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Outrage over Pickton T-shirt, death threats cause cancellation of New West comedy show

In just 24 hours, more than 1,600 people signed an online petition calling for the cancellation of the Danger Cats' comedy show in New Westminster.

The House of Comedy in New Westminster has cancelled a performance by a controversial comedy group in response to public concerns.

The Danger Cats’ – The Spite Tour – was scheduled to take place at Rick Bronson's House of Comedy BC on March 24. Their appearance at the local comedy club sparked outrage among some community members, who were troubled by the group’s merchandise (a sold-out T-shirt featuring serial killer Robert Pickton) and some of the show’s content.

“In light of recent concerns surrounding our scheduled show, Danger Cats, we have made the decision to cancel the event,” said a statement by the House of Comedy BC. “The well-being of our staff, performers and patrons is our top priority.”

The statement was posted to social media, but soon removed.

In its statement, the House of Comedy said it values and supports the freedom of expression in comedy, but recognizes that the chosen material for this show has caused discomfort in the community.

“This was not our intent,” read the posting on social media. “Our goal has always been to provide a safe space for our guests to experience a brief escape and enjoy a night of laughs. We clearly missed the mark, and aim to do better.”

The group’s scheduled appearance in New West resulted in calls and messages to the comedy club, calls to New Westminster City Hall, and the creation of an online petition.

On Monday, New West resident Briana Harris launched an online petition: Cancel Danger Cats’ Show at House of Comedy in New Westminster.

In just over 24 hours, more than 1,600 people had signed the petition on – among them a family member of one of the women killed at the Pickton farm, who stated there is nothing funny about these murders.

In her petition, Harris said she was deeply disturbed by the Danger Cats’ show in New Westminster.

“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. Their act also includes content such as residential schools and mass Indigenous graves, which is completely unacceptable,” said the petition. “The murder of women should never be a basis for any kind of comedy.”

In a news release, stated the public outcry followed last week’s news that Robert Pickton is now eligible to apply for day parole.

“The families of all those women should not have to deal with this on top of everything they have already been through,” Harris wrote. “It's a painful reminder that their loved ones' lives are being used as material for insensitive jokes.”

Indigenous women, who are disproportionately affected by violence compared to non-Indigenous women, deserve respect and justice, not mockery or exploitation, Harris wrote.

“We must stand up against this form of entertainment that disrespects victims and their families while perpetuating harmful stereotypes about Indigenous communities,” said the online petition. “Let's urge House of Comedy to do the right thing – cancel Danger Cats' show set for March 24th.”

Danger Cats get death threats

The cancellation of the Danger Cats’ show isn’t the first time one of the group’s performances has been cancelled

Recently, the Fort Garry Hotel management announced the group’s Feb. 7 show at Yuk Yuk’s Winnipeg had been cancelled.

“The Fort Garry Hotel does not support Danger Cats content,” said a notice on social media.

Today, the Danger Cats posted statement on social media saying that what started as jokes has now moved into new territory.

“We’ve received death threats, and so have the staff at the venues we’re scheduled to perform at,” said the Feb. 27 statement. “Now the three of us can weather the storm but when it comes to our friends in the industry, it’s not worth the risk to their livelihoods. It wasn’t their joke, it shouldn’t be their problem.”

According to the statement, with the exception of Yuk Yuk’s in Winnipeg, “every venue has stood behind us, but now we’re making the decision to stand behind them.”

The group went on to say it was removing the March 24 show in New Westminster, as well as several other shows that had been scheduled in various Canadian cities in March, April and May.

“The Pickton T-shirt has been removed from our website, and all proceeds will go to Ukraine,” continued the statement.

In their statement, the Danger Cats said they’re looking forward to showing that they’re talented performers, but that will happen when the time is right.

“Unfortunately, our opposition has decided to resort to arson, vandalism and threats of bodily harm, so that time is not now,” said their statement. “Cancelling the shows doesn’t solve anything but at least it keeps the innocent staff and venues safe. We all live to joke another day.”