TORONTO — Candy Palmater, an Indigenous comedian, actor, broadcast personality and host of “The Candy Show,” has died.
Palmater was 53 when she died peacefully at her Toronto home on Christmas morning, her partner and manager Denise Tompkins said Monday.
Palmater, a member of the Eel River Bar First Nation in New Brunswick, created, wrote and starred on her award-winning comedy variety show “The Candy Show” on ATPN for five seasons.
The Mi’kmaq performer also had acting credits on “Trailer Park Boys,” “Big Pride,” “Sex & Violence,” and “Forgive Me.”
Tompkins said Palmater was diagnosed with a disease called eosinophilic granulomatosis with polyangiitis (EGPA) earlier this month, but a cause of death was still unknown as of Monday.
The rare disease is characterized by inflammation that can impact organs including the heart and kidneys. It’s not known what causes the disease, according to the Cleveland Clinic’s website, but experts suspect it has to do with a malfunctioning immune system.
Palmater had been sick for years, Tompkins said, but she was recently released from hospital following a 16-day stay and looked to be improving before she died.
“She was responding quite beautifully,” Tompkins said in a phone interview with The Canadian Press. “She was walking around, having some energy. It looked like she was younger by 20 years…I hadn’t seen that Candy in at least 10 years.”
Tompkins said Palmater “died comfortably in her bed, reading her book, doing what she loved.”
Palmater had chronicled her recent hospital visit on Instagram, posting photos of flowers she had received from friends over the two-week stay. She posted two more photos showing her and Tompkins drinking coffee on Dec. 16, with the caption: “My first morning home! Reunited and it feels so good!”
Tompkins, who was the managing partner of “The Candy Show,” met Palmater online through a friend 22 years ago and said the two had been inseparable ever since.
Their first phone conversation lasted five hours, Tompkins said, adding that she knew Palmater was special from the moment she heard her voice.
Palmater was also a regular co-host on CTV’s weekday talk show “The Social” and hosted “The Candy Palmater Show” on CBC Radio One.
Palmater won a number of awards, including a 2015 Indigenous music award for “The Candy Show” and a 2017 Bonham Centre Award from the University of Toronto, which honours distinguished contribution to the public understanding of sexual diversity in Canada.
“The Candy Show”‘s website says she was working on a memoir, which is in the “editing stages.”
Tompkins said Palmater loved preaching messages of love and kindness on various platforms.
“She just wanted everyone to know that they were enough,” she said. “She just loved life. She loved people and she saw the best in humanity (during) a really hard time when most people don’t see it.”
Tompkins said Palmater also used her platform to become a role model for other Indigenous people and often visited First Nations communities across the country.
Palmater studied law at Dalhousie University in Halifax and went on to practice labour and Aboriginal law before shifting to entertainment. She also spent a decade as director of Mi’kmaq Education with the Nova Scotia Department of Education.
Details of a virtual memorial will be shared as soon as they are arranged.
Tompkins said Palmater impacted many people in different ways, and those who knew her have unique memories to share and hold onto.
“She was an anomaly, a very rare gem that our world lost way too early,” she said. “Everybody’s just dumbfounded that we no longer have her.”
Melissa Couto Zuber, The Canadian Press