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Canadian comedian ordered to pay $35K fine over offensive jokes

The Quebec Court of Appeal upheld a ruling that orders comedian Mike Ward to pay $35,000 to a disabled man over offensive jokes.

The Quebec Court of Appeal upheld a ruling that orders comedian Mike Ward to pay $35,000 to a disabled man over offensive jokes. 

Between 2010 to 2013 Ward made a number of jokes which poked fun at the disability of Jérémy Gabriel including remarks about his appearance and trying to kill him while he was still a child.

“This person, and his persistence, caused a lot of pain and consequences,” said Gabriel about Ward’s comedy act. 

Gabriel is a singer who is famous in Quebec and has appeared widely on television in the province. According to Ward’s lawyer, Julius Grey, his jokes were meant to challenge cultural “sacred cows,” including Gabriel. 

Gabriel, who has Treacher Collins disorder, was awarded the sum originally after filing a discrimination complaint against Ward in 2016 at the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal.

According to Ward, who is arguing that his jokes are protected by artistic freedom and freedom of expression, he will be taking the ruling to the Supreme Court. 

“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 people in attendance laughing already answered that question,” wrote Ward on his Facebook.

Another $7,000 which was awarded to Gabriel’s mother by the tribunal was dismissed by the appeal court. In total, the original tribunal ruling would have required Ward to pay the family $42,000. 

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