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Freedom of Expression and Humor in Canada: The Case of Jérémy Gabriel v Mike Ward

Media and Law: Between Free Speech and Censorship

ISBN: 978-1-80071-730-5, eISBN: 978-1-80071-729-9

ISSN: 1521-6136

Publication date: 23 April 2021

Abstract

Purpose: This chapter examines how two basic rights, freedom of expression, and the right to equality based on one’s dignity, reputation, and honor, were balanced in a case involving a stand-up comedian and an adolescent suffering from Treacher Collins syndrome. Methodology/Approach: The case is contrasted with Jürgen Habermas’ concept of the public sphere and with the intrinsic and utilitarian values that Canadian courts have attributed to free speech. Findings: Because the case was dealt with first in a human rights tribunal and then by a court of appeal, a number of considerations were overlooked in court proceedings: how laughter occurs; the broadening of Ward’s audience and its consequences; and Ward’s publicity strategy. These aspects are explored here to give a more complete picture of the case beyond the court decisions. Originality/Value: In Canada, freedom of expression is usually dealt with ordinary courts. A whole new avenue for dealing with this right is human rights bodies and tribunals. Contesting free speech in the name of defamation is being replaced by rights entrenched in human rights charters, such as the right to equality based on the preservation of one’s dignity, reputation, and honor.

Keywords

Citation

Gingras, A.-M. (2021), "Freedom of Expression and Humor in Canada: The Case of Jérémy Gabriel v Mike Ward", Deflem, M. and Silva, D.M.D. (Ed.) Media and Law: Between Free Speech and Censorship (Sociology of Crime, Law and Deviance, Vol. 26), Emerald Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 117-131. https://doi.org/10.1108/S1521-613620210000026008

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

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