In the fall of 2011, Chiheb Esseghaier angrily ripped down a poster from the walls of his university. Esseghaier, a PhD student at Quebec’s INRS and today one of two men alleged to have planned to bomb a major train line, was apparently put off by the imagery on the poster: one of 17 Quebec celebrities sans clothing. “Underneath, we are all the same,” reads the caption. The black and white portraits were part of a fundraising campaign for Centraide, otherwise known as United Way in English Canada.
INRS administration didn’t look kindly on Esseghaier’s attempt at censorship. “We met with him and told him things happen differently from where he was from,” INRS spokesperson Julie Martineau told Maclean’s. “Here, we have freedom of speech.” The incident was minor, Martineau says. “It wasn’t noted in his file.”
The 2011 Centraide campaign was certainly provocative. Save for a few choice naughty bits strategically covered by a hand, foot or (in the case of Simple Plan) a guitar, the images leave little to the imagination. The resulting titillation or outrage worked: Centraide raised $58 million in 2011—roughly $3 million more than the year before, according to Centraide public relations coordinator Annick Gagnon. “Some people complained, but at the end of the day it was because of the campaign that we raised more money.”
Esseghaier remains a PhD student at INRS.