Today there will be a call-out for concerned citizens to come downtown to show support for a young man who spoke out in what is supposed to be a country made for speaking out. He didn’t assault, attack, rob or steal, or really commit any crime aside from relaying a nonviolent message that he believes in. To be allowed to speak out is a right most consider natural, human. We’re raised, and told we have the right to Free Speech, but more and more, using it is getting the prominent members of movements jailed and fined.
Radio-Canada Interview, May 13th 2012
“I think that it is completely legitimate for students to undertake the means necessary to respect the democratic choice to strike… It’s completely regrettable that a minority of students are using the courts to go around decisions that were made collectively. If students need to form picket lines to ensure that their strike votes are respected, we think that’s completely legitimate.”
– Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois,
When Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois incited the protesters in Quebec despite court order to take up a picket line to enforce a majority vote to strike, he was found guilty of contempt of court, which carries a $5000 fine and a year in prison. Protesting a school isn’t like protesting against a company you do or do not work for. It receives heavy subsidization, and is a key asset required to gain employment in society’s full range of activities, and because of these two facts it should be considered on whole a public asset. He has more right to speak out about his institutions than if it were say, a fitness club where attendance and success are not necessary but because also they are not paid by public funding. What counts here is does he have the right to say the best or correct action is to block the school.
Students don’t all support their unions, or their unions decisions, but they all benefit from the actions of a strong union. It seems reasonable that they should have a basic relationship between the active and inactive members of the union. A picket line where students can get in but not without hearing the messages from the angry mobs outside fighting for their and their childrens’ education and rights seems like a reasonable kind of failsafe for any educational facility. Its just part of free speech.
But he’s not being arrested for being in the picket line, he’s not being arrested for saying people should make one. He’s being jailed for saying the union’s position on the matter is that people should have the right to enforce their votes by creating picket lines, that this is a legitimate move. Being that he was the spokesperson for the union, he was certainly going to be the one to say something, and so regardless of his personal opinion, his job was to announce the organization felt it was correct that people should make a line to radically and non-violently create an impression. It should never be illegal for people to express such a benign and human position. Its not a problem with what he believes though, instead it is a mechanical trap of a rule. He broke the rule, so he pays the price. Basic decency should remind any judge that whether they had a right to form a picket, Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois has a right to say what he feels or what his organization has voted upon. He can not reasonably be found legally responsible for other people by making a simple announcement as he was as his role as spokesperson dictated. his opinion was not violent, racist, or of any other filthy nature. A bit of discomfort felt by students entering the schools must surely be worth preserving freedom of speech, the right to say what you think is right, the right to stand out in a crowd. Otherwise, I can think of a whole spectrum of subcultures within society that say contrary things, this judge would have to imprison all the underground hip-hop artists, of course. Generally speaking, and unless absolutely necessary, no law should trump a basic right like this ruling has.
If this doesn’t ring home, think about how law works. Precedent. Once something is ruled a certain way it is referred upon and lodges itself deeper into the legal system, adapted for new uses. This Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois guy was just a guy who got involved in extra-curricular activities in his school, arrested essentially for thought crime and charged a pretty hefty sum of money to boot. This is not a question of legal authority, this imprisonment has been committed in order to create fear in the minds of all who would think to oppose the status quo.
The march starts at Dufferin Grove Park today at 12pm – 2pm
Facebook event is here, invite yourself: https://www.facebook.com/events/164380417036919/
The legal defense website: http://appelatous.org/
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