Justice Pricing at Victoria Theater is Morally Bankrupt
I’m reasonably certain when Shiraz Higgins, a filmmaker from Victoria, BC and recipient of $40,000 from the Telus Optik Fund originally announced the justice pricing model for his film, Building the Room, he had been fully anticipating the backlash. I’m also reasonably certain he thought it was a great method of promoting the film, which features several area comedians.
But lastly, I’m not entirely certain he consulted a lawyer before doing so, as the justice pricing model he has announced literally violates Section 8 of the Canadian Human Rights Code. (And if he did consult a lawyer, he should probably get his money back. He’ll need it.)
Building the Room is billed as a documentary-style film showcasing the experiences of a group of comedians putting on a stand-up comedy show.
But there are a lot of people who apparently didn’t get the joke. Shortly after the pricing scheme went live, news coverage surrounding the story reported a number of death threats being sent to Shiraz, who initially used the pseudonym Sid Mohammed in an interview with the Times Colonist. While death threats are no doubt the result of some unhinged individuals, the receipt of them in no way excuses the morally bankrupt actions of Higgins.
There are a lot of conflicting details surrounding this story. Claims that it was little more than a publicity stunt were denied by Higgins himself, who said he had used the justice pricing to “face issues of privilege in a tangible way.” However, posts on the Made You Look Media Facebook page by a Vancouver-based IATSE Camera Assistant saying “It worked!” seem to belie the claim. Furthermore, Shiraz apparently made zero effort to inform the theatre in question, whose reputation he is harming, nor did he inform at least one of the comedians featured in the film.
Higgins argues, poorly, that “he has also heard from women who said they pay more than men for goods and services, including hair cuts and hygienic and cosmetic products.” While I’m only speculating on this, I assume he takes this as a valid point, but seems to have forgotten to do his research on how Section 8 of the Canadian Human Rights Codes actually works. While yes, on the surface such claims appear to be violating the code, in reality, hair cuts, and hygienic/cosmetic products are functionally different in general between men and women. Not only do hygienic products differ in terms of ingredients between men and women, but men tend not to wear cosmetics as a general rule. And anyone who’s walked into a men’s barbershop and a salon knows there’s a vast difference in the services provided by each type of establishment.
But if gender was the only concern, not many men would bother caring. They just wouldn’t go. However, the fact the the stipulation is with straight, white men, it brings the issue of race and sexuality into the mix.
Unfortunately, the BC Human Rights Commission offices are closed until Friday. Upon which time, I have it on good authority from several people that they will have their hands full with complaints.
I can only hope that Shiraz makes a little bit of money from this event. He’ll need it when he has to explain the joke to the Human Rights Tribunal, who aren’t likely to care much that proceeds are going to charity. For the record, they’re not exactly known for supporting free expression, or having a sense of humor.
For what it’s worth, Shiraz, your attempt at making a conversation has served to dilute the message you intended. It was misguided at best. Regardless of that, best wishes and good luck; unless you’ve got some privileged friends in high places, you’ll need it if you hope to salvage a burgeoning career in film from this.