Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois to appeal contempt of court ruling, seeks financing for fight
Published Friday, November 2, 2012 10:40AM EDT
Last Updated Friday, November 2, 2012 7:44PM EDT
MONTREAL—Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois says he will appeal his conviction for contempt of court, even before a sentence has been rendered, and he’s asking for money to help finance the fight.
"I will face the consequences of my words, but I think the judge has made an error in his judgement," said the former spokesman for the student group CLASSE.
Nadeau-Dubois was convicted of contempt of court because of a statement he made during a live television interview in May, when he told protesters that they should not respect court injunctions banning demonstrations from interfering with classes.
“It’s completely regrettable that a minority of students are using the courts to go around decisions that were made collectively,” Nadeau-Dubois told a Radio-Canada interviewer. “If students need to form picket lines to ensure that their strike votes are respected, we think that’s completely legitimate.”
University of Laval student Jean-Francois Morasse, who had won an injunction, filed the complaint against Nadeau-Dubois following that interview.
At a street corner news conference on Friday morning, Nadeau-Dubois said the conviction puts a chill on freedom of speech, especially for those acting as spokespeople for organizations.
"This judgement would create a precedent that says that now a spokesperson that defends political opinions, because they were opinions in the public space, can risk going to prison," said Nadeau-Dubois. "I am convinced that my words were not just my views but those of hundreds of thousands of people.”
The charismatic spokesman also thought that the judge had erred in his judgment, ruling that Nadeau-Dubois was a leader and had an obligation to denounce violence. As a spokesman, Nadeau-Dubois countered that he had no right to adlib for an organization representing upwards of 200,000 students.
“He says in his judgement that I was defending anarchy and disorder, which is not the case. I have never defended anarchy and disorder; I have defended accessibility to education and social justice,” said Nadeau-Dubois.
Backed by members of the militant student group ASSE, Nadeau-Dubois said that he is convinced his conviction sets a precedent.
"That's probably the main reason why I want to continue to fight, because I don't want the citizens and the activists after me to be afraid to express themselves in public knowing that if they say a word over the other, they can go in jail."
Nadeau-Dubois, with the encouragement of the student group he used to represent, is asking for help paying his legal fees through donations made to a website.
"Is freedom of speech contempt?" the site asks.
A Quebec political party is already responding to the call.
The small left-wing party Quebec Solidaire, the staunchest supporter of the student strikes, will invite members to contribute money to Nadeau-Dubois' legal cause.
"We can agree or disagree with the tactics employed by the CLASSE," said Francoise David, Quebec solidaire's co-leader and one of its two elected members.
"Boiling the Maple Spring down to the conviction of one person, for everyone's actions, frankly I find that indecent."
She criticized the student who lodged the complaint against Nadeau-Dubois, saying she "wouldn't be very proud" to be in his shoes.
The case went to trial in September and Justice Denis Jacques ruled Thursday that Nadeau-Dubois was in contempt for encouraging people to disobey a court order. Sentencing arguments will be made on Nov. 9, 2012.
After the judge’s ruling, 200 protesters took to the streets of Montreal and walked on the city’s courthouse.
The maximum penalty for contempt of court is a $50,000 fine and one year in jail.
—with files from The Canadian Press.
A copy of the judge's decision