In 2012 a broad coalition of Quebec University and Cegep students went on strike to challenge a tuition hike proposed by the province’s liberal government. The strike grew out of a student’s general assembly vote at Valleyfield Cegep, southwest of Montreal, to include over 150,000 students and protests that involved over 200,000 people. Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois was one of the spokespersons for CLASSE, Coalition large de l’ASSÉ, an organization formed out of the Association pour une solidarité syndicale étudiante, one of the largest student unions, specifically for the purpose of challenging the proposed hike. As a figurehead of a successful social movement he was the target of a ton of criticism issued by the press, professional politicians, and other sources. In Defiance is the English translation of Nadeau-Dubois’ these events as he saw them, and his response to some of the criticism he received during the events of spring/summer 2012.
In In Defiance, Nadeau-Dubois is telling the story of the student strike from his perspective, which was often situated in a meeting room or some other nerve centre of decision or communication, rather than out on the street. His book tells the story of the student strikes but it also subverts the standard modes of representations of the dominant institutions of Quebec society, and it subverts the myth of the younger generations as apolitical. Nadeau-Dubois book, and the events of 2012, reveal his supposedly apolitical generation rather as deeply engaged in politics and social justice, while it was the dominant political establishment that cynically sought to prevent his generation’s participation in politics through undemocratic authoritarian means and dismissively shallow and trite communication practices. Secondly, if one sees the government as protectors of democracy, the media as a source of enlightenment, the courts and police as sources of order and justice, then Nadeau-Dubois reveals all of these institutions to function in opposition to how they represent themselves. The Government is undemocratic, the media is a source of confusion and disinformation, the courts produce injustice and the police create violence and chaos. The overarching message of Nadeau-Dubois book seems to be that while these institutions champion democratic liberties and social progress in practice they seek to constrain society into a shape formed by a very specific neo-liberal worldview, but in spite of that change is possible.