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The Quebec Court of Appeal signed the end of the legal saga between Jérémy's family Gabriel and comedian Mike Ward by rejecting, on Monday, the request of the mother, Sylvie Gabriel, who wanted to sue comedian Mike Ward for defamation.
Ms. Gabriel had appealed a first judgment of the Court of Quebec in May 2022 which declared the request inadmissible on the grounds that the defamation action was time-barred. The statute of limitations is the period beyond which it is no longer possible to prosecute an individual. This period is generally three years.
Judge Manon Gaudreault of the Court of Quebec had rejected the request of Sylvie Gabriel who wanted to claim $84,600 from the comedian in compensation, citing the destructive effect of the jokes he made about his family between 2010 and 2013.
The comedian made fun of Jérémy Gabriel's disability in a show he has performed on several occasions. The one who was nicknamed little Jérémy suffers from Treacher-Collins syndrome, a congenital disease characterized, in him, by head malformations and profound deafness. Born in 1996, he sang for Pope Benedict XVI in 2006 at the Vatican and pursued a career as a singer and actor.
The legal proceedings between the Gabriel family and Mike Ward stretched over more than 10 years, even reaching the Supreme Court.
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In 2012, a complaint was filed with the Commission on Human and Youth Rights for discrimination. Four years later, the Human Rights Tribunal ordered the comedian to pay $35,000 to Jérémy Gabriel for comments made against him, a judgment which was confirmed by the Court of Appeal in 2019, then overturned by the Supreme Court in October 2021.
In this case, the highest court in the country considered the freedom of expression and the right to equality. The Court ruled in favor of the comedian in a very divided decision. According to her, Mike Ward's taunts had not infringed Jérémy Gabriel's right to dignity and equality.
In the conclusion of the judgment, Chief Justice Wagner and Justice Côté wrote among other things […] Mr. Gabriel could have initiated an action for defamation. However, neither the Commission nor the Tribunal have jurisdiction in matters of defamation […].
In January 2022 , civil liability actions for defamation had been brought, but contested by motions for inadmissibility on the grounds of limitation.