Death – Indigenous comedian and broadcaster Candy Palmater dies at 53

Death – Obituary

Candy Palmater attends the opening of Cirque Du Soleil’s ‘Luzia’ at Port Lands on July 28, 2016, in Toronto.George Pimentel/Getty Images

Candy Palmater, a lawyer turned entertainer who channeled her firebrand feminist perspective into a witty, effervescent presence on television and radio across Canada, died on Christmas Day. She had been hospitalized earlier this month, but died at home, according to her partner and manager Denise Tompkins.

Such was the Mi’kmaq entertainer’s dominant personality that the shows she hosted and worked on invariably carried her own name. Her variety series on the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network was The Candy Show; her former gig on CBC Radio One was called The Candy Palmater Show; and on the new CBC comedy Run the Burbs, she played the role of Candy, the cool and colourful neighbour.

Palmater was 53. No cause of death was publicly disclosed, but in a social media post earlier this month, Palmater divulged a diagnosis of eosinophilic granulomatosis with polyangiitis (EGPA), a disease that causes inflammation of internal organs.

In recent weeks, Palmater had been posting typically upbeat, gracious social media dispatches from the cardiac unit at Toronto’s St. Michael’s Hospital. “Fourteen nights in the hospital, but if it wasn’t for the compassion, abilities and the humanity of the people of Saint Michael’s, I don’t know how I would manage,” she wrote on Instagram on Dec. 14. Though she praised the staff for maintaining her spirits, the irrepressible Palmater likely returned any uplift in kind.

On Dec. 21, she posted a photo on Instagram with the caption, “Enjoying a few strengthening steps outside and some very nice fresh air!”

The daughter of a Mi’kmaw father and white mother, Palmater was a member of Eel River Bar First Nation. She once described herself as a “gay native recovered lawyer turned feminist comic, who was raised by bikers in the wilds of northern New Brunswick.” Her parents operated a Harley-Davidson dealership in Point La Nim.

In 1999, Palmater graduated as valedictorian of her class at Schulich School of Law at Dalhousie University in Halifax. At age 32, she moved on from labour and Aboriginal law to work for the Nova Scotia government and to chase her comedic dreams on the side.

Palmater’s bold humour, which often focused on her Indigenous background and her experiences as a plus-sized woman, carried important messages.

“I never make myself the butt of the joke,” she told the Toronto Star in 2016. “I won’t throw natives under the bus or fat women under the bus, or gay people. If I make a joke about my size, it’s about being large and in charge. It’s always from a place of power.”

Her wide-ranging career in entertainment included appearances on the hit TV series Trailer Park Boys. She often co-hosted the CTV afternoon talk show The Social and was a frequent contributor to CBC Radio, including hosting her own series in 2016, guest-hosting daily arts program q, and as a guest panelist on comedy quiz show Because News. A tribute to Palmater by that program’s host, comedian Gavin Crawford, was one of several posted on social media following the announcement of her death.

“My friend passed away today,” Crawford wrote. “She was fun and so stylish and ruffled all the right feathers. May a gang of hot lady bikers ride her to the great beyond.”

Palmater’s autobiography, Running Down a Dream: A Love Story to My Family, is scheduled to be published by HarperCollins in August, 2022.

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What Is An Obituary

In national newspapers an obituary (obit for short) is a news article that reports the recent death of a prominent person. Although it tends to focus on positive aspects of the subject’s life this is not always the case. According to Nigel Farndale, the Obituaries Editor of The Times: “Obits should be life affirming rather than gloomy, but they should also be opinionated, leaving the reader with a strong sense of whether the subject lived a good life or bad; whether they were right or wrong in the handling of their public affairs.”

In local newspapers, an obituary may be published for any local resident upon death. A necrology is a register or list of records of the deaths of people related to a particular organization, group or field, which may only contain the sparsest details, or small obituaries. Historical necrologies can be important sources of information.