Comedian Mike Ward is set to appear in front of the highest court in the country after a Quebec judge ordered Ward to pay $35,000 to Jeremy Gabriel last year for a joke Ward made about the young singer who suffers from Treacher Collins syndrome.
The Quebec Court of Appeal, in a split decision, upheld a Human Rights Tribunal ruling awarding damages to Gabriel last November. Ward's joke circles around the idea that Gabriel was not only a bad singer, but that he was "terminally ill" and that Gabriel not passing away meant that his "Make a Wish" was null.
The fact is that Gabriel is not terminally ill and he was not a Make-a-Wish kid—both of these falsehoods were part of the sensational joke. Ward's joke was a reference to when Gabriel sang in front of Celine Dion and Pope Benedict in an effort to achieve his dream of becoming an international singer.
Though the Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees an individual freedom of expression, the Appeals court ruled that Ward had crossed a line, according to La Presse..
It was said of Ward that "what is funny for some can be considered bad taste by others… Humour, especially the kind of humour that Mr. Ward practices, can appeal to sarcasm, mockery and even insult. The border between a limitation to freedom of expression in the name of dignity and censorship is thin. … Comedians must realize, however, that artistic freedom is not absolute and that they, like all citizens, are responsible for the consequences of their words when they cross certain limits."