Comedian Mike Ward played his last card on Monday in Supreme Court in the hope of not having to pay Jeremy Gabriel a penny, more than 10 years after making fun of the young singer with a disability in his shows.
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“Limiting freedom of expression, in a society of” cancel culture “would have an effect of reluctance, no one would dare to speak,” said Ward’s lawyer, Julius Gray, Monday, in order to invalidate the decision of the Human rights tribunal ordering the comedian to pay $ 35,000 to singer Jérémy Gabriel.
The lawyer for the Association of Professionals of the Comedy Industry, Walid Hijazi, for his part recalled just after that “the playground of a comedian must be as wide as possible” and that according to him, increasing the obstacles to freedom of expression would lead to self-censorship.
This case could have a significant impact on humor in the country, but also on freedom of expression in general.
It all started in 2010, when Ward attacked “little Jeremy” in one of his black comedy shows. At the time, Mr. Gabriel was a teenager and was best known for singing in front of Pope Benedict XVI.
However, to denounce the “sacred cows” which cannot be laughed at, Ward had devoted several “jokes” on the young artist, notably La libment on his disease causing a deformation of the skull and face.
In three years, the show has been presented 230 times.
Listen to Me François-David Bernier at the microphone of Richard Martineau on QUB radio:
Not a hero
“Even if he was chosen for his notoriety, the comments targeted his disability,” pleaded Stéphanie Fournier, who represents the Human Rights Commission. Mike Ward did not have the right to humiliate Jérémy Gabriel on the basis of his handicap, that was the limit not to be crossed. “
Mr. Gray argued that his client put Mr. Gabriel “on an equal footing” by making fun of him like he has done with other personalities, but that instead made the judges jump from their chairs.
“Oh! Let’s see! ” one of the judges exclaimed, while another recalled that Mike Ward “is not a hero”.
Listen to the judicial column of ex-judge Nicole Gibeault on QUB radio:
For his part, the lawyer representing the Gabriel clan recalled that “behind the decisions of the courts, there are humans”.
“I do not believe that we can go to haggle for human dignity”, pleaded Me Stéphane Harvey, noting that the damage suffered by Jérémy Gabriel had occurred during his childhood and adolescence, while he was trying to shape his personality.
After half a day of hearing pleadings on technical aspects of the law, all in nuances, the Supreme Court took the case under advisement.