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Candy Palmater, Indigenous Canadian comedian and talkshow host. The Mi’kmaq entertainer was a luminous, larger-than-life presence on stand-up stages and her nation-wide television variety series The Candy Show on the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network.Dustin Rabin/Courtesy of CBC

Candy Palmater once described herself as a “gay native recovered-lawyer-turned-feminist-comic who was raised by bikers in the wilds of northern New Brunswick.” This description was both over the top and not nearly enough.

The Mi’kmaw entertainer was a luminous, larger-than-life presence on stand-up stages and as the host of the nationally televised variety series The Candy Show carried by the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network. She had a regular part for one season on the hit television series The Trailer Park Boys and was a frequent contributor to CBC Radio, including anchoring her own midday spot in 2016 and as a guest panellist on comedy quiz show Because News.

Most recently, Ms. Palmater was a regular guest co-host on CTV’s afternoon talk show The Social. She also landed a recurring role on the new CBC sitcom Run the Burbs.

Ms. Palmater died at home in Toronto on Christmas Day. The comedian had been hospitalized in early December for eosinophilic granulomatosis with polyangiitis (EGPA), a disease that causes inflammation of internal organs. She was 53.

The daughter of a Mi’kmaw father and white mother, Ms. Palmater was a band member of Ugpi’ganjig, a Mi’kmaw First Nation in northern New Brunswick formerly called Eel River Bar. Joking about her European-Indigenous heritage, she would say that on Friday nights she didn’t know whether to “steal land or go to the bingo.”

She will be remembered as a rouser, an amuser and a devil-horning heavy-metal music enthusiast who presented herself boldly. The array of tattoos on her arms fought for space with the heart on her sleeve as she addressed topics such as body image, Indigenous rights and LGBTQ issues.

She was in favour of Dorothy Parker’s wit and her favourite shade was hot pink. A plus-sized performer, she wasn’t shy about talking about her weight. Whether as a public speaker or a columnist with the now defunct Halifax Daily News, she was positive, proud, and very much out loud.

“If there was a joke to be made or if there was a politician to be roasted, she did it,” fellow comedian Andrew Phung said. “If there was something to be said, she said it and she was unapologetic about it.”

Ironically, Ms. Palmater’s edgy, unreserved brand of humour arose partly from her softer side. “She loved humanity,” said Denise Tompkins, the comedian’s wife and business manager. “What she found very hard and very sad was how people treat each other. It was difficult for a sensitive person like her.”

The entertainer was such a relentlessly distinctive character that her name was often attached to the shows she hosted and the roles she played. Her character on Run the Burbs was originally intended to be named Brandy, but because Ms. Palmater’s first name was tattooed on her body, the character was switched to Candy.

Ms. Palmater will be remembered as a rouser, an amuser and a devil-horning heavy-metal music enthusiast who presented herself boldly.Courtesy of CBC

“She knew exactly who she was,” said CBC Radio’s Leslie Merklinger, who in 2016 helped develop the afternoon talk show The Candy Palmater Show for CBC Radio One. “It was not our style at the time to name a new show after the host, but no other title seemed appropriate.”

Many listeners got a load of Ms. Palmater’s vitality in 2017 when she championed Katherena Vermette’s novel The Break on Canada Reads, CBC Radio’s annual battle of the books. She was a voracious reader – the pure size of her personal library spoke volumes.

“When I moved from the East Coast to Toronto, the most expensive part of the move was moving my books,” Ms. Palmater once said. “The guys that loaded the trucks said, ‘You have 12,000 pounds of stuff and 8,000 pounds of it is books.’ ”

One more title will soon be added to the pile. Ms. Palmater’s autobiography, Running Down a Dream: A Love Story to My Family, is scheduled to be published by HarperCollins this August.

Candy Palmater was born Dec. 4, 1968, in the small New Brunswick community of Point La Nim. She was the last of seven children born to Pearl (née Foster) and Guy Palmater. Her father was a recovering alcoholic who, after burdening his first six offspring with his drinking, desired to have a child while sober. Both he and Pearl were in their 40s when Candy was born.

“My mother had a vision when she brought these 11 pounds into the world,” Ms. Palmater would later joke about her colourful first name. “She looked down, saw my beautiful face and said, ‘This child some day is going to be a hooker or a stripper.’ I became a lawyer, so she was pretty close.”

Ms. Palmater once described herself as a “redemption baby,” spoiled by her parents and her siblings. “It was like each of them took their hopes and dreams and lived them through me,” Ms. Palmater told Saltscapes magazine. “It was a dreamy, dreamy upbringing.”

As a young adult, Ms. Palmater’s activist bent emerged. While working at Tim Hortons in the 1990s to help pay her tuition at Halifax’s Dalhousie University, she organized her co-workers into a union. In response, the franchise owner laid off the staff, closed the shop and tore down the building.

The incident inspired Ms. Palmater’s law career. “After that I thought to myself, ‘You know what, I’ve got to do this with a little more power, with an LLB after my name,’“ Ms. Palmater told the Telegraph-Journal about her decision to enrol in Dalhousie’s law program.

By 1999, she was president of the Aboriginal Law Students Association. She graduated in 2000 as valedictorian. When she was called to the bar she swore her oath on an eagle feather.

Her career as a lawyer was short-lived. “My idea had been that I would be an advocate and voice for people who didn’t have a voice,” she said in a 2011 interview. “But I drank the Kool-Aid at law school. They tell you success is being hired in a big corporate firm. I had nothing in common with the people I was working with, and I was doing nothing for my community.”

At age 32, Ms. Palmater quit the law firm that employed her and changed her lifestyle. “I had been with a man for 12 years,” she told the Telegraph-Journal. “I left the law, left men, moved in with a woman, and started life as a comic.”

While pursuing her comedy dreams, she worked during the day with the Nova Scotia government directing First Nations education in the province. In the mid-2000s, Ms. Palmater contributed a column to the Halifax tabloid the Daily News. She wrote on everything from self-love (”I‘ve found enough grace to make peace with my laugh lines”) to a Guns N’ Roses concert (”Axl Rose’s catharsis was evident and energizing”).

The comedian’s career took off in 2010 with The Candy Show. For four seasons the Halifax-taped half-hour variety show featured Ms. Palmater’s wrecking-ball brand of humour on a set that recreated her teenage bedroom. East Coast entertainers and artists (be they musicians, burlesque performers or acrobats) were showcased.

The Candy Show is our show,” Ms. Palmater explained to the Telegraph-Journal at the time. “We don’t have any other venue showcasing Atlantic-Canadian talent to the rest of the country on national prime time television.”

In 2015, Ms. Palmater and Ms. Tompkins moved to Toronto. An audition to replace Jian Ghomeshi as host of CBC Radio One’s morning arts magazine show Q (later renamed q) didn’t land her the gig, but it did open eyes at the network.

“I was instantly drawn to her energy and her humanity,” said Ms. Merklinger, at that time the director of new programs and talent development. “She was a force of a nature, and she was a storyteller.”

The Candy Palmater Show, created as a CBC Radio summer replacement series, did not last. Still, being of an entrepreneurial mindset, Ms. Palmater never lacked for work. She was an in-demand speaker whose core messages were “love, kindness and self-acceptance,” according to her website.

“She worked so hard, pushing herself all the time to make change,” said Mary Munson, who directed a one-hour documentary on Ms. Palmater in 2005 for CBC Newsworld. “When I asked her about her energy level, she said, ‘Mary, I’ll have lots of time to sleep when I die.’ "

Ms. Palmater’s recent health issues were serious, but her condition was treatable. After her discharge from hospital she felt better than she had in years, according to Ms. Tompkins. “She was perking up. The glow was back in her face, and I told her that she looked like she was 20 years old again.”

On Christmas morning, Ms. Palmater was in bed reading a book, Melissa de la Cruz’s Pride and Prejudice and Mistletoe. “Over the holidays she would also take a break from the heavier stuff,” Ms. Tompkins said. After taking the couple’s dog out for a walk, Ms. Tompkins returned to find Ms. Palmater slumped over the book. “I called 911, but when you see someone’s eyes, you just know.”

Ms. Palmater leaves behind her wife, Ms. Tompkins; and siblings Sidney Palmater, Guy Palmater and Sharron Humphrey.