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Determined Defiant DePape

Social Movements

Former Senate page Brigette DePape’s bit of parliamentary pluck has garnered near universal praise from the Canadian Left. But while her mute entreaty during the Throne Speech to “Stop Harper” earned loud applause, her appeal in subsequent statements for “a Canadian version of an Arab Spring, a flowering of popular movements” provoked some fiery debate.

Some have charged that inviting comparisons between peoples’ movements in North Africa and the Middle East and the drive for pan-Canadian democratic reform and renewal was insultingly disproportionate.

True enough, the gory repression of protest by the regimes and dictatorships of Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Syria, etc. is unimaginable to most of us living in Canada and makes the G-20 police crackdown look tame indeed.

However, I take DePape’s comments not so much as a comparison as a clarion call for organized rebellion aimed especially at those of us who daily enjoy the luxury of rights scarcely known to most of the world (including many Aboriginal communities, new immigrants and foreign workers here in Canada).

All the more reason that the courage shown time and again during recent Arab pro-democracy mobilizations ought to inspire our own flowering of popular movements. It reminds us, embarrassingly, how much our anti-capitalist, anti-imperialist struggles might achieve given our relatively favourable circumstances. Indeed, no gun is pointed at my temple; my gin and tonic overflows; my iPhone 4G brims with nifty apps.

It reminds us that it is never enough to opine in the blogosphere while swilling Starbucks (ugh!), or to “like” pages on Facebook, or even vote in elections. The Canadian version of the Arab Spring, as DePape rightly remarks, will happen only if “we act together in our streets, neighbourhoods and workplaces.” United. Resolved. Now.

This article appeared in the July/August 2011 issue of Canadian Dimension (The Food Issue).


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