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!
“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.