On Friday, Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, former spokesperson for the Coalition large de l’Association pour une Solidarité Syndicale Étudiante, announced his decision to appeal the guilty verdict handed down Thursday by Judge Denis Jacques.
Jacques declared him guilty of contempt of court, saying he encouraged students during the student strike last semester to disobey an injunction filed by student Jean-François Morasse against students picketing classes at Université Laval.
The guilty verdict was based off a statement made by Nadeau-Dubois in a television interview in the midst of the student conflict: “We find it legitimate that people take the means necessary to uphold the strike and if that means picketing, we believe that is legitimate to do.”
In a press conference held Friday morning, Nadeau-Dubois told media that his message was for students to continue fighting for accessible education — not anarchy.
“My words last May were not mine — they were the words of the thousands of students who were fighting against the tuition hike,” said Nadeau-Dubois.
He also noted the irony of the situation emphasizing the adoption of Bill 78, or Law 12, only weeks later that cancelled injunctions.
Nadeau-Dubois could face prison time, fines up to $5,000 or community service for his offence. The sentence is to be handed down next week.
“For me in 2012, in Quebec, [this decision] is a precedent that cannot be allowed to stand. We cannot accept that people still have to defend their political views even if they are expressed by thousands of others,” he said.
Though ASSÉ, CLASSE’s base organization, has announced its “unfailing support” for Nadeau-Dubois, the organization will not be paying his legal fees. Donations will be collected online for Nadeau-Dubois so as not to exhaust the organization’s coffers and free resources for the other students who face legal fees from the student strike.
So far, Nadeau-Dubois has collected $74,000 to offset the costs of legal fees.
In an effort to show their solidarity, about 200 demonstrators marched the streets of downtown Montreal, Thursday night, in protest of the guilty verdict.
Demonstrator Wina Forget views the decision as unjust.
“There are politicians accused of stealing hundreds and hundreds of dollars, getting away with next to nothing,” said Forget. “Whereas a young student who led a noble struggle finds himself in a courtroom with the threat of prison and high fines to pay.”
Forget also cast doubt to the partiality of Jacques.
“We know that in  the judge was a Liberal candidate and we see clearly that [he] has political convictions pour a certain party – completely unacceptable for a judge,” she added.