GND, MLK and my Challenge to the CLASSE's Ex-Spokesman
Last semester’s student uprisings were a pretty big deal. I think everybody can agree on that. At the head of the this big deal, the representatives of the student movement were put under the media’s spotlight, and extensive coverage of student union-initiated activities were presented at every news outlet. The camera is something powerful: it adds 20 pounds, it never forgets, but most importantly it fortifies one’s hubris. If the ensnaring glare of the lens caught Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois (GND), the CLASSE’s ex-spokesman, only he will truely ever know. However, some of his wacky declarations certainly point to the fact that he did succumb, most notably his repeated calls to disobeying court orders. Since then, he has been bitchslapped by the long arm of the law: accused of contempt of court, found guilty. Recently, he has announced that he will go against this verdict in superior instances on accounts of the fundamental right to freedom of speech as guaranteed by the Charter of Rights and freedoms.
I’d like to reiterate a couple of key points before I get to the point:
- His first attempt to legitimize his call to disrespecting the law was built on the idea that it went against the student's right to union activity, picketing and all. In fact, there legally never was such a right, the law on student unions not explicitly recognizing any such right. These principles were cheaply copied over from legal works recognizing worker's unions, which are a whole different ball game. None of this seems to matter to supporters of the student movement, because once an organisation dons the name of union, it's natural rights, ie: every single legal concession ever made to union since the beginning of the history, must be recognized by the state. At least according to them. Why? Because anarcho-syndicalism is why: no state can have a say on the righteous acts of a naturally formed union. This apparent desire for the loosening of the legal definition of a union is in itself a lack of respect for the law and the institutions which enforce it.
- By nature, solidarity is strong between union movements. So strong in fact that GND has received funding from unions to pay for his defence. I was unable to find either the amounts that this funding represents, whether or not members of the FEC-CSQ even voted on funding such a legal endeavour, and if they did, how many of them did. Transparency isn't exactly a value highly held in this kind of organisation anyways.
- All of last spring brought to light, by accident most likely than not, a very old debate: that of the legitimacy of civil disobedience. In fact, the word came to be used so often in so many contexts that I boycotted it, and replaced it with shit-disturbing, partly for fun, and partly to promptly let it be known in discussions that I wasn't very pro-student. MP Amir Khadir came VERY close to also getting charges for comtempt of court, when he claimed the legitimacy of civil disobedience in the case of injust laws, specifically Bill 78, according to the principles applied by Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr in their respective struggles for fair treatment. Directly, this was an absurd attempt at drawing parallels between completely different contexts. Indirectly, it was both enormous praise to the student leaders, and the perfect theoretical justifications for the continuing of shit-disturbing.
Coincidentally with the release of GND’s verdict, one of my university teachers distributed a complementary reading on the contemporary successors of Saint Thomas d’Aquin, in the form of Martin Luther King Jr’s “Letter from a Birmham Jail”. He did it mostly as a tip of the hat to American political thinkers,our class taking place on the day of the presidential elections, but I think that most of us immediately made the link to last spring’s events. From that handout, here is a short exert on the legitimate use of civil disobedience:
In no sense do I advocate evading or defying the law, as would the rabid segregationist. That would lead to anarchy. One who breaks an unjust law must do so openly, lovingly, and with the willingness to accept the penalty. I submit that an individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over it's injustice, is in reality expressing the highest respect for law.
I find in this passage wisdom which I have not witnessed in the declarations of student leaders, who were much more revolutionary in their aims. This is another reason why Khadir’s likening of the students to MLK is completely ridiculous: the intentions of the latter obviously wanted to use anarchy to their advantage, while to the former this is definitely not the case. MLK shows, in a self-sacrificial way, his utmost respect for the law and the institutions that enforce it, by willingly accepting his sentence as a catalyst to the enlightenment of his peers, an action necessary to the attainment of the greater good. The only likeliness between the students and MLK are the concepts of enlightenment and greater good, which were central to the student movement’s rhetoric.
At the light of this, here is my challenge to GND: suck it up. You spearheaded a movement which in it’s methods and aims was revolutionary, so of course repression from the existing legal framework was inevitable. Going into higher instances won’t work out: your actions, if left unpunished, open up a gigantic precedent that makes obedience to court orders mandatory. No judge will ever let you get away with that. So you have two choices.
- Fight till the end to ultimately lose, syphoning union funding left and right as you go. This solution is arguably not the best in terms of greater good: much could have been done with the money you have wasted in procedures, amounts that are in the end paid by the union workers through their contributions to the CSQ, and the public at large through their taxes.
- Quit being such a little bitch and go to jail like a man. Every revolution needs it's martyr, and if you think highly enough of your cause, you'd do like MLK did and be that martyr by submitting to legal authority. The greater good, remember? Take one for the team. If you want to put on a show, ditching your lawyer asking for maximum jail time would surely cause a stir, but there's no need to go through all that. Just get to the courtroom, state off the bat that you will be resorting to your right to silence, and STFU for the entire hearing. Serve your sentence, and enjoy your new-found status of martyred syndicalist, the Michel Chartrand of our generation. Surely your future employers will appreciated this credibility anyways. And hey, if it worked for ending segregation, it'll probably work for obtaining free university-level education, right?
In times where you lose, the only difference between being a man and a coward is accepting full responsibility for your actions. Grow some balls and end this honourably Here in the land of no-fault, it would be fun to see somebody take responsibility, for a change.