Halifax man charged with yelling vulgar phrase at female reporter set over
By The Canadian Press
HALIFAX – The case of a Halifax man accused of hurling a vulgar slur at a female reporter taking part in a live broadcast has been adjourned until next month.
Nash John Gracie, 25, was charged with public mischief and causing a disturbance after the incident in a Halifax bar.
CTV Atlantic reporter Heather Butts told her Twitter followers on Dec. 29 that the phrase was directed at her during the station’s 6 p.m. broadcast.
She was broadcasting from the Pint Public House, where fans were watching a world junior hockey championship game.
A recording shows a man approaching Butts and calling out the same sexually explicit phrase that has been yelled at other female reporters across the country.
On Thursday, lawyer Ron Pizzo told Halifax provincial court that high-profile defence lawyer Joel Pink will be representing Gracie. The case was adjourned until April 20.
Pizzo said several journalists have expressed support for Butts, saying the incident represents a broader problem of harassment of female reporters.
Last week, a provincial court in Newfoundland and Labrador dismissed a single charge against 28-year-old Justin Penton for causing a public disturbance following a similar incident.
Penton was accused of yelling a phrase commonly abbreviated to FHITP at NTV reporter Heather Gillis last April as she was recording an interview outside the St. John’s dump.
Judge Colin Flynn said the sexist slur was vulgar and offensive, but not a crime under the circumstances.
The union that represents Gillis, Unifor, issued a statement saying it was concerned about the judge’s decision, saying he “missed an opportunity to send a message that vulgar, verbal attacks on journalists are not acceptable.”
“Unifor takes the safety of journalists seriously as their workplace can be any public place where news is breaking,” it said, adding that Gillis is a member of Unifor Local 915M.
The union said it has raised the issue at meetings with employers and through health and safety committees.
It noted Gillis had snapped a photo of the accused’s license plate, and other union members should do the same in similar circumstances.
The acquittal also prompted Newfoundland politician Cathy Bennett to introduce a private member’s bill to amend the province’s labour laws.