Quebec comedian Mike Ward will be appealing a ruling by the Quebec Human Rights Tribunal that has ordered him to pay $35,000 to Jérémy Gabriel, a disabled teen he mocked in his stand-up act.
The tribunal ruled Ward’s jokes violated the teen’s human rights.
Ward has been ordered to pay moral and punitive damages of $35,000 to Gabriel and $7,000 to his mother.
The joke centred around Gabriel, also known as Le Petit Jeremy, who suffers from Treacher Collins syndrome.
He had been asked to sing for Pope Benedict XVI in 2006.
The disorder is a condition that affects the development of bones and other tissues of the face.
Gabriel’s parents filed a complaint with the Quebec Human Rights Commission against the comedian’s jokes from 2010 to 2013 in regards to his condition and singing.
The Quebec Human Rights Tribunal ruled Ward had violated the boy’s right to equality by making discriminatory remarks.
Comedian Sugar Sammy told Global News the ruling sets an unwanted precedent for Quebec comedians.
“I’m about freedom of speech, so you can say whatever you want on stage and it’s everybody’s right to critique that,” he said.
“I think once the judicial system gets involved and sets a ruling like this, it sets the arts community back a little bit because you’re not able to write freely and create freely.”
“It’s going to have everybody creating with one foot on the brake, which is not the best way to advance the arts.”
Many have taken to Twitter to show their support for Ward, using #ImwithMikeWard.