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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.
Richard Chevalier Weilbrenner November 5, 2012
Original French Text: http://www.ledevoir.com/politique/quebec/363162/outrage-au-peuple
The cup of injustice runneth over. Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois is considered a criminal by the Superior Court of Quebec. And, barring an appeal overturning the judgement of the first tribunal, Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois will forever be branded as having, “knowingly incited […] disobedience of the orders of the Court, including those of judge Jean-François Émond of May 2, 2012, thus committing a contempt of court.”
It’s as if we are in a nightmare, but we are awake, and we read right. The tribunal, basing its decisions on principles of law and jurisprudence, gave reasons for its decision. One can wonder how the student Jean-François Morasse took the news. His cause prevailed. Is his heart joyful? Is he a little ashamed? Deep down, it doesn’t really matter: to ask these questions is to answer them, a little bit.
The question is whether the tribunal’s decision respects our system of administration of justice. The answer is yes, if you consider only the legal arguments. But the answer has to be no, if it is based on the natural feeling of what is just and what is unjust – that is, if you answer the question based on fairness.
In this case, the distance between “justice” and “judiciary” is striking. The former has to do with fairness; the latter has to do with the ability to distinguish true from false and carries a judgement of law. It is simple for a judge to base a decision on “justice.” That is what we expect from judges: if the rule of law is respected, we can conclude that justice has been done. But the case we are dealing with is not so simple.
The beliefs held by the citizen Gabrield Nadeau-Dubois did not materialize out of nowhere, but out of an unprecedented climate of confrontation between a peaceful protest movement and a government of patently bad faith who turned a blind eye to the excesses of the forces of order. It was a government that took great care to never talk of the student “strike,” insisting on speaking of the “boycott” of classes (a word which is found in the Émond judgement, to the diminishment of boycotts). It was a government that obscured the line between vandals and the larger protest movement. It was a government that was severely criticized by a large part of the population, the press and observers of social phenomena.
There are many attenuating circumstances that judge Émond could have considered to render a more nuanced decision, he did not, opting instead for a strict application of the law. Far be it from me to say this was to send a message.
But I can’t help but think that justice might not have been done as well as we would have liked. Nor was there an attempt made to bring the two sides closer after such contempt of the people, for which Jean Charest is responsible: Jean Charest who, under cover of defending democracy, instead kneecapped its fundamental principles, and who insulted the intelligence of the people by his distortions of the facts and his grotesque, ridiculous statements.
What is more dangerous to society: challenging unjust laws, refusing the play the same game as the professional manipulators, going to the barricades if need be? Again, to ask these questions is to suggest their answers.
The contempt Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois is said to have displayed is nothing compared to the contempt of “Badge 728” who spit in the face of the entire people. It’s not just the “red squares” who were on the receiving end of this contempt. All of society was held in contempt by the scorn poured out by the government of Jean Charest, and by the foul language of Badge 728.
Valerie Simard November 2, 2012
After meeting with his lawyer this morning, Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois declared in a press conference that the decision delivered by judge Denis Jacques by the Superior Court of Quebec was mistaken on several points. The former spokesperson of CLASSE points out, particularly, that he did not advocate anarchy, as the judge says. “I did not advocate anarchy, I did not advocate disorder, I advocated accessibility to education and justice.” He added that his words last May were not just his, but “those of tens of thousands of people who believed in mobilizing against the increase to tuition fees.”
“In my eyes, this is about much more than just sentencing,” added Nadeau-Dubois. “It is about setting a precedent. A dangerous precedent, by which spokespeople of the student movement, the labour movement or the citizenry must from now on be afraid of speaking, for fear of ending up in prison.”
The lawyer for Nadeau-Dubois, Giuseppe Sciortino, believes that the judgement contains many “plainly unreasonable and plainly wrong” conclusions. “There are many errors in this judgement,” he remarked. “For example, in a contempt of court case it must be proven that the accused knew the terms of the court order, and this must be proven beyond doubt.” Sciortino underlines that it was not proven beyond doubt that Nadeau-Dubois knew the terms of the injunction given to the Fine Arts Students Association of the University of Laval.
The lawyer intends to notify the court within the next few days of his intention to appeal. He clarifies that it will be up to a judge to decide whether to suspend a sentencing hearing, which will take place on November 9. According to him, it is possible that his client will receive punishment in spite of his appeal, but it will not be executed until the end of the process. The maximum penalty is a year in prison or a $5000 fine. The former spokesperson could also be given community service.
A Call for Solidarity
Until now, legal fees for Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois have been paid by the l’Association pour une solidarité syndicale étudiante (ASSÉ). As he does not want to “empty the ASSÉ treasury” for his cause, Nadeau-Dubois is making an appeal for solidarity. He is inviting his supporters to make a donation on his internet site. If the amount raised does not cover all his costs, ASSÉ spokesperson Jérémie Bédard-Wien has affirmed that the association will continue to support Gabriel Nadeau Dubois. He declined to reveal how much the defense of the former CLASSE spokesperson has cost ASSÉ until now. “We make regular financial statements,” he said. In the next few weeks, ASSÉ will launch its own financing campaign to support other members of its association who must defend themselves in the courts.
In his decision, judge Denis Jacques relied heavily on the arguments of the plaintiff, Jean-François Morasse, a visual arts student at the University of Laval, who won an injunction last spring to be able to attend his classes.
On May 13, speaking on the air with RDI, Nadeau-Dubois declared: “I believe it is entirely legitamite for students to act to make sure there is respect for the democratic choice to strike. It is entirely regrettable that there is a minority of students who is using this tribunal to overturn the collective decision that was made. We find it entirely legitimate that people take the necessary means to make sure the strike vote is respected. And if this takes picket lines, we believe that this is an entirely legitimate technique.”
Yesterday, about 200 people met in downtown Montreal to show their support for Nadeau-Dubois.
Québec Solidaire invites supporters to participate in the fundraising campaign for Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois. “This judgement is not only against Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, but against the thousands of us who recognize ourselves in the printemps érable.”