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Quebec comedian allowed to appeal ruling he must pay artist he mocked

Quebec comedian Mike Ward is seeking permission to appeal a ruling he must pay $35,000 to a young artist for mocking him.

Just For Laughs/Matthew Cope photo

A Quebec comedian is being allowed to appeal a ruling he must pay $35,000 to a young artist for mocking his appearance and singing.

The Quebec Human Rights Tribunal ruled in July that Mike Ward made discriminatory comments about Jeremy Gabriel's handicap during shows between 2010 and 2013.

The Quebec Court of Appeal granted the permission to appeal today, although the case is not expected to proceed for a year or so.

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Gabriel, who is now 19, has Treacher Collins syndrome, a congenital disorder characterized by craniofacial deformities.

He is well-known in Quebec and sang for the pope in 2006. He has also performed for Celine Dion.

Ward's lawyer, Julius Grey, has alleged the judge at the human rights tribunal made factual and legal errors in his ruling.

Grey, who is also appealing a decision that Ward must give Gabriel's mother $7,000, says the judge did not take into account that the comedian's comments are protected by freedom of expression.

The documents Grey filed in court also warn that the tribunal's decision, if not reversed, could set a dangerous precedent.

In a video of one of Ward's performances, he can be seen calling Gabriel ugly and wondering why he hasn't died five years after getting his wish to sing in front of the pope.

Gabriel said he was disappointed when he learned Ward would likely appeal.

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Gabriel also said the case was more about discrimination than free speech.

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