GEORGE BROWN/Off the Record
Last week, during candidates’ speeches prior to the election of the Speaker of the House of Commons, again in the throne speech and yet again in comments from Opposition leader Jack Layton and other party leaders, Canada’s politicians promised more decorum in Parliament.
Senate page Brigette DePape apparently didn’t get the memo.
She’s the now-infamous intern who held up the “Stop Harper” sign Friday during reading of the throne speech by Gov. Gen. Daniel Johnston.
Depending on where you fall in the political spectrum, this callow cadet is either the worst traitor since Louis Riel or a folk hero for today’s youth.
Certainly her quiet upstaging of the Governor General took more balls than brains but aside from inciting Internet toots among her generation of cellphone revolutionaries, the sand has all but run out of her 15-minute timer. Her call for more cases of “civil disobedience” from young Canadians is likely to fall on deaf ears.
She also protested the G20 Summit in Toronto last summer.
A page for barely a year, DePape believes Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s agenda is “disastrous for this country and for my generation.”
She might be right. A majority of Canadians did not vote for this majority government but millions of Canadians had the opportunity a month ago to voice their displeasure during an election campaign. Millions decided instead to stay at home.
Where was DePape in March when the Conservative government was found to be in contempt of Parliament?
Her protest might have encouraged a few more voters to get off the couch and ask serious questions during the campaign. This wasn’t a classic case of civil disobedience. This childish act of insubordination by a petulant page won’t convince Conservative parliamentarians they need to change course. It’s idealism played out in a parliamentary theatre.
“We have to stop (Harper) from wasting billions on fighter jets, military bases and corporate tax cuts while cutting social programs and destroying the climate,” DePape said in interviews after her removal from the Senate chamber and her subsequent dismissal. “Most people in this country know what we need are green jobs, better medicare, and a healthy environment for future generations.
“Extreme circumstances call for extreme measures. I think that everywhere is the right place to resist the Harper government.”
DePape, whose sense of proportion is a little out of whack, believes what Canada needs to get back on the right track is its own version of what’s become known as the “Arab Spring.” A tsunami of protests for democratic reforms has flooded the Arab world in the last six months. Revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt, and civil uprisings in Libya and Yemen and other nations have been borne from strikes and demonstrations and from the collaborative use of social media such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.
Is this what we need in Canada? We’ve got democracy; sometimes we don’t like the policies those we have elected choose to implement. We are not oppressed. We are not repressed. There is no regime to bring down. Canadians share and endure ideological differences, debate them freely and openly and change their governments at will.
You could argue — and that’s permitted — that we need proportional representation in Parliament, a Triple E Senate, term limits, and cancellation of MPs’ pensions. But we have democracy. DePape marginalizes the life and death struggles of Arabs living in tyranny. We want people to die protesting corporate tax cuts?
Canadians were surprised on election night to see that many of the New Democrats elected to Parliament are young people, university students and workaday Joe Lunchbuckets. These are the young Canadians who will make an immediate difference in Parliament and shape the country’s future.
Not some grandstanding professional protester.