Comedian Has to Cough Up $42K for Insulting Child With Disabilities

Quebec tribunal says Mike Ward's jokes were 'discriminatory'
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 22, 2016 4:09 PM CDT

(Newser) – A French-Canadian comedian found a child singer with a genetic disease who's performed for Celine Dion and Pope Benedict to be the perfect butt of his jokes—and now the Quebec Human Rights Tribunal is making the funnyman pay some not-so-funny money to both the singer, now 19, and his mother, Vice News reports. Mike Ward has to pay $35,000 ($25,000 in moral damages, $10,000 in punitive damages) to Jeremy Gabriel—who Ward has referred to as "Petit Jeremy"—for a series of jokes about Gabriel, who suffers from Treacher Collins syndrome, a genetic disorder that causes facial deformities and hearing issues, at shows between 2010 and 2013, per the Toronto Star. The tribunal, which found the remarks to be discriminatory, also awarded Gabriel's mom $7,000. The jokes revolved around Gabriel's visit with the pope in 2006, which Ward first addressed in his 2010 act.

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In that set, the comedian noted he had initially been happy for Gabriel's meeting with the pontiff, since he thought Gabriel was terminally ill, the CBC notes—"but now, five years later, and he's still not dead! Me, I defended him, like an idiot, and he won't die!" is how he wrapped his piece up, adding Gabriel was "ugly," not dying. Gabriel says his self-esteem plunged and it led to him being bullied; he says he even tried to commit suicide. Some don't agree with the tribunal's decision, noting it sets a sticky precedent for free speech. "This is terrifying. A comedian forced to pay someone who got offended by his joke," a fellow comedian who has dwarfism tweeted. Ward, who says the bullying against Gabriel likely started before his joke, doesn't appear to be giving up the fight. "Even Rocky lost the first one, we're gonna appeal," Ward posted on Facebook early Thursday, with Vice noting he also joked around about the tribunal's decision. A "disappointed" Gabriel tells the CBC, "it shows Mike Ward didn't understand the reason for the complaint and the decision." (A deaf woman is suing Taco Bell over how difficult it was to order food.)

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