On Friday, June 3, 2011, as Governor General David Johnston read the Speech from the Throne, outlining Stephen Harper’s majority conservative government’s priorities for the next session of Parliament, a parliamentary page held a bold silent protest. Brigette DePape, a recent graduate of the University of Ottawa who had been working for the Senate for a year, stood in the middle of the Parliament’s floor and held up a sign that said “STOP HARPER” (picture here from the Globe and Mail). She was promptly escorted out of the Parliament and fired from her job.
A History of Activism
Ms. DePape is not new to political activism and protests. According to the Globe and Mail, she participated in the G20 demonstrations in Toronto last summer, where she and “a dozen fellow demonstrators linked arms and sat in a semi-circle in front of riot police in a bid to ensure police did not move forward and attack the rear of a column of demonstrators who were marching away.”
DePape also performed a play she wrote called “She Rules With Iron Stix” at TEDx YouthOttawa. Her bio for that event gives some insight into her background and outlook.
A playwright since the age of 15, and a third year international development student who has contributed to sustainable development projects in Senegal and Bosnia, DePape explores the possibility of new worlds: changing our actual world through activism vs. creating new worlds through fiction. She attempts to reconcile responsibility and creativity, suggesting that plays can be a powerful tool for cultural change.
Canadian Version of Arab Spring?
According to rabble.ca, DePape believes that working within Parliament will not help stop Harper from implementing his agenda. She explained her reasons for the protest:
Contrary to Harper’s rhetoric, Conservative values are not in fact Canadian values. How could they be when 3 out of 4 eligible voters didn’t even give their support to the Conservatives? But we will only be able to stop Harper’s agenda if people of all ages and from all walks of life engage in creative actions and civil disobediance.
This country needs a Canadian version of an Arab Spring, a flowering of popular movements that demonstrate that real power to change things lies not with Harper but in the hands of the people, when we act together in our streets, neighbourhoods and workplaces.
Support from Many Corners, Including Michael Moore
Many Canadians are applauding DePape for her actions and several Facebook pages supporting her already have thousands of “likes.” The Council Of Canadians, a prominent social justice organization led by activist Maude Barlow, spoke out in support of DePape.
American filmmaker Michael Moore has become one of DePape’s most prominent supporters. According to the CBC, he said: “I think that Canada and Canadians probably need to put aside the full respect thing and bring out their inner hockey stick and get to work on preventing their government from turning into a version of ours.” Moore also offered DePape a job.
Not everyone is as complimentary though. The conservative Calgary Herald criticized DePape’s actions in its editorial Wrong place, wrong time, saying that “DePape’s unprecedented move was disrespectful to our grand history and to Parliament itself.” They further argued “[t]hat she called on Canadians to rise up like oppressed Arab Spring protesters, who are being shot daily by their governments, is further indication of her lack of judgment.”
“Stop Harper” Protest Planned for Friday
The CBC also reported that a “Stop Harper” protest has been planned for June 10 on Parliament Hill.
What do you think? Was DePape’s protest a bold and intelligent move or disresptful and lacking in judgment?
Annie blogs about the art and science of parenting at the PhD in Parenting blog.
Image: Annie Urban