Indigenous advocates find controversial comedy act no laughing matter

An advocate for the safety of Indigenous women and girls and residential school survivor says she believes no one in Winnipeg should be welcoming the Danger Cats to town, because she says the controversial comedy group is spreading hate and misogyny with their act, and could be putting Indigenous lives in danger.

“This is about the safety of women, because this will tell others it’s ok to harm Indigenous women, it’s just a joke. That’s the message this sends,” Vivian Ketchum said.

“Every day there are Indigenous women going missing and women being murdered and this just perpetuates the belief that we are somehow disposable.

“We are not disposable; our suffering is not a joke.”

Alberta-based touring comedy act the Danger Cats, a three piece act made up of, according to their website, Sam Walker, Brett Forte and ‘Uncle Hack, is being accused of using anti-Indigenous racism and misogyny to get laughs, and recently had a slate of shows cancelled at the Yuk Yuk’s Winnipeg location at the Fort Garry Hotel after strong backlash from many, including those in Winnipeg’s Indigenous community.

The Danger Cats in the past have made jokes in their shows regarding suspected graves of Indigenous children at former residential schools, but have also recently been selling a shirt on their website depicting Robert Pickton, who is believed to have killed as many as 49 women at his B.C. pig farm. The shirt features a cartoon-style image of what looks like Pickton and another man seemingly clinking pieces of bacon in celebration, along with the phrase ‘Pickton Farms, 50 flavors of Hookery Smoked Bacon.’

Ketchum said she believes the fact that Yuk Yuk’s even considered bringing the Danger Cats to town to put on their act, and that there was demand for tickets before the cancellation shows that “racism is alive and well in Winnipeg.”

She said when the shows were first announced she would have also liked to hear more from politicians in Winnipeg condemning the act and making it clear “they are not welcome in Winnipeg.”

“I would have liked to hear a whole lot more, because it’s like we’re just pulling out the welcome mat for these bigots and racists, so to be honest I am kind of disgusted this almost happened.”

She said she also feels for the relatives of victims who died at the hands of Robert Pickton, one of this country’s most notorious serial killers, and a man who preyed on women who were vulnerable and often Indigenous.

“I can’t even imagine how they are feeling, because now their pain is being used to sell t-shirts? My condolences to each and every one of their victims and their families, they don’t deserve this.”

Winnipeg-based advocate and Assistant to the Director of V.P. Indigenous at the University of Manitoba Sadie Lavoie slammed the Danger Cats and their act in a Thursday Facebook post writing “their garbage ‘comedy’ expresses or promotes colonial violence against Indigenous IRS survivors and MMIWG2S.”

On Thursday Yuk Yuks CEO and founder Mark Breslin told the Winnipeg Sun the Danger Cats shows in Winnipeg were cancelled only due to concerns for the safety of patrons and staff at the venue, but a representative with the Fort Garry Hotel where Yuk Yuk’s is located is now saying they do not “support” the Danger Cats shows or their content, and have no plans to book the act.

“Danger Cats shows were cancelled on February 7,” Fort Garry Hotel Director of Food & Beverage Janet Harder said in an email. “They will not be performing at Yuk Yuk’s Winnipeg.

“The Fort Garry Hotel does not support Danger Cats content.”

The Winnipeg Sun reached out to the Danger Cats for comment, but has received no response.

— Dave Baxter is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the Winnipeg Sun. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.

Dave Baxter, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Winnipeg Sun