2 min

Lesbian sues shock jocks

A lesbian school trustee hopes to force talk radio station shock jocks across Canada to watch their mouths.

Winnipeg’s Kristine Barr is suing two AM radio hosts, and their employer, for defamation.

“It’s an important human rights issue… I couldn’t sit by and listen to a radio station discriminate against gays and lesbians,” says Barr.

A respected youth health educator, Barr is openly lesbian and was elected in October 1998 on a platform advocating diversity in education, including anti-homophobia programs.

(In fact, she’ll be in Toronto in one week attending the Equity For All education conference at Jarvis Collegiate, talking about Winnipeg’s strides toward gay-positive schools.)

During the election campaign, AM1290’s John Collison and Gerald Fast made statements on air that Barr says are false and go beyond the right to freedom of expression. The men implied that she wanted to sexually abuse children, and called her a “diesel dyke” and a “homo-fascist.”

The station – owned by CHUM Group Limited – and hosts were served with papers back in June and now Barr’s making her case public as her supporters raise money to cover legal costs.

General Manager Brian Stone declines to comment because “the matter is before the courts.”

This isn’t the first time AM1290 has faced complaints.

The federal regulator, the CRTC, rapped the station’s knuckles as a result of complaints made by citizens following its hosts’ comments on Barr and Glen Murray, an openly gay city councillor who went on to win the race for mayor in the same elections.

“What 1290 did,” says Barr, “is reprehensible. If it was any kind of other harassment, such as racism, it would never have gone as far as it did.

“I don’t think the media should be allowed to personally attack individuals and misrepresent the facts to the point that they did in this case,” says Barr. “We need legal precedents in this area so that other people don’t have to face the same thing I did.”

Lawyer Tony Dalmyn says it’s the first time that a gay person has struck back after being publicly attacked in this manner. “The case tests a couple of areas,” says Dalmyn, “namely the boundaries of what’s considered personally defamatory and the limits of what talk radio can broadcast with respect to false news.”

Though publicly declaring someone’s sexual orientation is no longer considered defamatory, “what Collison and Fast did to Kristine,” claims Dalmyn, “is to equate her sexuality with pedophilia and predatory behaviour with children, activities which are against the law. The radio station’s comments, their accusation, went too far. They basically said that she’s perverted and that there’s a gay agenda to indoctrinate children into a particular sexual orientation.”

A fundraiser will be held on Thu, Mar 2 in Winnipeg. Donations can be made out to the Manitoba Gay And Lesbian Legal Defence Fund and mailed to Kristine Barr Legal Action Fund, Box 1661, Winnipeg R3C 2Z6. Or e-mail