Letter to the Editor – The Senate is no place to protest By Stéphane Groulx – Cornwall Ontario – June 5, 2011

There is a time and a place to protest, and during the throne speech on the Senate floor while theGovernor General is addressing the nation on behalf of the Prime Minister is definitely not the timeor place to have done so. As much as I and many other Canadians disagree with its existence, thebottom line is the Senate is still a federal institution, and we therefore need to conduct ourselves in anappropriate manner and with the utmost respect while there.

Brigette Depape, the now infamous ex-parliamentary page who interrupted the speech to hold up apaper stop sign she had smuggled in with the words “Stop Harper” written with big bold letters shouldhave recognised the sanctity of the federal institution, and the position she held. She seems like aninformed, smart, and passionate young woman and I sincerely hope she comes to the realization thatshe has made an error in judgment and issues a formal apology.


She was there to serve her country asa page; a job which requires oneself to somewhat practice a type of cognitive dissonance in regards toserving the government with respect, while unbiasedly maintaining one’s own separate political views.

In holding up her sign in protest, Brigitte Depape failed to acknowledge the sanctity of her job, and thesymbolism of what she was doing. There are rules we all must follow in this country, if she wanted toprotest she should have done so outside of the federal institution. Her actions were not courageousor heroic, they were spiteful and in bad taste. Being audaciously uncivil is not the way to efficientlyoppose Stephen Harper. The best way to effectively oppose PM Harper is to hold him to account for thepositions and actions his government will take under his leadership during the next four years.

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  1. Don’t hold your breath waiting for an apology Stephane, as you said “her actions were spiteful and in bad taste!”. As a society our young people seem to be losing respect for anything that isn’t about them! They throw caution to the wind and blindly lash out at all around them, even spoiling the day for a great number of young people who DID enjoy the Governor General reading the Throne Speech in the Senate. It was an honour to be there and everyones honour was so blatantly stepped-on by Brigitte DePape. Now tell me, how democratic was that?

  2. In short, she should have protested where it could be sure that nobody would have noticed. Part of the problem in this country is the idea that ANY political office is ‘hallowed halls’. Now, if she had run naked through the chamber screaming then I would have been both more entertained, and more inclined to think that she had broken ‘decorum’. As it was, she said nothing she wore a tie, and stood silently with a sign and left when ordered to. If only our elected (and unelected) politicians would learn such decorum.

  3. The Harper government and its leader have shown nothing but contempt for the Canadian electorate. Harper himself has made a mockery of the Senate so please don’t start with the sanctity of the institution. It has become dysfunctional a., wasteful, and completely redundant under his spiteful leadership. Yet when this young Canadian chose to stand in silent protest it spoke volumes to what many of the silenced majority is actually thinking. To the right she is a villain, but many Canadians see through the Harper government and as such do not like what we see. To many of us, Brigette Depape is a leader and a Canadian hero. She shows us that there is a political will developing within our youth, that they do care, and that this emerging spirit is not a friend of Stephen Harper’s regime. Obviously the political right will see it as nothing more than civil disobedience, but it is time for the new wave of modern democracy which is born from social media. Congratulations on an excellent and innovative form of democratic protest Brigette. Unlike the G8/20 you managed to get your message through. Thank you for your ingenuity and hope to see more of you in the political arena in the future!

  4. Had Ms. Depape held up that sign last summer at the G20 summit, Harper’s police would have arrested her and locked her up. Good for her!

  5. Not the time or place. But “spiteful”? Give me a break. That word belongs to Harper.

  6. Allow me to kindly reply to as many of you as I possibly can…

    Stan you said “As a society our young people seem to be losing respect for anything that isn’t about them” I don’t think this has anything to do with her being young. There are a lot of young people like myself, do not fit that stereotype, and are as politically active within the rules as possible.

    Now Left-or-Right, you said “Harper himself has made a mockery of the Senate so please don’t start with the sanctity of the institution” I agree with you, if you read my letter again, I can even quote you where I said I did not agree with the Senate: “As much as I and many other Canadians disagree with its existence, the bottom line is the Senate is still a federal institution” I too feel the Senate is an unelected waste of space, and should be abolished. Allow me to give another example of a similar situation, an atheist might not necessarily agree with the existence of the Church, but they do not hold a sign saying there is no God in the middle of Christmas mass, because they know while in the Church you should be respectful, and the situation here with Miss DePape is no different. Also I would like to point out that I not once spoke of the sanctity of the Senate. I used the word sanctity when I made reference to her position as a Parliamentary page, allow me to show you: “Brigitte Depape failed to acknowledge the sanctity of her job”

    On another note, PJR, I’m sorry you feel that way, but the word “spiteful” has been in the English language for a long time now. It does not belong to Harper as you so cleverly claim, it belongs to anyone who so chooses to use it to describe an action, or statement which is disrespectful.

    I made it clear in my note I was not in support of the Harper government, and that I was not in favour of the existence of the Senate. I said it in the conclusion of my letter, and I with say it again: Being audaciously uncivil is not the way to oppose PM Harper. The rules of law in this country are no different for anyone of any political ideology. We must conduct ourselves in the appropriate manner when it deems necessary. Anyone who knows me would know that I am far from a Conservative, and am actually strongly opposed to the Harper government as well. I probably hold many of the same political views as Miss DePape does, however my views towards respecting the Government are somewhat different compared to hers.

  7. Update: Left-or-Right, after careful review, I noticed I made reference to the sanctity of federal institution, which was a statement concerning the manner of which someone should act, and express themselves while within the Parliament buildings; which in effect is a collective statement in regards to both current houses of the governing body in Ottawa.

  8. Growing up, we were always taught about what a hero Ghandi was for his use of civil disobedience to protest the government of India. While this girl is certainly no Ghandi, it seems like a double standard to view her as spiteful while Mohandas was heroic.

    You can also be sure her message would not have reached national headlines if she had held up that sign outside of the Parliament buildings. The election may be over, but the Conservative majority is just beginning it’s term in office, and Ms. Depape’s actions have kept us in tune to the goings on of Parliament – stopping our politicians from doing as they please because they believe no one is watching.

  9. Although I feel Harper absolute is best and most logical choice over Layton or Ignatieff, I at first saw the actions of Brigette in a naive light. Initially of someone speaking up, voicing opinion and taking action, regardless if their opinion and belief is contrary to my own. My naivety was result of my belief too few people speak up and voice opinion with politics and national affairs.

    Upon reflection I realize her actions are definitely not to be admired nor promoted in that it happened in the sanctity of the Senate. I got to thinking how as a Page she swore a oath to uphold the decorum of the principles of the Senate, to be non-partisan and she broke that oath. I got to thinking how as a society we have values, guidelines, expected decorum for institutions, respect, tolerance and values. I got to wondering if the Senate and Speech of the Governor General is comparable to the respect accorded in a judicial court and how would a Judge in Superior court react to such grandstanding… what would be the consequence! Is the House of Commons, Prime Minister, Governor General and others respecting of the institution not deserving of similar respect, especially by one in service of such. We just had a election where under our political system a governing party and opposing parties were decided. Regardless of the opinion of Brigette, we already are with a opposition venue in the House. As I gave thought to her actions and reasoning it has become so I do not condone her actions in that it was wrong in its place and timing. It is totally lacking respect, self serving and on further thought have come to view it as little more than self-righteous grandstanding.

    Upon further contemplation upon her reasoning’s and those that convey 40% does not represent a majority government, does not represent the will of the people, is not a true majority, blah, blah, blah is typical rantings of entrenched anti-Harperites and leftist zealots. It is from a too biased agenda that is without middle ground, without appeasement, without moderation.. a entrenched conviction without compromise. Under our political system Harper is with his majority. Those professing a populist majority as only valid majority would carry some weight if it was realistically achievable such as within a two, perhaps three party system. In a five party system such is not realistically attainable, nor is the rules that are in place. The Liberals and Bloc were decimated, yet we are nowhere near a populist majority… but we are with a political system that recognizes the obvious. The populist argument is simply whining and sour grapes. These same people would not bespouting the same argument if it was Layton or Ignatieff and they held only a one seat majority. As I give second thought to the reasoning for her actions, the acceptance I originally had for her has since dissolved.

    There will be no apology coming from her, it’s not in her. She is spiteful, disrespectful, intolerant and as such believes too strongly and too narrowly to have acceptance or respect for something contrary to her beliefs. Her self centered spite has so the end in her mind justifies the means. Her actions and reasoning has conveyed that values and opinion contrary to hers are irrelevant.

    I do agree Furtz as to the G20 conference. Police actions created a sad legacy for Canadian democracy. Indeed a sad thought but yes if she held her sign up at the G20 unfortunately chances are she would have been arrested, charged and jailed. A fiasco made worse in that Blair has not been held accountable for the actions of those officers under his command. That being said the wrong of one injustice does not make so a wrong of another to be right.

  10. And the Bombastic Award goes to…….Garfield!

  11. Author

    Garfield I’m sure you and some of your Conservative friends will be happy to know that Michael Moore has come out and applauded Ms DePape for her actions. 🙂

  12. My first reaction was kudos to Brigette for speaking up and voicing her opinion. Upon further reflection and deeper thought I realized my knee jerk reaction was not with consideration of other aspects. Those that are anti-Harper, anti-establishment, strongly to the left will absolute applaud and perchance even give her standing ovation. To me that is of little substance as it is from a partisan crowd. Of more telling substance is what percentage of the more moderate and in the middle applaud her actions. That of course is something I do not know.

    Michael Moore can applaud just as I originally did. Michael Moore can continue to give accolade regarding the actions of Brigette but I can not. My reasonings have nothing to do with politics. For myself I believe on a moral and social scale, very much more is wrong than is right with her actions.

    To exaggerate and push it further, if society as a whole was of similar mindset and similar lack of respect of persons, institutions and decorum perchance we would be living in anarchy. Point being as a society we do have certain expectations of respect and tolerance to values, people and institutions. I believe that is a good thing and I believe it to be a important social value to uphold.

  13. As usual Garfield makes some sense, yet he fails to recognize the absolute disdain in which many, many Canadians feel about this particular government, the way it has portrayed us to the world, and the way it has treated the opposition, which includes the majority of the electorate. I believe that never before in the history of Canada have more Canadians spoken out in more ways against the elected government. It speaks volumes. This is not our parents Conservatives, for if it were this form of protest may never have evolved; there would be no reason for it.
    As long as the right achieves its agenda, which does not reflect the Canadian population on a whole, they will bask in the glory of their ideological self righteousness with little regard for anyone else. They will simply regard Canadians of opposite opinion as spiteful leftist zealots, socialistic atheists, or artsy intellectuals with nothing better to do than sip lattes and trash the government.
    I myself have been pushed further left by the pure contempt that Harper and his cronies have shown for the Canadian political system. I may now be what some judge an entrenched anti-Harperite and leftist zealot, but if I am it is the sole blame of the current government’s intolerance and lack of consideration for the Canadian electorate that has made me so. I believe it is time for like minded Canadians to stand up and fight for what they believe in every possible way they can. We have four years to take our country back and cannot wait until the next election is called to make our points. I don’t see this young lady’s actions as self centered or disrespectful and believe she was very brave for taking a quiet, peaceful, and poignant stand. I salute her fortitude, not many of us would have had the courage to make such a statement in such a radical way. The Throne Speech is political pageantry, pure and simple, it is not a religion. This was merely a political statement. Score one for leftist zealots! Now where did I put my latte?

  14. Regardless of the politics or disdain for Harper it does not make the actions of this Parliamentary Page to behave in such manner to be acceptable by any yardstick of measurement. We had a election under established and accepted rules. The electorate has given a mandate. By those standards a mandate was given… indeed a increase in seats each election Harper ran and this time a majority mandate. To not agree with Harper and conservative policies is democracy and personal privilege, however our society is with socially accepted ways to express ourselves and with privilege to do so with tolerance and respect. For her to convey 40% did not vote for Harper is for others to convey 80% did not vote NDP, 95% did not vote Liberal and 99.9% did not vote Green.

    Granted she is only 21 and so allowances can be made for her misguided exuberance, however it remains she betrayed a trust and violated her oath to be apolitical and non-partisan as employee and participant in the Senate. I am confident she is mature enough to comprehend that reality but of course matters not to her. Her moment of grandstanding which I initially applauded I now see as nothing more than opportunistic political grandstanding without consideration nor respect for an institution of Canada, of the Governor General, the Throne Speech, the Prime Minister, nor of other participants including opposition members who had class, tolerance and consideration of others. In my opinion timing and place of her actions are not to be applauded. In giving further thought I view her actions as being untrustworthy, self-serving, disrespectful and irresponsible. Perhaps others can, but I can not applaud such character traits, nor are these self-serving traits the values we instilled in our three kids.

    A little off topic but how Canada is portrayed to the world I am happy with and prefer over the dithering of our leaders of recent past. If we must side, then considering options, those we are siding with I believe is the right choice. For years we were considered friendly, catering and benign but with no real clout or influence outside of our respected peacekeeping role of long ago. Unfortunately that peacekeeping agenda we pioneered is not functional with current conflicts. I see we are now on the inside, we are with influence and I see our PM is respected and keynote speaker at a number of international functions. Our military is once again a proud institution and with respect at home and amongst our allies. Considering circumstances, are any Canadians truly heartbroken Canada was not voted the recent UN seat. The politics of that incident are overshadowed by other accomplishments.

    Just as you have been pushed further left by aspects that you disagree with, I have been pushed further right as a result of my growing disdain and lack of respect with recent Liberal governments and the babblings of Layton. Does that make so we should all take a page from the book of Brigette and forsake respect and tolerance of anything outside ourselves, outside our personal beliefs. Should we all jump on similar bandwagon and make it the new norm for society. No, noooooo absolute we should not! I do not partake of it online, and I have no intent to do so off online, nor did we instill such concept in our children, nor to I respect such antics in others. Respect and tolerance is a two way venue. There are accepted standards for expressing differences of opinion and self beliefs. There is also logic and good reason for such standards. If you see ones personal ideologies should trump these values and to be applauded then obvious we shall agree to disagree.

  15. Brigette Depape’s behaviour is certainly acceptable. It is the yardstick by which many will measure her generation. A country may make the mistake of voting fascists in but, as our parents’ and grand parent’s generation proved, – there is but one way to get them and their appointments out. It wasn’t through signs or voting.

  16. Thank you for the English lesson, Stéphane. Of course, the word “belongs” may apply infinitely depending on context. In this context, let’s say “spiteful” belongs to Harper in the sense that, given his position, he has by certain actions (e.g. treatment of Helena Guergis) made the word peculiarly his own. Of course that doesn’t mean Harper has a monopoly on “spiteful”. Anyone can be spiteful, if they behave like Harper.

  17. PS: Stéphane: no way was Ms DePape being spiteful. Disrespectful perhaps, but not spiteful. Comprenez-vous la différence?

  18. @Chain Reaction: There are multiple perspectives with events in life. Granted many applaud Brigette and condone her actions, especially leftists and anti-Harperites; thankfully many also do not and see a bigger picture. Going to the extreme even atrocities are with it’s supporters. There are zealots on the left with obvious bias. There are zealots on the right with equally obvious bias. The opinions in either camp are entrenched and very seldom change or with compromise. The opinions and viewpoints are known in advance because it is blatantly partisan. Thankfully there is also a much larger grouping in the middle. The voice of reason. I am curious how this group feels, what is their take on this incident, how does the majority feel?

  19. You haven’t seen anything extreme, Garfield. October was extreme. Reason, logic and science have fled both Health Canada and our worthy elders to find refuge in tyranny. That group in the middle will get hit by the first truck speeding into the passing lane.

    Emile Durkheim said,” Nothing up my sleeve. Sixty-percent cognitive dissonance in my hat.”

    Rocky and Bullwinkle said, “Laura Secord had a cow. Bridgette Depape had a stop sign. Same message. The enemy is coming, there is no where to hide. Stand.”

  20. A young lady quietly gets up in front of a lazy collection of bagmen, cronies and toadies and suggests stopping Harper… well good for her.

    It is a pitiful and false bunch of arguments above that would liken her actions, to anything other than peaceful civil disobedience. And it’s a frustrated pile of useless baggage salivating for revenge that must swallow its own bitter spit, for there is no excuse or justification to do her harm.

    And the letter to the editor that leads this pile of wind and whimper, is a self contradictory piece of trash. The author purports to disagree with the existence of the senate but has never turned down a pay cheque, and obviously not a dinner on the Hill at our expense.

  21. Perhaps you are correct with your prophecy of what awaits. The sabre rattling of the left is not of concern to me. At present I am fed up by a number of aspects of the left, especially during Chretien’s era. Ignatieff certainly fixed the Liberal mindset “they are the anoited ones to govern”. Thank you Mr. Ignatieff. The Bloc has for now been decimated and that is a bonus. As for Layton I shall make no comment but will say I am curious how he handles the unexpected surprise of his Quebec caucus which he absolute will cater to. If he can talk sense and if he can balance Quebec self interests with his caucus members outside Quebec and Canada’s interests I shall be most impressed. A new page is is before us and I shall give him benefit of my doubts from election day forward.

    Harper is in and I look forward to the change. With a majority and a well defined opposition I have faith the next four years will be more productive. He has slowly but steadily won converts and I believe that trend will continue. I believe that mass of the centre will continue the trend of more centre-right. The soapbox of the Liberals and Bloc has been taken away. Layton may be the politician to enbjoy a beer with and he may be with entertaining quips and one liners, but of the two, absolute Harper is my choice for economic stability, growth and addressing hard issues in a sensible, logical fashion.

    Whereas I stated I am with little concern wiith the venting and grandstanding of zealots of the left, I am with a concern of a international nature. The power brokering that is happening globally is the big truck I worry about. I worry because I do not see logical alternatives. It is bigger than individual countries and the leaders of such. There is growing awareness but I am not aware of logical, workable alternatives.

  22. Hmmm, very eloquent verbosity Mr. Flipper.

  23. I was wondering about the picture of the senator at the top of the article.

  24. flipper is beginning to smell like fish…….

  25. Flipper: I don’t understand what your referring to when you say the owner of this letter has never turned down a pay cheque, or a dinner at “our” expense. The Senator (Mike Duffy) is not the author of the letter….I am, a young franco-ontarien, left-of-centre minded individual and prospective university student born and raised in Cornwall, ON…

  26. @PJR Alright, I’ll concede, I’ve always seen spiteful as a synonym of disrespectful. I apologize for the blunt and harsh words I threw your way, I was unjustly defensive when I shouldn’t have been. I also agree with you. Harper has done far worse to Canadians than the actions of Miss DePape, hell Brigitte and I would probably have a lot I common, I just a a stronger sense of order, probably comes from the service-before-self mentality I was taught during my military training during the 2 years I was a reservist.

  27. Author

    Stephane I don’t think you realize how brave it was of Ms DePape to do what she did. Ultimately making a stand knowing that you’d lose your job isn’t an easy one. Seeing young people of her conviction and courage is amazing.

  28. Oh I hear you, doing what she did must have been hard for her, and she probably rationalized about the whole things for a long time before making the ultimate decision to go forward with it. It was just not in my opinion, the smartest of actions to take. If It is for the same reasons I as an Atheist would not hold a “there is no god” sign in the middle of a Christmas mass. It would certain be extremly gutsy, and require me to be very brave to hold such a sign during the x-mas mass, but would it necessarily be the right thing to do. In my opinion of course not, because no matter whether or not I believe in the views, or the positions of the church, I still understand the peaceful, and respectful manner in which I have to act within a church.

  29. *there should be no “If” at the beginning of the sentence “It is for the same reasons I as an Atheist would not hold a “there is no god” sign in the middle of a Christmas mass” my mistake, sorry typing too fast on my keyboard 😛

  30. Golly gee guys, are we going back to propagating the old left/right falsehoods? Sorry. I didn’t know. All groups enjoy clean air and water and peace. Many concepts and needs cross all political lines. No need to enhance the experience of opposition with those. The liberty of the group to extinguish the liberty of the individual is not a left right issue. It’s an issue. All persuasions benefit from a balanced cheque book.

    Incorporating religious belief into law, taking a government stand in the bedroom, throwing away national borders is more than just a quiet drift into dark politics. Wikileaks shows that Parliamentarians having been giving their teats to American diplomats, in a wanton back alley way, for years.

    It may be legal to be cruel. It may be legal to destroy. It may be legal to self destruct. It may be legal for the State to kidnap a parent’s child. I suppose with enough obedience pills, cable, advertising and loud marching music it could be. People desire the perception of order to just about anything else and we love to press that submit button. Hell, look at North Korea – people will believe anything even if it goes against their own best interests. That’s why, peace at any cost, and peace no matter what, makes many people proud. Didn’t convince Bridgette though…


  31. What I perceive from some views posted here and elsewhere on comment boards all over Canada is now that Harper has a majority of seats the members of the disenfranchised electorate no longer have the right to protest or vocalize their objections to what they perceive to be attacks on their values and beliefs. So many of the right wing pundits gloating over their recent victory, have trashed the views of the centrist left to left minded electorate, branding them as nothing more than sour grapes or the mindless ranting of leftist kooks, commie pinkos, zealots, baby killers, atheists, and many other less flattering descriptions. The fact that we exist is nothing more than an annoyance to them and hardly worth their attention. Somehow the right believes that there is only room for their ideology and policies in our country and the world beyond and I think that is why it is so important for Canadians who do not agree with Harper’s vision of Canada to say so at every possible opportunity and in every possible way for the next four years. The silenced majority must not become complacent; applying pressure and vocalizing opposition is the only way to remind this majority right wing that those taxpayers with differing beliefs have rights too. We all as Canadians must demand transparency and accountability, something this Harper Government has not been willing to demonstrate thus far. It is time to stand up and fight to return the Harper Government to the Canadian Government, which I believe is for all Canadians – right, centre, or left!

  32. Gracious words, Stéphane. Merci, pas grave.

    Eloquently said, left-or-right, and right on. Ms. DePape has taken a lead in speaking for democracy in Canada, and we must follow her lead at every appropriate opportunity.

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