from the canada-is-way-too-polite dept
Gabriel became well known in Quebec after he was flown to Rome to sing for Pope Benedict in 2006. He has Treacher Collins syndrome (TCS), a genetic condition that causes disfigurement.It's definitely a kind of punching down joke that feels a bit overly mean, but there are plenty of comics who make their living saying outrageous stuff like that -- which is funny because it's so outrageous. In the end, the decision came down to a clash between the right of freedom of expression... and a right to "dignity, honour and reputation" along with "equality." The court eventually decided that freedom of expression lost to the other two. The court was particularly disturbed by the fact that Ward singled out Gabriel and made fun of his appearance (apparently some other jokes about him were okay). In the end, it said he had to pay Gabriel $35,000 ($10,000 of which were punitive damages). He then had to pay another $7,000 to Gabriel's mother.
In Ward's 2010 comedy bit, he said he was happy Gabriel — or as he called him, Petit Jérémy — was getting so much attention following the papal visit because he believed Gabriel had a terminal illness and was going to die.
Ward thought the papal visit was part of the Make-A-Wish Foundation, an organization that grants wishes to children with life-threatening medical conditions.
"But now, five years later, and he's still not dead! … Me, I defended him, like an idiot, and he won't die!" Ward said, adding that Gabriel wasn't dying, but "ugly."
Beyond filing an appeal, Ward is apparently still doing the joke in his act... but in the context of the new ruling:
"One day, the caller ID read: Human Rights Tribunal. When I answered. the woman said, 'Mr. Ward, we're calling you about one of your jokes. We think you know the one," he told the crowd.Anyway, yes, as noted above, the joke is kind of mean, but it's a joke. It's how some comics get laughs -- by saying completely outrageous things. Making that potentially illegal seems like a way to kill off an entire part of comedy.
He went so far as to repeat the same jokes about Gabriel that were at the centre of the complaint from years ago.
Separately, what kind of world is it when you have a "right to honour and reputation." Aren't those the kind of things you earn, rather than get via a right? I'm not saying that Gabriel doesn't deserve honor and a good reputation, but it seems like a strange thing to include that in the rights of citizens and seems like the kind of thing ripe for widespread abuse any time anyone is offended over almost anything.