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‘A one-woman wrecking crew of comedy’: Beloved Indigenous comedian and broadcaster Candy Palmater has died at age 53


‘A one-woman wrecking crew of comedy’: Beloved Indigenous comedian and broadcaster Candy Palmater has died at age 53

Indigenous comedian, writer, orator and broadcaster Candy Palmater died on Saturday at age 53, her wife and manager Denise Tompkins confirmed on social media.

Palmater was a familiar personality on various radio and television shows across the country. She created and hosted the hit variety series “The Candy Show” on APTN. She also hosted the “The Candy Palmater Show” on CBC Radio One and was a part-time co-host on CTV’s daytime talk show “The Social.”

In a tweet posted on Saturday morning, Tompkins wrote that Palmater passed away suddenly at home earlier that morning.

“I have few words,” she stated. “I will post information soon.”

Palmater’s cause of death has not been disclosed. However, the television and radio host revealed earlier this month on social media that she was in hospital and had been diagnosed with EGPA (eosinophilic granulomatosis with polyangiitis), a rare disease that causes blood vessel inflammation.

In a tweet posted on Sunday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called Palmater’s death “a huge loss.”

“Canada lost an incredible talent and advocate yesterday,” he wrote. “Candy Palmater, a member of the Mi’kmaw Nation in NB, entertained and educated so many through her work.”

Born in Point La Nim, New Brunswick to a Mi’kmaq father and a white mother, Palmater’s path into the entertainment industry was long and winding.

She started her career as a lawyer — graduating as class valedictorian at Dalhousie Law School before practising labour and Aboriginal law at a large corporate firm. For a decade, Palmater also worked for the Nova Scotia Department of Education as director of Mi’kmaq Education.

It was only later in life that Palmater decided to leave her law practice and pursue a career in entertainment.

“When I’m asked to describe myself, I always say I’m a gay native recovered lawyer turned feminist comic, who was raised by bikers in the wilds of northern New Brunswick,” she told the Star in a 2016 interview as she was about to launch her new CBC radio show.

In addition to broadcasting, Palmater was also an inspirational speaker who travelled around the globe to share her message of love, kindness and self-acceptance.

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“I’m very interested in loving kindness, and the notion of self-acceptance. I feel like every time you open a magazine, watch a movie, turn on the television, you’re constantly being told you’re not enough: not rich enough, not pretty enough, not thin enough …” she said in 2016. “I think we’re all more than enough, but we’re not told that often enough.”

Palmater is set to appear on CBC’s upcoming comedy series “Run the Burbs,” which premieres on Jan. 5.

Andrew Phung, the show’s creator, producer and star, first worked with Palmater in 2018. The comedic duo were paired together to host CBC Radio’s “Because News,” a comedy quiz show.

“The first time I did a show with her, my mouth was wide open the entire time, because I was blown away at how fierce and unafraid Candy was to make the joke, to say the thing we were thinking and to find a spin on it,” said Phung. “I loved making her laugh. She loved making me feel uncomfortable. We were close comedy buddies throughout the last few years.”

In “Run the Burbs,” which follows a Vietnamese-South Asian-Canadian family living in the suburbs, Palmater plays family neighbour “Candy,” a character Phung created especially for the comedian. He incorporated stories she had told him over the years into the character.

“I just felt like she was so badass and I wanted her in the neighbourhood of the show,” Phung said. “She was a one-woman wrecking crew of comedy.”

The writer and actor also remembers her kindness.

“She was a comedian that was unafraid and unapologetic, but also so kind in a time where we learn about comedians and their negative behaviour and attitude offstage,” Phung said. “She was a gift and joy to work with behind the scenes.”

“Run the Burbs,” which concluded filming in early November, is one of Palmater’s final projects. She was also set to release her first book, a memoir, in the spring of next year.

“It’s going to be really bittersweet watching those episodes,” Phung said. “(But) I’m very excited for Canadians to see Candy in all her glory.”

With files by Donovan Vincent

Joshua Chong is a reporter for the Star’s radio room based in Toronto. Reach Joshua via email: [email protected]

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