Arbitrary fines need to stop! Help us fight for freedom of the press

Rebel News videographer Guillaume Roy is fighting a charge issued during Quebec's draconian COVID-19 lockdown. His crime? Telling a plainclothes officer they were arrogant. Help us fight back against arbitrary abuses of power!

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Guillaume Roy has been a videographer and producer for Rebel News since 2021. Before joining the Rebel team, he was a citizen journalist reporting on the harsh lockdowns in the province of Quebec, as the mainstream media was failing to do so.

While doing his job as an independent reporter, Guillaume received multiple tickets for various health measure infringements.

The most arbitrary fine he received came during a sit-in protest in Quebec City. There, he received a ticket for 'insulting a police officer' after saying “grand fendant” to plainclothes police.

'Fendant' or 'fendante' is an adjective used in Quebec to refer to a pedantic, pretentious and annoying person.

Guillaume decided to challenge this fine, which he perceived as an infringement on his constitutional rights.

"Following the announcement of Bill 96, there was an element in that bill that violated the Constitution. This created a kind of panic among several activist groups, leading all these people to mobilize. And I started to be interested in this mobilization," Guillaume explained, reflecting on how he became involved in the sit-in protest in Quebec City.

The sit-in drew attention and support from various quarters. However, tensions escalated as law enforcement sought to dismantle the installations that protesters had put in place. Afterward those were demolished, plainclothes agents began monitoring the protesters.

Guillaume recounted an encounter with one such individual who recognized him from social media, indicating a level of surveillance that he found unsettling.

As the sit-in continued, authorities moved for a second time to dismantle the small tent installation. "There was a lot of willingness to stop that movement," Guillaume observed. Despite efforts to disperse the protesters, he remained steadfast in his commitment to freedom of expression.

During their intervention, plainclothes police issued a $150 fine to Guillaume, ostensibly for the minor-but-highly-arbitrary infraction for saying “grand fendant' — or “big arrogant' in English — to one of the police on the scene.

He viewed the penalty as arbitrary and symbolic of broader issues concerning civil liberties. "Arbitrary decisions don't just come from the police, but also from the city," Guillaume asserted.

Determined to challenge the fine, he highlighted the importance of defending freedom of expression, particularly for independent media outlets like Rebel News.

As Roy prepares to contest the fine in court along with Rebel News and The Democracy Fund, his case serves as a rallying cry for those who believe in the fundamental right to dissent. "It may seem trivial," he remarked, "but that's precisely the problem."

With the support of like-minded individuals, Roy hopes to set a precedent that will safeguard freedom of expression for future generations.

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