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Outrage over comedy group's Robert Pickton T-shirts sparks protest

A protester approaches a person attending the Danger Cats show in Vancouver, B.C., on March 24, 2024.  (Maurice Katz/CBC - image credit)
A protester approaches a person attending the Danger Cats show in Vancouver, B.C., on March 24, 2024. (Maurice Katz/CBC - image credit)

Controversial comedy troupe Danger Cats performed in Vancouver Sunday, despite a crowd of protesters gathered outside the downtown venue.

A previously scheduled show was cancelled in Metro Vancouver in February. That show generated outcry due to the troupe's online sale of T-shirts that protesters said made light of serial killer Robert Pickton's victims.

Pickton targeted sex workers and vulnerable women in the Downtown Eastside, and many of his victims were Indigenous women.

One of those victims has been identified as Tanya Holyk, whose cousin Lorelei Williams was at Sunday's protest.

"These views perpetuate dangerous stereotypes and discrimination," Williams said of the Danger Cats T-shirt. "It was this very discrimination that allowed Pickton and his associates to prey upon these women for so long."

The T-shirt shows a caricature of Pickton holding a bacon strip underneath the words "Pickton Farms." Under the caricature is the text "Over 50 flavours of hookery smoked bacon."

Two t-shirts sold by Danger Cats are pictured. The t-shirt that many have deemed offensive is shown on the right.
Two t-shirts sold by Danger Cats are pictured. The t-shirt that many have deemed offensive is shown on the right.

Two t-shirts sold by Danger Cats are pictured. The t-shirt that many have deemed offensive is shown on the right. (Danger Cats/Facebook)

Williams said that the Danger Cats' T-shirts and attitude toward Pickton and his victims "needs to be deemed hate speech."

"Our government has committed to reconciliation, had acknowledged that a genocide has and continues to occur in this country and therefore must take action to clearly denounce any speech that promotes the disgusting narrative that racist, misogynist violence against Indigenous women and girls is a joke."

CBC News reached out to the Danger Cats after the Sunday night protest, but has not received a response. The Canadian comedy trio is comprised of Sam Walker, Brett Forte and Uncle Hack.

The remains or DNA of 33 women were found on Pickton's pig farm in Port Coquitlam, B.C., about 25 kilometres east of downtown Vancouver. He once boasted to an undercover police officer that he killed 49 women.

He was convicted of six counts of second-degree murder in 2007 and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of full parole for 25 years.

Police presence

Tensions rose on Sunday as protesters blocked ticket holders from getting into the venue, and police arrived at the scene to shepherd people inside.

"Officers were on scene to keep the peace," Vancouver Police Department Const. Tania Visintin said in an email to CBC News.

"There were no arrests and nothing of note occurred."

Police stand outside the venue for a Danger Cats show in Vancouver's Chinatown on March 24, 2024.
Police stand outside the venue for a Danger Cats show in Vancouver's Chinatown on March 24, 2024.

Police stand outside the venue for a Danger Cats show in Vancouver's Chinatown on March 24, 2024. (Maurice Katz/CBC)

Previous show cancelled

The show was held at a venue in Chinatown that borders the Downtown Eastside.

CBC News has contacted a business in the complex, but did not hear back in time for publication.

Last month, a New Westminster comedy club announced it was cancelling a scheduled Danger Cats show after online uproar.

A petition with over 2,000 signatures demanded that performance's cancellation at the time.

"This group is known for profiting off the tragedy of the Willie Pickton serial killer by making and selling shirts that exploit the murdered and missing Indigenous women and other women who were his victims," the petition reads.

"Their act also includes content such as residential schools and mass Indigenous graves, which is completely unacceptable."

A photo of Rick Bronson's House of Comedy B.C. in New Westminster. Comedy troupe Danger Cats were set to perform at the club in March, but the show was cancelled after outrage over the group selling T-shirt depicting serial killer Robert Pickton.
A photo of Rick Bronson's House of Comedy B.C. in New Westminster. Comedy troupe Danger Cats were set to perform at the club in March, but the show was cancelled after outrage over the group selling T-shirt depicting serial killer Robert Pickton.

A photo of Rick Bronson's House of Comedy B.C. in New Westminster. Comedy troupe Danger Cats were set to perform at the club, but the show was cancelled after outrage over the group selling a T-shirt depicting serial killer Robert Pickton. (CBC News)

In a since-deleted Facebook post, Rick Bronson's House of Comedy B.C. wrote it had decided to cancel the event, saying it missed the mark and aims to do better.

"While we value and support the freedom of expression in comedy, we recognize that the chosen material for this show has caused discomfort in our community," the post read.

When asked by CBC News for more details on why the show was cancelled, House of Comedy vice-president David Facey declined to comment.

Support is available for anyone affected by these reports and the issue of missing and murdered Indigenous people. Immediate emotional assistance and crisis support are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week through a national hotline at 1-844-413-6649.

You can also access, through the government of Canada, health support services such as mental health counselling, community-based support and cultural services, and some travel costs to see elders and traditional healers. Family members seeking information about a missing or murdered loved one can access Family Information Liaison Units.