If the results of Super Tuesday have foreshadowed the outcome of election 2016 then in addition to bringing us a new year and a new president, January may also set off a slew of apartment and cubicle vacancies. Your neighbors and coworkers could be headed for cooler climates if Donald Trump wins the election. According to Google Trends, searches for ‘Move to Canada’ spiked after the Donald cleaned up in the latest primaries.
But if freedom minded Americans are planning to run from a candidate that they view as a potentially authoritarian demagogue they may want to take a closer look at the current state of free speech in Canada.
As CBC News reported, Mike Ward, a Montreal comedian was brought in front of a human rights tribunal to testify about a joke that he made regarding a teenager with a facial disfigurement. This ordeal has been going on for years with Ward’s recent testimony in on February 24th, 2016.
Jeremy Gabriel, the “victim” of Ward’s wise-assery, had traveled to Rome to sing for the pope in 2006.
Ward joked that he was happy for Gabriel at the time, “but now, five years later, and he’s still not dead.… Me, I defended him, like an idiot, and he won’t die.”
Ward’s fans may have been laughing, but Gabriel’s family wasn’t. Now, the comedian has to defend his right to express himself in court.
And Ward isn’t the only Canadian comic to feel the wrath of a human rights tribunal.
In 2013, Guy Earle lost a supreme court appeal over a tribunal decision to fine him $15,000 for a joke that he made at a Vancouver comedy club.
What could warrant such a steep payment to the offended? Did Earle crack wise about sodomizing a paraplegic? Did he ejaculate smack dab in the middle of a big red maple leaf? No, twas far worse. So bad in fact that my fingers hesitate to type the offending words lest I trigger myself into sprinting for the nearest safe space. Earle had the gall, the audacity, to refer to a lesbian couple as ‘dykes.’
“Don’t mind that inconsiderate dyke table over there. You know lesbians are always ruining it for everybody.” He said.
Never mind the fact that many lesbians often refer to themselves as dykes.
Never mind that the women had interrupted Earle’s performance.
Never mind that this was an artist expressing himself.
Never mind that if they didn’t like what Earle had to say they could have simply gotten up and walked out.
Never mind all that. “Hang the heretic!” “Burn the witch!” “Off with his head!” Or at the very least “down with his savings account!” Is what the tribunal said with the blessing of Canada’s supreme court.
Dragging people in front of tribunals because we’re bothered by something that they said? Canadians may parlez vous francais from time to time, but these human rights tribunals are enough to have Ferdinand and Isabella saying “si, si.”
Problem is this isn’t 15th century Spain, it’s Canada in 2015, and the government’s inquisition-like quest to turn comedians into conversos has no place in a free society.
I can only imagine what might happen if Andrew Dice Clay decided to go on a cross Canadian standup tour.
“Hickory, dickory, dock, this chick was suckin my…”
No, no, no Dice man. That may play down in the states, but not up here. Try this on for size.
“Hickory, dickory, dock an empowered young woman made the decision to perform oral sex on me, but I made her stop before I reached climax because fellatio is a sign of toxic masculinity…Oh! The Dice Man!”
Just doesn’t have the same ring to it.
Sadly, our neighbors to the north aren’t the only ones who feel the need to tell a supposedly free thinking society what constitutes comedy and what “amounts to adverse treatment based on sex and sexual orientation.”
According to a 2015 Pew poll, “American Millennials are far more likely than older generations to say the government should be able to prevent people from saying offensive statements about minority groups.”
It’s gotten so bad that Chris Rock and many other comedians won’t even play college campuses anymore.
Avoiding the college crowd wasn’t enough to save Rock from the slings and arrows of the campus PC police. His opening monologue at the Academy Awards prompted a response in the form of an open letter from a student at San Diego State University. (Not to mention a slew of tweets from the perpetually victimized)
Anthony Berteaux said that Rock’s jokes about Asian kids, “perpetuated the very form of bigotry he was trying to call out.”
Christ kid, you must be a blast at keg parties…do they still have those in college? Perhaps I’m showing my age by expecting millennials to embrace controversial humor the way my friends and I used to laugh at and quote Family Guy and South Park back in the dark ages of 2007.
Berteaux seems to prefer Ellen Degeneres’ selfie taking, pizza ordering antics. And that’s fine I guess. You know who else thinks Ellen is hilarious? Joan from accounting. Joan from accounting lives to play it safe. Sure she’ll go out for a margarita after work on Cinco de Mayo, maybe stay up for an extra glass of champagne on New Year’s Eve, but that’s as far as Joan pushes the envelope. Joan is hardly an arbiter of what is and isn’t funny, and neither are undergrads who have been treated like living, breathing, fabrege eggs since the moment they crawled from the womb.
Now, you might be thinking “so what? Who cares if college kids can’t take a joke?”
Well the current crop of teens and twenty somethings will be the legislators and policy makers of tomorrow. Today’s op/ed in the campus paper will be tomorrow’s proposed legislation banning offensive jokes in designated public safe areas.
Still not convinced that we need to protect the rights of comedians to offend? First they came for the joke makers, but I said nothing, because I never made jokes…
The regressive left is attacking two of my great loves; free speech and dark comedy. I can’t help but feel as though I’m trapped between Dwayne Johnson and Ron Jeremy’s swelling undergarments…The Rock and a hard place.
Restricting the rights of artists to offend is a major step on a slippery slope towards restricting the free speech and expression rights of all people. Nobody is saying that you have to find Chris Rock or Guy Earle or Mike Ward funny. In fact you’re free to find their brand of humor wildly inappropriate, but if we fail to protect free speech for those who disgust us the most, then we have failed to protect free speech for everyone.