Comedian Mike Ward loses appeal over penalty for joke about disabled boy

Comedian Mike Ward loses appeal over penalty for joke about disabled boy

MONTREAL — Quebec’s Court of Appeal has largely upheld a human right’s tribunal’s ruling requiring a comedian to pay damages to a disabled singer he mocked.

In a split decision, two of the three judges ruled Mike Ward’s comments about Jeremy Gabriel’s disability compromised the young performer’s right to the safeguard of his dignity and could not be justified, even in a society where freedom of expression is valued.

In 2016, Quebec Human Rights Tribunal ordered Ward to pay $35,000 in moral and punitive damages to Gabriel based on comments Ward made during shows between 2010 and 2013.

Gabriel has Treacher Collins syndrome, a congenital disorder characterized by skull and facial deformities. He became a celebrity in Quebec after he sang with Celine Dion and for the Pope.

Ward joked that he thought Gabriel’s illness was terminal and people were only nice to him because he would soon die. Ward joked that after he realized the child was not going to die, he tried to drown him.

While it upheld the damages awarded to Gabriel, the Court of Appeal ruled that Ward should not have to pay $7,000 to the singer’s mother as previously ordered. The comedian’s lawyer, Julius Grey, says this amounts to a partial victory and adds that he will seek leave to appeal the case to the Supreme Court of Canada.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 28, 2019.


The Canadian Press

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