Comedian Mike Ward Heads To Supreme Court Over Jokes About Jérémy Gabriel

The Supreme Court of Canada is examining the right of comedian Mike Ward to make fun of Jérémy Gabriel and the latter’s right to dignity.

In November 2019, two of the three Quebec Court of Appeal judges ordered Ward to pay $35,000 in punitive and moral damages. However, the court overturned the Human Rights Tribunal’s decision to also award damages of $7,000 to Gabriel’s mother.

The case is being followed with great interest in Quebec, while the highest court in the country will have to determine whether freedom of expression protects artistic discourse as much as political discourse.

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

Supreme Court justices will also have to decide whether mocking personal characteristics amounts to discrimination.

Gabriel suffers from Treacher Collins syndrome, a congenital disease characterized by deformities of the skull and face. He was well known when he sang in 2006, at the age of nine, for Pope Benedict XVI.

In one of his routines, Ward made fun of several famous personalities, including Gabriel. The comedian mocked Gabriel’s physical characteristics.

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The two parties standing before the Supreme Court of Canada are Ward and the Commission des droits de la personne et des droits de la jeunesse. However, Gabriel and his mother each have intervenor status.

The Comedy Industry Professionals Association, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association and the League for Human Rights of B’naï Brith Canada are also among the speakers.

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