Sunday, 5 June 2011

"Stop Harper." Has Brigette Marcelle DePape drafted the rallying cry of the next election?

C.E.S. (Ned) Franks, professor emeritus in political studies at Queens's University, says that Brigette Marcelle DePape set a bad precedent with her "Stop Harper" silent protest during the Governer General's throne speech last week. In an opinion published in The Star (Page’s protest sets poor precedent) he says that this should not be seen as a legitimate act of civil disobedience because, he says, she was not protesting a specific law or policy. "She was simply objecting to the results of a democratic nationwide election in which she, along with every other citizen 18 years or older, was entitled to vote."

Well, that last statement seems to me to be a leap of logic based on at least two, if not three, questionable premises.

Firstly, I am not alone in questioning how democratic a first-past-the-post election process can be when the winning party and leader is imposed upon the nearly 60% of the voters who voted against that party and leader. Being a professor of political studies, Ned Franks must be even more aware of that than I am, which makes his statement all the more puzzling to me. Certainly Marcelle believes, as do I, that Harper doesn't reflect the majority of Canadians.(Page with 'Stop Harper' sign fired from Senate)

Secondly, rather than protesting the outcome of an election, saying "Stop Harper" might simply be saying "Stop Harper"; simply objecting to what Harper is doing; simply saying, "Harper's agenda is disastrous for this country and for my generation." She certainly concedes that Harper and the Conservatives have a majority parliament for the next four years and seems to be of the opinion that it is time for some kind of moral majority to stand up and protest in some kind of extra parliamentary way, even using civil disobedience.

Thirdly, language is something living and evolving. Maybe there is a narrow definition of "civil disobedience" accepted in the university halls of political science. But there is a wider understanding that is generally accepted in the broader population. That caring about social issues and the environment as principles of conscience can lead someone to civil disobedience does not violate any semantic understanding of the term "civil disobedience" in my mind nor, I suspect, in the minds of ordinary speakers of the English language.

From my personal point of view, this is the first time in my thirteen years in the country that I have seen any kind of passionate, political engagement on the part of university age young people in Canada. I don't think DePape is going to get her "Arab Spring" in the Canada of 2011. I do hope that she and her friends can be somewhat successful in raising the awareness of Canadians to the very serious issues facing our country and the world beyond our own pocket books and wallets.

I think that Brigette Marcelle DePape may well have drafted the rallying cry of the next election. Which will be more important for each of the opposition parties in the next election in four years time: to be the official opposition or to "Stop Harper?" There is a big difference. One is relevant to the important challenges facing our country and the world. The other is about party politics - and quite irrelevant.

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