-traumatic stress disorder. She pursued, and won, a case of discrimination against the restaurant and Mr. Earle.
Ms. Pardy's victory has rankled those like Mr. From, who believe that the "liberty to speak freely should prevail". But ask yourself this.
- Should your boss have the right to call you a "stupid cunt" and a "stupid dyke"?
- Should your landlord have the right to tell you "You're a fat ugly cunt. No man will fuck you; that's why you're a dyke"?
- Should your waiter have a right to loudly exclaim that somebody should "put a cock in [your] mouth and shut [you] the fuck up?"
I suspect that most people would not accept that kind of expression in our workplaces, in our housing and in our services. This basic principle -- that all people should be able to work, live and participate in society with dignity regardless of their race, gender, disability, sexual orientation, religion, age, family status or ancestry -- is at the cornerstone of our human rights legislation. And so, necessarily, is the recognition that not all speech is permissible in all circumstances in a society where all strive to be equal in dignity and rights.
Hopefully one day, thanks to this sensible rule, a lesbian can walk into a bar, sit down and enjoy her drink.
Devyn Cousineau was counsel for Ms. Pardy before the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal. Anyone interested in reading further about the facts of the case can access the B.C. Supreme Court decision here.