B.C. radio host suspended for comments on woman's suicide, domestic abuse

Paul Brar, seen in this promotional social media post for Sher E Punjab AM 600, was suspended Friday by the station following his on-air comments about domestic violence.  (Sher E Punjab AM 600/Facebook - image credit)
Paul Brar, seen in this promotional social media post for Sher E Punjab AM 600, was suspended Friday by the station following his on-air comments about domestic violence. (Sher E Punjab AM 600/Facebook - image credit)

WARNING: This article contains details of suicide and abuse.

A South Asian radio host in Richmond, B.C., has been suspended after he commented that the husband of a woman who died by suicide in New York, following what she described as years of domestic abuse, shouldn't automatically be blamed because he hasn't been criminally charged in the tragedy.

Paul Brar, a host with Sher E Punjab AM 600, spoke on-air Thursday about the death of Mandeep Kaur, who died by suicide last week after she posted videos online accusing her husband of physically assaulting her for years and pleading for help.

Other videos posted online appear to show Kaur, 30, being smothered and choked by a man in a home, while the audio of children screaming can be heard.

Brar's comments about the death have been condemned online and by advocates who support victims of domestic violence.

Joty Kay, a Los Angeles-based radio entertainer of Punjabi descent, said Brar had also stated on his show that social media was only showing "one side" of the story, and that advocates online were being divisive by highlighting the issue.

"He was saying that [in] the clips of him beating his wife, we don't know what happened in between those two [clips]," she said.

"He's basically saying domestic violence is OK and let it be hush hush, basically, is what he's saying. Go ahead. Put it under the rug."

Kay said that Brar's show, which invited callers to share their unfiltered opinions, was an example of unchecked misogyny in certain parts of South Asian culture.

"He's appalled by [social media's] mentality. No, we're appalled by your mentality, the mentality of toxicity. It's crazy to me," she said.

'We take this matter very seriously'

On Friday morning, the station announced that Brar has been suspended and an internal review launched into the matter, with the results to be made public.

"The management and staff of Sher E Punjab do not condone or excuse violence in any form and opposes strongly any kind of intimidation that targets women, seniors, children and the most vulnerable among us," reads the statement on the station's website.

"We apologize for any offence taken and ensure all our listeners that we take this matter very seriously."

Sher E Punjab
Sher E Punjab

Advocates for victims of domestic abuse are concerned that the station won't do enough to respond to Brar's comments and learn from them.

"What happens now? Does he get training? Does the entire staff get training? Does the organization sit down and do some introspection?" said Satwinder Bains, director of South Asian studies at the University of the Fraser Valley.

The station did not comment further after being contacted by CBC News.

Nimi Chouhan, founder of the Sahara Services Society in Surrey, which supports South Asian women, children and families affected by domestic violence and abuse, said Brar's comments make it harder for victims to speak out, get help or leave abusive marriages.

"These types of thoughts and behaviour, it is perpetuated in our community but our radio hosts, our TV, our dramas, and our movies, they continue to allow and perpetuate and build on all of this which makes victims and survivors of it that much harder for them."

Members of Surrey's South Asian community are planning to hold a vigil for Kaur on Sunday.

If you or someone you know is a victim of domestic violence, VictimLinkBC is a toll-free, confidential, multilingual service available across B.C. and the Yukon 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and can be accessed by calling or texting 1-800-563-0808 or sending an email to VictimLinkBC@bc211.ca.

If you or someone you know is struggling with thoughts of suicide, here's where to get help:

This guide from the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health outlines how to talk about suicide with someone you're worried about.