MONTREAL -- A judge on Thursday rejected part of the appeal of a comedian who joked about drowning a disabled boy.

Comedian Mike Ward must pay $35,000 to Jeremy Gabriel because of a joke he told at shows between 2010 and 2013, the court confirmed.

A panel of Appellate Court judges upheld part of a ruling against Ward handed down in January 2019. Ward had been ordered to pay $42,000: $35,000 to Gabriel, $7,000 to his mother.

In a split decision, two of the three judges ruled Mike Ward's comments about Jeremy Gabriel's disability compromised the young performer's right to the safeguard of his dignity and could not be justified, even in a society where freedom of expression is valued.

On Thursday, the judges upheld Ward's payment to Gabriel, but not to his mother because the law didn't specify that discrimination against one person extended to that person's loved ones, they ruled.

Gabriel has Treacher Collins syndrome, a genetic disorder that caused facial deformity and prevented him from hearing. After he acquired a hearing-aid, he began to sing and dreamed of becoming an internationally famous singer, according to the Appeals Court ruling. He performed for Pope Benedict, Celine Dion and at a Montreal Canadiens game.

Mike Ward is a stand-up comedian who was known for taking on all sorts of Quebec celebrities with his aggressive style of comedy, the Appeal's Court judgement reads.

Ward's act included a joke criticizing Gabriel. He said Gabriel was a lousy singer, but since he was terminally ill--which he was not--he should be allowed to live out his dream.

"He's dying, let him live his dream," he said during his act. "Five years later, he's still not dead."

He added that he tried to drown Gabriel, but he wouldn't die.

The joke discriminated against Gabriel, and his parents, Quebec's Human Rights Tribunal ruled in 2016--ordering Ward pay damages to the family for "making discriminatory comments regarding Jéremy Gabriel, infringing his right to equality."

Ward appealed the Tribunal's decision and lost.

Thursday's ruling was the latest in Ward's court battle.

 In a statement posted to his Twitter account, Ward said he would refuse to pay the fine and planned to take his case to the Supreme Court of Canada.

He said comedy is not a crime.

"In a 'free' country, it shouldn't be up to a judge to decide what constitutes a joke on stage," he wrote. "The people in attendance laughing already answered that question."

His lawyer. Julius Grey argued Ward's penalty would set a dangerous precedent for comedians in Canada.

"In this particular case, if the judgement is maintained, no one will be able to dare to be a stand-up comic, because normally you make fun of things that are controversial -- otherwise it's not funny," Grey told reporters in January. "If anything that is controversial can authorize someone to say, 'I was hurt, I'm going to court,' then we're finished."

Ward will appeal the case to the Supreme Court, Grey said on Thursday.

In Canada, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees the right to freedom of expression, but the Appeals Court judges ruled that Ward had surpassed the limit permitted by the law.

"What is funny for some can be considered bad taste by others," the judgment reads. "Humor, especially the kind of humour that Mr. Ward practices, can appeal to sarcasm, mockery and even insult. The border between a limitation to freedom of expression in the name of dignity and censorship is thin. ... Comedians must realize, however, that artistic freedom is not absolute and that they, like all citizens, are responsible for the consequences of their words when they cross certain limits." 

With files from the Canadian Press