This afternoon at the British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal, Lorna Pardy continued her testimony, and began her cross-examination. Before giving my impressions, I'll just note what Pardy said. I am paraphrasing and adding a few of my own observations in parentheses (...)
Pardy's lawyer, Ms. Cousineau, began by asking Pardy about her contact with the police after the May 2007 incident at Zesty's restaurant and after Pardy's conversation, the day after the incident, with Zesty's owner, Salam Ismail. Pardy said she told the police what happened but asked them not to interview Mr. Ismail, as this would not get the result she wanted - what that was was left unsaid, other than that she wanted some record, an incident report. She said she preferred instead to speak to a lawyer.
She said she did not organize any boycotts against Zesty's
She did not talk about making money off this case. She filed a human rights complaint because she thought her human rights had been violated. She said this matter of factly as if we all know when our human rights are violated.
In June 2009, over two years after the incident, James Millar, Guy Earle's lawyer, sent her a cheque for the sunglasses Earle had smashed.
The incident at Zesty's took her relationship with her girlfriend to a low point. Guy Earle had taken their power away (what that is supposed to mean, I'm not sure) and they broke up in early 2008 several months after the incident.
Pardy's lawyer wanted testimony to the impact of the event. Pardy said she had felt very frustrated by a negative portrayal of her in the first media story in the paper, Xtra West - it made her feel terrible. Earle's comment/joke about her not being a lesbian, just fat and ugly, was actually directed at Pardy's then girlfriend. But the media in confusing this was making Pardy into somebody else. This was damaging her professional reputation - the appearance of being out drinking was not good for her (I didn't hear most of the morning testimony but it seems Pardy has an airport and weather-related job).
Talking next about the youtube video of Guy Earle being interviewed on the "Dave and Chuck show" - the audio portion of the video was played and the hearing room had to listen to Earle's sense of humour for 13 minutes - Pardy said that the first time she saw that video she felt sick, like she experienced the event over and over again. She didn't sleep for 2-3 days. She couldn't believe how Earle portrayed her, as if she wasn't adult enough to get his "jokes". She was devastated, sick to the stomach, sweated, ears rang, couldn't sleep, up so long she vomited next day. Physically, she felt she was back in the situation of the original incident at Zesty's.
The next summer, 2009, there was a batch of media coverage attending BCHRT Chair, Heather Macnaughton's ruling not to dismiss the complaint. That's when, said Pardy, Earle actively sought out media to paint her as a bad person, as if this justified his behaviour at Zesty's.
As she read the news stories, her feelings went lower and lower, as the deck was being stacked against her, publicly. She felt cornered and devastated given his portrayal of her provoking the incident. She wanted to hide from media even as his allegations were becoming more solid in the public mind. She wanted to crawl under a rock. She suffered the same physical symptoms as earlier and her doctor later diagnosed this as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
There was a consequent impact on her employment as she had to call her boss to take her shift at short notice; her boss warned her her behaviour could lead to firing. But she couldn't yet tell her workmates what had happened to her.
Then, Pardy's lawyer entered as evidence a medical report on Pardy. (I am a little hesitant to go into this, and I started wondering here why Pardy was going through with this complaint). Pardy has suffered from some kind of anxiety condition before the incident with Earl, related to her parent's divorce and her feeling she couldn't be with them in their moment of need since they lived across the country. Her parents' advice led her to get better in the months before the Earle incident. But panic attacks again haunted Pardy after the Earle incident and when she had to attend the Supreme Court hearing on Earle's constitutional/jurisdictional challenge.
The Earle incident caused recurring nightmares of different types; she didn't have nightmares before the incident. She socialized less and didn't often go back to Commercial Drive even though she knew this kind of thing just doesn't happen often on the Drive (known in Vancouver as a gay-friendly place).
She has since healed mentally but there hasn't been a day since the incident when she hasn't thought about it. She has occurred numerous expenses because of the incident and the complaint process.
Under cross-examination by restaurant owner, Salam Ismail's counsel, who I believe is his brother and not a lawyer, Pardy returned to discuss the incident itself.
She and two friends had been drinking on the patio of the restaurant before entering the room with the comedy stage. She had had one and a half Corona beers. They came in when the patio closed around 11 pm and sat at the first table by the door.
Did Guy Earle get upset because you kissed your friend, she was asked. She said she thought this was not right though she didn't know what Earle was thinking. Her girlfriend had simply kissed her on her cheek because she was glad to see her out as this was not a common occurrence. They were not trying to make a scene (as previously reported by Earle).
She said she thought Earle thought they were causing a disturbance when they were talking to two waitresses about their patio bill.
Pardy said they had been sitting in the booth not even for five minutes when Earle "targeted" them and started picking on them. Earle told them not to disrupt the show and called them "fucking dykes" and "cunts".
The three women were not talking loudly or saying anything to Earle. Pardy said she only booed Earle.
Pardy had only been to Zesty's one time before and didn't know who the owner or manager was.
She said that when she talked to the police after the event, she was told that throwing water in Earle's face could possibly lead to a charge of assault, but she saw it as self-defense. A big man was coming off the stage towards her and saying things and she felt threatened.
"Were you afraid of him?" Pardy was asked. Yes. So why did you challenge him? Pardy said she didn't. He came to her table, not vice versa. The fact that she threw a second glass of water in his face 15-20 minutes after the first did not mean she wasn't scared and intimidated. She was scared; that's why she threw the water. The waitresses were not to be found (for help) and Pardy didn't see anyone in the place to ask for help.
Ismail was there (she later identified him) but didn't do anything to help them, said Pardy.
She felt threatened and her party was in shock. That's why they didn't immediately leave. (She later said they stayed up to 40 minutes after the incident.) Someone came out of the kitchen, picked up her crushed glasses, gave them to her, and then left without saying anything. She said she had just been assaulted, was in shock and only thinking of getting her friends and leaving - her friends were talking to the other comedians (I assume about the incident, though Pardy did not make this clear). Her friend went to Zesty's a lot and Pardy doesn't know why the friend didn't talk to owner Ismail. Pardy said her friends were both intimidated by Earle. The friend who had been the target of the fat and ugly comment had been driven into a shell and only told Earle he wasn't funny. Pardy wasn't sure why Earle "targeted" her. Guy Earle was being booed, maybe she was just an easy target.
She didn't believe it was part of Earle's act to attack lesbians. She didn't think Zesty's was anti-gay or anti-lesbian: it was on Commercial Drive so presumably it couldn't appear so.
Ismail's counsel then asked why she was claiming discrimination against lesbians. Pardy replied she was only claiming personal discrimination based on her being a lesbian. Counsel replied this was not logical. Pardy replied the incident was not about logic. Counsel pointed out that 50-60% of Zesty's clients were gay or lesbian.
Pardy said she sent no one to picket Zesty's, nor did she engage in any propaganda against the restaurant. She didn't tell lesbians not to go to the place. But the story was all over Commercial Drive anyway (hence the boycotts).
Pardy said the next day when she contacted Ismail, she expected from him an apology. She didn't get one. She secretly taped their face-to-face conversation because after the initial phone call she felt he couldn't be trusted given his conduct the previous day and on the phone. On the phone, he told her to visit him and he would pay for her glasses. She wanted to make sure he understood what had happened and he then reneged on his promise to pay for the glasses. He told her she wasn't a nice person and was possibly to blame.
Counsel then returned to the question of why she had stayed 30-40 minutes after the (first) incident - she couldn't say if they were the last to leave. (Note that Pardy said there were two run-ins with Earle, about 15 minutes apart, and it was not always clear to this reporter just which incident was being referred to.) They had spent the time listening to another comedy act, a short set, and talking to comedians. She went to the bathroom to gather herself, and on the way back Earle at the bar physically assaulted her. (I assume this was a reference to Earle snatching her glasses and smashing them.) Her party were in shock and stayed because they couldn't get up from the table. They left around 11.30.
That was the end of the testimony for the day; cross-examination continues tomorrow and then the first witness for both sides will be called.
My burning question is this: Pardy seems like a fairly sensitive person, so why is she putting herself through this public ordeal and invasion of her privacy? One spectator speculated she had maybe been encouraged by other lesbians to fight Earle legally, and so felt obliged to pursue the complaint.
Pardy again and again tried to convey the impression that she had been targeted and victimized. She knows how to make such a claim, evoking standard postmodern assumptions about what should not be allowed or tolerated in our society (i.e. "targeting"). This may well be sincere on her part. But it points us to consider how the Human Rights Tribunal has opened itself to consider an incident that might (I am speculating with little legal knowledge) have led to a criminal charge, but is now about, as one observer put it, "hurt feelings". Canadians need to consider carefully whether claims of public humiliations and the mental suffering that lingers after them, should be open to prosecution in a parajudicial setting where tens of thousands of dollars and much time and energy are at stake. Humiliation is a common thing, unfortunately, and a very subjective thing. Should we allow those in "protected groups" to ask for compensation? What kind of society would this encourage? Does it depend on context?
Or alternatively, if we agree with Pardy that she was physically and verbally assaulted - and whether we will hear Earle's taken on events, under oath, is now an open question after his lawyer walked out of the hearing on a point of principle, questioning whether this hearing is within the rule of law - should the Human Rights Tribunal be used to seek a remedy when the criminal or civil courts, for whatever reason, are not chosen? Is the "third way" of the Human Rights Tribunal serving justice or just the postmodern desire to claim and acknowledge victimhood, as if this is the most sacred thing to us? I discussed this in my first post yesterday.
I'm not sure I will have time to attend tomorrow. Keep an eye on the blog Downtown Eastside Enquirer for more, and also Bulletproofcourier.
See Parts 1 and 2