Canadian comedian Mike Ward was ordered by the Quebec Human Rights Tribunal in 2016 to pay a fine of $35,000 for joking about a disabled boy. On Thursday, an appeals court upheld that judgement.
Between 2010 and 2013, Ward joked about Canadian singer Jérémy Gabriel, who suffers from "Treacher Collins syndrome, a congenital disorder characterized by craniofacial deformities," the CBC reported. The jokes amounted to discrimination against Gabriel's "right to equality," the human rights tribunal said.
On Thursday, the Quebec Court of Appeal upheld the tribunal's penalty, ruling that Ward cannot say whatever he wants "under the guise of comedy," the Montreal Gazette reported.
The court determined that Ward "exceeded the limits of what a reasonable person must tolerate in the name of freedom of expression."
"Humor, especially the kind of humor that Mr. Ward practices, can appeal to sarcasm, mockery, and even insult. The border between a limitation to freedom of expression in the name of dignity and censorship is thin," the court said. "Comedians must realize, however, that artistic freedom is not absolute and that they, like all citizens, are responsible for the consequences of their words when they cross certain limits."
In a statement, Ward said that he would not abide by the ruling.
"I am, once again, refusing to pay. We are going to take this to the Supreme Court," Ward said. "Comedy is not a crime."
"In a 'free' country, it shouldn't be up to a judge to decide what constitutes a joke on stage," he added. "The people in attendance laughing already answered that question. I'm telling you right now, I would rather go to prison than pay even one-tenth of this stupid fine."
My verdict just came in. Thought I should set the record straight. I lost, kind of, but not really. (version fran… https://t.co/Dop4mvIXYR— Mike Ward (@Mike Ward)1574983516.0