An unelected quasi-judicial board of PC police with no respect for fundamental freedoms is trying to force a comedian to pay thousands of dollars because someone didn’t like one of his jokes about a public figure.
A bigot who makes a career out of vulgarities and insults is finally being brought to minor justice after bullying a young boy by mocking his disability and expressing a desire for him to be murdered.
Either one of those sentences could describe the much-discussed legal battle between comedian Mike Ward and Jérémy Gabriel, the boy born with Treacher Collins syndrome who made headlines a decade ago when his wish to become a singer led to him singing in front of Céline Dion and the pope.
Just before he began a week of hosting the Nasty Show at Just For Laughs, Ward was ordered by Quebec’s human rights tribunal to pay a total of $42,000 in moral and punitive damages to Gabriel and his mother for comments he made during a one-man comedy show.
If you’re unfamiliar with the case, pat yourself on the back, because it seems like everyone has been talking about it. Even visiting American comedians were asked about the case during JFL.
Since the decision was announced, and even before while we were waiting for it, just about every communications medium that exists has hosted discussions on it. On one side, comedians and free speech absolutists who say this is a slippery slope toward government censorship of comedy. On the other side, social justice warriors who say comedy is no excuse for bullying a disabled child.
I’ve been thinking about the case for the past couple of weeks, trying to decide which side I’m on. I believe in protecting the vulnerable people of society from hate speech and children from bullying, but I also like Ward’s comedy.
And I saw the comedy bit in question, and I laughed. I still do.
So unlike most people who have commented on this case publicly, my position is more nuanced.