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Comedian Goes To Canadian Supreme Court Over 'Joke' He Made 10 Years Ago

Comedian Goes To Canadian Supreme Court Over 'Joke' He Made 10 Years Ago

He is appealing a decision made at the Appeal Court where he was made to pay damages

Claire Reid

Claire Reid

A Canadian comedian is heading to the country's Supreme Court over a 'joke' he made a decade ago.

In 2010, Mike Ward made comments about then-13-year-old singer Jérémy Gabriel, who has Treacher Collins syndrome, a congenital disease that can affect the skull and face.

In a routine in which he joked about numerous celebrities, Ward mocked Gabriel's physical characteristics and called him 'ugly', the Montreal Gazette reports.

Gabriel says he was bullied because of the act and even attempted to take his own life.

Speaking to the Montreal Gazette, Gabriel said: "This person, and his persistence, caused a lot of pain and consequences.

"When you're 13 years old, just figuring out your own identity, just going into high school, and you are receiving that amount of bullying, that amount of negative attention, you don't think it's possible to go on."

The matter ended up in court and in 2016, the Quebec Human Rights Tribunal ruled that Ward's routines included discrimination against Gabriel.

He was told to pay CA$35,000 (£20,000) to Gabriel and another CA$7,000 (£3,900) to his mother.

Ward was unhappy with the ruling, and branded it 'stupid'.

He took the matter to the Quebec Court of Appeals, but in November 2019, they also ruled in favour of Gabriel.

The court said Ward wasn't able to say whatever he wanted 'under the guise of comedy' and upheld the original decision, which said the jokes made by Ward 'exceeded the limits of what a reasonable person must tolerate in the name of freedom of expression'.

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Again, Ward vowed to fight the case and said he would bring it to the Supreme Court.

In a statement after losing the appeal, Ward said: "Comedy is not a crime.

"In a 'free' country, it shouldn't be up to a judge to decide what constitutes a joke on stage."

The Supreme Court is now tasked with deciding if artistic speech that makes fun of a person's physical characteristics is discrimination.

Gabriel welcomed Ward's refusal to drop the case, telling the newspaper in 2019: "I think it's good news.

"I salute the courage of Mr. Ward for sticking to his principles, but it's important that this debate moves to a larger stage.

"At the Supreme Court level, it will involve all Canadians, and it will help people to have a better understanding of these types of cases."

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Topics: Canada