from all walks of life across this country greeted my action in the
what they can. So I held out my “Stop Harper” sign during the throne
speech because I felt I had a responsibility to use my position to
oppose a government whose values go against the majority of Canadians.
The thousands of positive comments shared online, the printing of
“Stop Harper” buttons and stickers and lawn signs, and the many calls
for further action convinced me that this is not merely a country of
people dissatisfied with Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s vision for
It is a country of people burning with desire for change.
If I was able to do what I did, I know that there are thousands of others capable of equal, or far more courageous, acts.
I think those who reacted with excitement realize that politics
should not be left to the politicians, and that democracy is not just
about marking a ballot every few years. It is about ensuring, with daily
engagement and resistance, that the vision we have for our society is
reflected in the decision-making of our government.
Our views are not represented by our political system. How else could
we have a government that 60 per cent of the people voted against? A
broken system is what has left us with a Conservative government ready
to spend billions on fighter jets we don’t need, to pollute the
environment we want protected, to degrade a health-care system we want
improved, and to cut social programs and public sector jobs we value. As
a page, I witnessed one irresponsible bill after another pass through
the Senate, and wanted to scream “Stop.”
Such a system leads us to feel isolated, powerless and hopeless —
thousands of Canadians made that clear in their responses to my action.
We need a reminder that there are alternatives. We need a reminder that
we have both the capacity to create change, and an obligation to. If my
action has been that reminder, it was a success.
Media and politicians have argued that I tarnished the throne speech,
a solemn Canadian tradition. I now believe more in another tradition —
the tradition of ordinary people in this country fighting to create a
more just and sustainable world, using peaceful direct action and civil
On occasion, that tradition has found an inspiring home within
Parliament: In 1970, for instance, a group of young women chained
themselves to the parliamentary gallery seats to protest the Canadian
law that criminalized abortion. Their action won national attention, and
helped propel a movement that eventually achieved abortion’s
Was such an action “appropriate”? Not in the conventional sense. But
those women were driven by insights known to every social movement in
history: that the ending of injustices or the winning of human rights
are never gifts from rulers or from parliaments, but the fruit of
struggle and of people power in the streets.
Actions like these provide the answer to the Harper government. When
Harper tries to push through policies and legislation that hurt our
communities and country, we all need to find our inner activist, and
flow into the streets. And what is a stop sign after all, but a nod to
the symbol of the street where a people amassed can put the brakes on
the Harper government?
I’ve been inspired by Canadians taking action, and inspired too by my
peers rising up in North Africa and the Middle East. I am honoured to
have since received a message
from young activists there, saying that we need not just an Arab spring
but a “world spring,” using people power to combat whatever ills exists
in each country.
I have been inspired most of all by Asmaa Mahfouz, the 26-year-old woman who issued a video
calling for Egyptians to join her in Tahrir Square. People did, and
they together made the Egyptian revolution. Her words will always stay
with me: “As long as you say there is no hope, then there will be no
hope, but if you go and take a stand, then there will be hope.”
Brigette DePape is a recent graduate of the
University of Ottawa. She has started a fund to support peaceful direct
action and civil disobedience against the Harper agenda: www.stopharperfund.ca
Let Freedom Rain delves into the corporate media's misunderstanding of DePape's protest.
Jarvis doesn't get it. What needs to be done in this country is to
destroy Canada's conservative journalism. The overwhelming
misinformation and prejudice of our journalists' overreaching embrace of
conservative values and money is what is rotting away in Canada's
psyche. We are tired of a news monopoly owned by the Conservative party.
Brigette DePape broke through that monopoly and made its beneficiaries,
like Jarvis, squirm in their privileged seats. While DePape thrives in
blogs, news stories and on T-Shirts, Jarvis collects cheques for doing
virtually nothing but represent the Globe's beloved Conservative party.