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June 16, 2011

This country needs a Canadian version of an Arab Spring, Brigette DePape

The Canadian Charger

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Brigette DePape is a truly remarkable young Canadian woman. She articulated the view of the majority of Canadians as she stepped boldly out front during the Speech from the Throne with her "Stop Harper" sign.

With that silent performance she reached a large audience, in Canada and abroad for the cause of justice and humane values.  And her Senate performance came with real meat.  She prepared a press release for the occasion.  Here’s part of it:

“Harper’s agenda is disastrous for this country and for my generation.  We have to stop him from wasting billions on fighter jets, military bases and corporate tax cuts while cutting social programs and destroying the climate.”

This 2007 Loran Scholarship winner of a $75,000 cushion for her four-year study at the University of Ottawa graduated in International Development and Globalization.

While she came from a comfortable family background, her eyes are wide open. Last year she wrote a thoughtful report for the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, where she served as a summer policy intern. 

Comparing the experience of low income youth in deprived sectors of Winnipeg with her own experiences and opportunities in nearby suburban St. Vital, she identified the benefits she had that they lacked...  Said DePape: “Incarceration and tougher sentences do not tackle the root causes of crime: poverty and inequality.”  While this may not be the whole story on crime, it serves as an excellent introductory chapter.  And no to “tough on crime,” she said.

She also took part in the G20 protest.  Was it, as her father told her, ineffective?  Her response:

“Protesting was undoubtedly better than doing nothing at all, and incremental changes alone are not making the impact necessary.  Were past protests for civil rights, women’s rights and worker’s rights a waste of time?  Just a hundred years ago the women’s right to vote did not seem realistic either. But like speaking out against the tar sands, fighting for the right to water, and calling for an end to poverty, it was necessary.  Protesting made it a reality.”

Reaction to her brave act of defiance was predictable.  Politicians of all stripes were negative, ranging from the critical to the condemning. 

That right-wing kook Jason Kenney called her a “lefty kook.” 

Elizabeth May and Jack Layton found her action inappropriate. 

At least, Liberal Senator Jim Munson was able to acknowledge its impact.  “It’s probably one of the more exciting things I’ve seen in the Senate in a long time.”  She certainly woke up any sleepy-heads.  And that other stick-in-the-eye trouble-maker Michael Moore offered her a job.

Noël Kinsella, Speaker of the Senate, charged that DePape was guilty of contempt.  How does her contempt match that of the Harper government’s contempt, for which Parliament convicted it? 

At least Canada’s extra-parliamentary opposition has taken her to its breast.  Judy Rebic is with her all the way, along with hundreds of bloggers and writers of letters to the editor.  CBC broadcaster Jian Ghomeshi, while not specifically identifying with her politics, spoke glowingly of her courage.  One wonders if now he will be shown the door for his kind words.

Let’s leave the last words to her:

“Contrary to Harper’s rhetoric, Conservative values are not in fact Canadian values.  How could they be when three out of four 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 disobedience.

“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.”

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M. Elmasry

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