Mike Ward is under fire yet again. But this time, the story may have a happy ending.
Ward, a comedian famous for having been targeted by the Quebec Human Rights Commission for once daring to tell a joke, was set to perform at the Le Gala les Olivier comedy awards on May 15.
He was to act in a brief sketch mocking “political correctness and censorship”, but inadvertently found himself being censored.
Ward and his writing partner were told that their original sketch, which was intended to ridicule “overzealous political correctness”, couldn’t be aired, owing to an insurance issue: The company insuring the event’s broadcast refused to provide coverage against litigation unless Ward’s sketch was softened.
After Ward and his partner toned down “the content of his sketch” seven times in a failed attempt to comply with the insurer (including removing material critical of the Quebec Human Rights Commission), they finally decided to boycott the gala altogether.
It kills me to say this, but given Canada’s legal system, the event broadcaster may have made the right decision.
Canadians have an unfortunate tendency to quash free speech by drowning offenders in litigation. A comedy routine that makes fun of an organization with “Human Rights” in its name? You ought to be ready for a lawsuit or two.
People targeted by the Canadian PC police have little recourse but to spend tens of thousands of dollars on legal aid and pray they end up with a judge who will creatively interpret Canada’s draconian speech statutes to permit their speech.
Canadians have been fined, fired, and even jailed for their right to exercise free speech. Unlike the United States, Canadian law includes overreaching provisions against “hate speech”, a category of expression that spans the gamut from minor insults to violent threats.
Mike Ward wouldn't be subject to prosecution if he was living in a country with a reasonably-placed division between free and prohibited speech.
No amount of legal precedent will change the fact that censoring speech is wrong, of course. But we live in a backwards country. Ward is well-known as an enemy of the regressive left for telling a joke that someone found offensive. For his apparent indiscretion, Ward faces a fine of $80,000. And now he’s not even allowed to make fun of the legal proceedings against him, lest he be sued.
Ward has perpetually been aggrieved by the perpetually aggrieved. But, in this instance, there’s a (somewhat) happy ending.
Ward received widespread support from the general public, including trending on Twitter and receiving sympathetic coverage from news media. Ward published a YouTube video of his sketch on the day of the gala, which is on track to exceed one million views:
In addition, a group of comedians expressed their support at the Gala les Olivier by refusing to speak and by wearing masks painted with a scarlet “X” meant to represent censorship.
At the gala, Ward was declared the “best comedian” of the year, an award that was decided by a vote by members of the public (and was therefore free from the commandments of the broadcaster and its censorious legal team). Ward wasn’t there, but a group of masked comedians accepted on his behalf.
Ward’s longstanding “human rights” dispute with the Quebec Human Rights Commission will be decided in August. If the case is decided in his favour, the Commission may lose some of its bloodlust for bludgeoning people into politically correct docility. The opposite, unfortunately, could also prove true.
And regardless of the outcome of his case, Ward will still have suffered immensely. Ward has reportedly spent $93,000 in legal fees defending himself already, and he won’t be reimbursed for his fees even if he’s cleared of wrongdoing. In this case, like in so many others, the process is the punishment. But there’s still a valuable opportunity to defend speech against the regressive left -- and to set a precedent for the future of free speech in Canada.
So let’s hope things keep looking up for Mike Ward.
Because if he loses, we’ll all be in serious trouble.