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Quebec judge dismisses defamation suit against comedian Mike Ward regarding joke

Click to play video: 'Supreme Court rules comedian’s mockery of singer with disabilities was not discriminatory' Supreme Court rules comedian’s mockery of singer with disabilities was not discriminatory
WATCH: The Supreme Court of Canada has overturned a previous ruling ordering comedian Mike Ward to pay damages to a singer with disabilities for mocking him in a standup routine. The case pitted the right to freedom of expression against the right to dignity. As Olivia O'Malley reports, the ruling has brought relief on both sides. – Oct 29, 2021

A Quebec comedian who won a high-profile Supreme Court of Canada human rights case last year has logged another legal victory against one of his accusers.

A Quebec court judge has dismissed a defamation suit against comedian Mike Ward in connection with a joke he made between 2010 and 2013 about Jeremy Gabriel, who at the time was a well-known teenage singer with a disability.

Gabriel’s mother, Sylvie Gabriel, was seeking $84,600 from Ward, arguing the joke he made at her son’s expense caused her significant harm.

Read more: Comedian Mike Ward’s mockery of disabled Quebec singer not discriminatory: Supreme Court

Judge Manon Gaudreault dismissed the suit, writing that the one-year time period to file a defamation claim had passed — even when taking into account the time the case had spent in other courts.

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However, Gaudreault’s May 30 decision rejected Ward’s claim that Sylvie Gabriel’s lawsuit was abusive and an excessive use of the legal system.

The decision is the latest step in a long legal saga between the Gabriel family and Ward, which culminated in a Supreme Court of Canada ruling last fall stating that Ward’s comments did not amount to discrimination under Quebec’s rights charter.

Jeremy Gabriel has Treacher Collins syndrome, a congenital condition characterized by deformities of the skull and face. When Ward had delivered his comedy routine mocking Jeremy Gabriel, the teenager was a well-known singer who had appeared alongside Céline Dion and the Pope.

Read more: Quebec comedian Mike Ward facing new legal action for joke about disabled singer

In 2016, Quebec’s human rights tribunal ordered Ward to pay $35,000 in damages to Gabriel and $7,000 to his mother based on the remarks, which included a joke about drowning the singer. But that case went to the Supreme Court, pitting artistic expression, in the form of dark comedy, against the protection of one’s dignity.

In a 5-4 decision last October, the country’s highest court concluded that the elements of a discrimination claim under the Quebec charter had not been established in the case. The court also said the singer and his mother chose the wrong court — the human rights tribunal — for their case.

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Jeremy Gabriel has also filed a separate $288,000 legal action against Ward in Quebec Superior Court.

Ward’s lawyer, Julius Grey, says he will seek to have that suit dismissed at a June 29 hearing.

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