Que. student leader seeks donations to fight contempt of court verdict

MONTREAL – A prominent figure in Quebec’s student movement says he’ll appeal a contempt of court verdict — and he’s asking for money to finance the fight.

Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, who has become a household name in Quebec, made the announcement Friday on the steps of the Montreal courthouse.

He said he doesn’t have the money to finance a legal battle and is asking for financial support. There’s a website soliciting donations on his behalf.

“Is freedom of speech contempt?” the site asks.

“The words he spoke, they are ours too. We accept them as our own and reiterate them. If there’s someone to convict, there are thousands of us to punish… There are thousands of us who recognize ourselves in this Maple Spring.”

A judge ruled this week that Nadeau-Dubois, the charismatic speaker and former spokesman for the hardline CLASSE student group, had advocated anarchy during Quebec’s student strife earlier this year.

A Quebec political party is already responding to the call.

The small left-wing party Quebec solidaire, the staunchest supporter of the student strikes, will invite members to contribute money to Nadeau-Dubois’ legal cause.

“We can agree or disagree with the tactics employed by the CLASSE,” said Francoise David, Quebec solidaire’s co-leader and one of its two elected members.

“Boiling the Maple Spring down to the conviction of one person, for everyone’s actions, frankly I find that indecent.”

She criticized the student who lodged the complaint against Nadeau-Dubois, saying she “wouldn’t be very proud” to be in his shoes.

The case stems from an allegation that Nadeau-Dubois encouraged students to ignore a court injunction handed down in Quebec City while doing a television interview last May.

His lawyer had pleaded ignorance and argued that there was no evidence Nadeau-Dubois was aware of the injunction. A Quebec Superior Court justice rejected the argument.

A few hundred Montrealers marched in support of Nadeau-Dubois last night. Nadeau-Dubois, who quit his role as student spokesman last summer, did not testify at the trial.

His official role during the strikes was as one of the CLASSE group’s several “co-spokespeople.” The group was anti-hierarchical and did not have a leader. It would hold general assemblies at which members would adopt positions that Nadeau-Dubois later explained in public.

But his firebrand style, good looks, and his group’s more ardent stance made him a media sensation at the height of the conflict.