John Carpay: There’s no ‘right’ not to be offended

Article content continued

Ward described Gabriel’s large hearing aid as a “sub-woofer”; insinuated that Gabriel’s mother had used his money to buy herself a sports car, resulting in Gabriel not receiving adequate care. Over the course of 230 live performances, jokes at Gabriel’s expense were heard by more than130,000 people, plus numerous online viewers.

More On This Topic

At the human rights hearing, Gabriel testified that, after seeing the comedy routine online (at age 14, he started to question his own worth, lost confidence and hope, became depressed and lost his desire to sing. Gabriel’s mother said that she encountered people who thought she was rich and who accused her of taking advantage of her son.

Who can blame Gabriel and his parents for filing a human rights complaint? They did not have to pay the (taxpayer-funded human rights commission to prosecute Ward, who was ordered to pay $42,000 in general and punitive damages to Gabriel and his mother. The outcome of this case does not appear unjust, but the means used to pursue justice are profoundly troubling for free expression.

Peter McCabe/MONTREAL GAZETTE
Peter McCabe/MONTREAL GAZETTE

In its decision, the Quebec Human Rights Tribunal misinterprets “equality” as including a legal “right” not to be offended by “discriminatory” comments. This is the same “right” claimed by university students who disrupt and shut down peaceful displays and speaking events that they disagree with. It’s the same “right” claimed by some gays and some Muslims who want to be spared the trouble of having to deal with vigorous criticism of a particular lifestyle or theology. The so-called “right” not to feel offended by another’s speech is a toxic cancer that is slowly killing our freedom and our democracy. This false understanding of “equality” chills free speech for everyone, not just comedians.

John Carpay: There's no 'right' not to be offended