Janice Williamson writes Dear Brigette DePape (a message from Nellie McLung)


Never retract, never explain, never apologize –

get the thing done and let them howl!

Nellie McLung, 1915

Brigette DePape recently graduated from her studies in international development and globalization at the University of Ottawa. She is also a young performance artist.  On Friday June 3, she demonstrated the fine art of nonviolent civil disobedience during the reading of the speech from the throne in the Canadian Senate. She had a press release ready when she was escorted from the Senate. In her interviews, she demonstrated how to stay on message:

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. Most people in this country know what we need are green jobs, better medicare, and a healthy environment for future generations.

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 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.

This is Brigette DePape writing last summer for the Centre for Policy Alternatives where she had a summer internship.  She reflects on her experiences travelling from Winnipeg to Toronto for the G20 and on the value of dissent and public protest:

Would it be better if people did not protest at all? What if we all stayed in our comfortable homes, transfixed to our big screen TVs, ignoring the reality around us?  Should we really just accept the status quo that makes the poor, poorer and allows the environmental destruction that is ruining our planet? Where are all the people who protested in the 60’s and 70’s that inspired many of today’s activists?  Have they given up on fighting for their ideals?  I fear that too many people from my parents’ generation have abandoned their ideals because they think eliminating poverty or weaning ourselves off our oil addiction just isn’t ‘realistic’.

Not only is protesting important, it is our fundamental right. Many of my friends were denied this right when the police unlawfully detained them in appalling conditions for protesting peacefully, more specifically, for holding hands in a semi-circle. In order to preserve our right and ensure this does not happen again, a public inquiry into police conduct and detainee conditions is absolutely essential.

In her CBC interview, Brigette told Evan Solomon that what Canada needs is an “Arab Spring.”

In his ignorance, Solomon replied something about bombs in Libya, confusing the fascinating history of the Arab Spring that in Egypt and elsewhere that included remarkable mass peaceful protests with the most recent site of Western intervention in the Middle East.

Brigette’s advocacy for nonviolent civil disobedience in the face of a Harper majority government should inspire inventive creative action.

Thank you Brigette!

Musician Mathew Good reminds us “This is what democracy looks like”… He quotes from a CBC interview with former journalist Mike Duffy who was appointed by the Harper to the Senate:

 “Mike Duffy, a Conservative senator, said “stunts” such as the one DePape pulled Friday hurt democracy, rather than further it.

“These things are unfortunate because every time there’s some kind of event like this it means security gets tightened,” Duffy said. “And we want this to be the people’s place, where people can come and talk to politicians and make their point, and so now who knows what the end result will be, but it will not be more relaxed security. It will mean tighter security.”

But as Good reminds us, “dissent is not a crime” and she had every right to be in the Senate in her role as a page. She held up a sign.

In her CBC interview, Brigette confessed she is looking for another job. She deserves an excellent position.

6 thoughts on “Janice Williamson writes Dear Brigette DePape (a message from Nellie McLung)”

  1. Is this interviewer actually suggesting there are two options:
    1. elections without proportional representation
    2. bombing “like in Libya”?
    I think I’ll reconsider my support of sustaining funding to the CBC.
    Brigitte’s action was well within the limits of democratic action, in fact much more within those limits than the actions of those who think simply voting and shopping confirm democracy. Democracy requires of us that we be active, informed, and that we make our voices heard. There were four organized protests on the steps of Parliament Hill that same day, one of them against militarism, and they got no press whatsoever, only one MP came out to see it (Jamie Nichols of the NDP). Brigitte did the best thing she could have done.

    1. The interviewer I refer to is the CBC interviewer on the clip; and the protest against weapons trades on the Hill did receive the attention of RadioCanada (French), the U. of Ottawa radio station and Xtra, but not of CBC English. Nevertheless, none of the coverage can hold a straw to what Brigette achieved.
      Thanks, Brigette.

  2. The Egypt protests may have been (mostly) peaceful, but what they were protesting was anything but what Canada is – a somewhat flawed but otherwise democratic country. She had me right up to the Arab Spring commentary, which is patently absurd and beyond insulting to people who live in actual repressive regimes, like Syria, where a 13-year-old child was tortured to death recently. That’s why those countries have an Arab Spring, and to co-opt that language is lazy at best, and idiotic at worst.

    Perhaps Miss. Pape should try the same stunt in one of these countries, and see what happens. Being escorted out, called disrespectful, and generally starting a national debate probably wouldn’t be anywhere on the list.

    I admire what she’s done, but can’t get past this ridiculous comparison to countries where people are routinely tortured, killed and otherwise oppressed, and where protest means risking your life.

    1. Sunny, I realize the Arab Spring comment glosses over differences, but as a shorthand for radical change, it did the trick for me. You point out in your comment how exceptional Canada is when we come to think about human rights and the terrible plight of the 13 year old girl tortured in Syria. But isn’t it the case that here in our “peaceful democracy,” we condemn our children to be tortured elsewhere: think of Omar Khadr’s torture in Bagram and Guantanamo. If you are interested in seeing a very powerful and disturbing film about how we torture, I recommend this Montreal-made film “YOU DON’T LIKE THE TRUTH – 4 days inside Guantanamo” that exposes how Canadians interrogated Omar Khadr after he had been kept away for three weeks via the Guantanamo “frequent flyer” torture program. It chills you to the bone: http://www.youdontlikethetruth.com/?lang=En&page=Trailer
      You imagine how “one of those countries” might respond to Brigette DePape’s nonviolent civil disobedience. But why do we Canadians have to appeal to totalitarian regimes to locate our sense of virtue?

  3. Didn’t Bush have shoes thrown at him? Good for Brigette. Harper is a totalitarian, he had police smash bones, and a prosthetic taken from a man, and he was dragged along to Harper’s gulag. This was at the summit. There was an old police cruiser set on fire, and not by the protesters either. There were some very big men, dressed in black with covered faces, trying to incite trouble at another protest. They were asked to take their masks off, and accused of being cops, and sure enough, they were. However, they ran away.

    What do you call it? Herr Harper sent his henchmen to storm Guelph University, to stop students from voting. They even tried to steal the ballot boxes. The Americans are right, Canadians are deaf, dumb, blind, and stupid. I had three brothers, two brothers-in-law and a sister, in the armed forces, during WW11. Our young Canadian boys were shot and blown to pieces, so we wouldn’t have this kind of crap in our country. Well, they damned well died for nothing, Remember? We did not want a fascist dictatorship in Canada. Ask the old veterans their opinion on, “The Harper Government”, as we are now told we must call this farce, of a democratic government.

    Wikileaks has said, the N.A.U. is on the way. That was Harper’s evil agenda, all along. The American people, despise Harper. They said, there is a petition out to prosecute, Harper and peter MacKay for war crimes and crimes against humanity. I found that petition They also say, Harper’s election win, was rigged. I too believe that.. The American politicians, call Harper a petty gasbag. Harper is far too stubborn to work with anyone. He has embarrassed Canada, many times. The U.S. people saw the N.A.U. coming long ago. The Canadians didn’t, so I guess we are blind and stupid. They intend to fight the N.A.U. every inch of the way.

    For some reason, Canada has produced the worst crop of politicians, in this nations history. The lies, deceit, corruption, dirty tactics, thefts, employing felons,in contempt of the house, cheating to win elections, criminal charges against politicians. Canada is a vast cesspool of corruption, and Harper tries to pass himself of as a Christian. Go figure

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