Comedy group that prompted outrage with Robert Pickton shirts won’t perform at New West club, issues statement

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An event that was planned at a New Westminster comedy venue that was shrouded in controversy has been cancelled.

Canadian comedy group Danger Cats has come under fire for selling t-shirts making light of the Robert Pickton case. The group was set to perform at the House of Comedy in New Westminster on March 24. As of Tuesday, Feb. 27, the event was no longer listed.

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House of Comedy also confirms to CityNews Danger Cats is no longer going to perform at the venue. It would not provide any further comment.

In a statement posted to social media Tuesday afternoon, Danger Cats said it was the one that decided it would be “removing” its shows.

Danger Cats says members received death threats

On Monday, the family of Pickton’s victims said they were stunned by the t-shirts. The shirts, which retailed for just under $35, showed two men on the front, one of them depicting Pickton, with an inappropriate phrase on them.

The Canadian comedy troupe said in its statement Tuesday 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,” the post on Instagram reads.

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

Danger Cats says it is “removing” the show at the House of Comedy, as well as shows that were set at the Plano on April 21, in Edmonton on May 12, and all shows in Ottawa set for March 29 to 31.

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

“We’re talented performers and we look forward to showing you that 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. Canceling the shows doesn’t solve anything but at least it keeps the innocent staff and venues safe. We all live to joke another day.”

The statement did not include an apology.

Pickton victim’s cousin ‘overwhelmed with emotions’

Lorelei Williams, whose cousin Tanya Holyk’s DNA was found on the Pickton farm in Port Coquitlam, shared a statement on social media from the House of Comedy which said the event was being cancelled “in light of recent concerns.”

“The well-being of our staff, performers, and patrons is our top priority,” the statement posted by Williams reads.

Pickton was found guilty of six counts of second-degree murder in December 2007. When the Supreme Court of Canada upheld his sentence, first-degree murder charges involving 20 other women — including Holyk — were stayed because he was already serving the maximum sentence.

The shirts were especially ill timed as they came just days after the serial killer became eligible to apply for day parole.

“I am so glad it’s being cancelled … in New West. I’m overwhelmed with emotions about this,” Williams told CityNews Tuesday.

She previously called the shirts “racist” and “misogynistic.”

While she’s pleased the group won’t be performing in New Westminster anymore, Williams says the reason for the cancellation isn’t about “discomfort,” as was noted in the House of Comedy’s statement she shared. She says it’s “heartache, pain, and physical harm.”

“My family member, she got sick. I got nauseous when I had learned that these guys were coming to Vancouver, and just the whole tour in general. Also, from what I saw, there was no actually apology, which they should be doing,” she added about the venue.

Williams, who has been a vocal advocate for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG2S) says in addition to an apology, she’d like to see Danger Cats be “de-platformed” across the country, noting the group had other shows planned.

“I feel like I’ve been rolling with the punches. From the RCMP applying to destroy the evidence, to Pickton being eligible to apply for day parole, and then these comedians. Did they time it this way? I don’t understand the timing. How could they come out at this time?” Williams asked. “It’s been a very emotional week for me, for sure.”

CityNews reached out to Danger Cats on Monday but did not hear back. Prior to the decision to cancel the shows, the group addressed the controversial shirts in a recent podcast, suggesting they were meant to raise awareness about the BC RCMP’s application to return or destroy evidence during the Pickton investigation.

The group said the shirts were “meant as a social statement and a fierce indictment against the current regime in them trying to destroy evidence.”

Danger Cats had a show planned in Winnipeg, which was cancelled by Yuk Yuk’s after outrage from Indigenous advocates and the public.

Amid the controversy, a petition was started to call for the group’s House of Comedy event to be cancelled. It received over 1,600 signatures, as of Tuesday, in just one day.

New Westminster MLA welcomes cancellation

News of the comedy event being scrapped is being welcomed by many, including New Westminster MLA Jennifer Whiteside.

She says she’s “grateful” to hear the show will not be going ahead.

“I am proud that our community has stood up and unequivocally condemned the promotion and sale of merchandise which glorifies violence and mocks the victims of horrific crimes,” she wrote on X Tuesday. “In particular, I would like to thank the families of the victims who expressed their outrage and distress regarding the situation.”

Whiteside says she was “troubled” by the Danger Cat merchandise, saying it “perpetuates misogyny and anti-Indigenous racism, and which trivializes the suffering of victims and their loved ones.”

“The t-shirt, featuring Robert Pickton, a convicted serial killer responsible for the deaths of numerous women, is harmful, deeply offensive, and disrespectful to the memories of those who lost their lives and their families who continue to mourn their loss,” she wrote.

“Any attempt to glorify such violence and to mock the victims of these horrific crimes does not represent the values of our community, and it is appalling that anyone would seek to profit from such heinous acts.”

Anyone in need of support can call the MMIWG2S support line at 1-844-413-6649.

-With files from Sonia Aslam, Monika Gul, and Robyn Crawford

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