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Yves Boisvert November 8, 2012
Since Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois was found guilty of contempt of court, people have been dusting off their signs.
The red signs denounce this “political” judgement. The opposing signs applaud, saying that, like everyone, GND is subject to the orders of the court.
After some of what I’ve written, people won’t suspect me of having a secret sympathy for the defunct CLASSE or for GND.
It goes without saying, too, that we don’t have the right to choose, based on our whims, what orders we want to take from the judicial buffet, while ignoring the others.
A court order isn’t worth much without the power to enforce it. And without court orders to arbitrate conflicts and limit the powers of the state, there is no democracy – that goes without saying.
We must even obey court orders with shaky foundations, so long as these are not unjust. Luckily, the system affords the possibility of an appeal before other judges.
If we do not, we must accept the judicial consequences of disobeying, either a fine or prison time.
But, precisely because we are talking of prison, there are a number of precautions that arise before being able to send a defiant person away.
In this case, GND is accused, not of disobeying an injunction himself, but of inciting others to do so.
Inciting someone to commit an infraction is one of the forms of guilt. If we incite someone to commit a crime, we can be found guilty just as if we had committed it ourselves.
Is that the case here?
A contempt of court hearing, even a hearing about a violation of a civil order, works along the same principles as a criminal case.
What does this mean? That it must be proven “beyond a reasonable doubt” that GND committed contempt of court by means of incitement.
Other court decisions regarding incitement have established that it is more than just vaguely wishful expressions or dissenting opinions. Incitement requires a deliberate action that furthers the commission of a criminal act. Not only must the accused have encouraged the commission of the crime: the accused must also have wanted for the crime to be committed, or must have known that the crime would be committed because of those encouragements.
On May 2, an injunction was obtained by an arts student at the University of Laval to compel the institution and its student association to take measures so that he would be able to return to classes.
On May 13, GND criticized this type of injunction in general.
“These decisions, these attempts to force students back to class, they will never work,” said GND, because of student solidarity. He added that it was, “entirely legitimate” for students to “take actions to ensure respect for the democratic decision to strike.” He said it was “regrettable” that a minority “used the tribunal to overturn the collective decision.” And he repeated that, according to CLASSE, it was legitimate for people to take the necessary means to ensure the strike vote was respected, “and if that takes picket lines, we believe this is an entirely legitimate way to do it.”
This is the rhetoric of the radical wing of the student movement. No concession is made to the legitimacy of the judicial action. At his side, Léo Bureau-Blouin clearly states that FECQ supports respecting court orders.
Nadeau-Dubois is equivocal, as he was on the subject of violence, to the point of being supremely irritating.
You can call that irresponsible. But there is no judicial order to be a good boy like Bureau-Blouin, nor to issue a statement that court orders should be respected.
Remember that this is a court action undertaken in the name of an art student in Laval, accusing GND of encouraging people to violate a court order.
I do believe that GND effectively wanted the court order to be defied.
But if you apply the standards of criminal law, and not just a moral compass, the proof of this seems entirely insufficient to me.
The court order that the student obtained forbids blocking entry to a school. It does not forbid picketing. GND is talking about picketing. He does not say to block people from entering, and certainly he does not say to block the entrance to this particular department.
He says, (1) that using the court in this way is a deplorable technique, which is a legitimate opinion of the kind that we can, I hope, still publicly express.
And, (2), that he believes it is “legitimate” to use picketing as a way to enforce a strike vote.
He takes care to not to give any recommendations, nor encouragement, nor to openly defy the court order. He expresses the opinion of his group. He walks astutely on the thin line separating freedom of expression and encouraging people to break the law.
I understand full well the frustration and even the concern of judges before the defiance of court orders last spring. Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois personnified this vaguely anarchist current, scornful of institutions.
Even more reason for him to be judged according to the principles demanded by our laws, and for us to make a plainly visible demonstration of his guilt.
Judge Denis Jacques did not make such a demonstration.