Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Protester releases book on youth activism

Former page calls stand 'best choice I ever made'

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OTTAWA -- Eleven months ago, Brigette DePape made a splash as the Parliamentary page who used her access to the Senate floor to stage a Throne Speech day protest against the government.

The 22-year-old has landed on her still-protesting feet since being fired as a result of that protest, and now has a new book out touting youth activism in Canada.

"I think that was the best choice I ever made," DePape told the Free Press, of her now notorious stunt on Parliament Hill. She pulled out a stop-sign-shaped poster reading "Stop Harper" during the speech on June 3, 2011.

The book, The Power of Youth: Youth and Community-led Activism in Canada, was published by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. The 176-page book is a collection of essays and articles from youth activists in Canada. DePape compiled and edited the entries.

Officials at the CCPA approached her about the idea earlier this year.

"The one thing I hope this book does is show we can all be leaders in building the kind of society that we want," she said.

DePape said she hopes the book helps dispel the notion that young people are apathetic.

"That's a myth," she said. "I really want to show youth care deeply. I think it's really governments who are apathetic towards us, who aren't responding to our needs or the needs of future generations."

The book looks at activism on issues such as the environment, social justice, indigenous rights and democracy.

A Winnipeg launch is set Monday at the Mondragon Bookstore and Coffee House.

DePape said there has been no lingering ill-effects since she left the Senate page program last June. Although she admits her father isn't in favour of protesting, she thinks her parents still see the value and possibilities in what she is doing.

DePape grew up in St. Vital and graduated from Collège Jeanne-Sauvé. She graduated from the University of Ottawa last year.

DePape said her activism roots come from time spent volunteering in Winnipeg's inner city when she was just 12 years old. She has volunteered for the Siloam Mission and helped raise $100,000 for a village in Senegal.

She has had job offers from U.S. activist filmmaker Michael Moore, the Council of Canadians and the Public Service Alliance of Canada. This week she started a new job at MiningWatch Canada as a researcher.

DePape hasn't stopped her protesting ways. She helped with Ottawa's Occupy movement protests last fall and most recently, donned a similar uniform to her page gear and travelled to High River, Alta., the hometown of Wildrose leader Danielle Smith. DePape held up another stop sign reading "Stop Harper's gang" as Smith exited from her polling station on Alberta election day April 23.

DePape said she is inspired by the number of large-scale protests in Canada lately, particularly in Quebec where thousands of students walked out of class in protest of Quebec's plan to raise tuition fees.

"There has been a shift in consciousness," she said. "There is a sense that things can change. We weren't seeing that kind of activism for a while. This is a movement as powerful as what we saw in the 60s."

mia.rabson@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 9, 2012 B1

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