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Senate weighs security overhaul after page's 'Stop Harper' protest

Sergeant-at-Arms Kevin Vickers escorts page Brigette DePape from the floor of the Senate during the Speech from the Throne on June 3, 2011.

Sean Kilpatrick/THE CANADIAN PRESS

The actions of a young page who held up a "Stop Harper" sign during the Throne Speech have been roundly denounced by the Conservative senator who chairs the committee that oversees the workings of the Red Chamber.

David Tkachuk told his fellow senators Tuesday that Brigette DePape, the 21-year-old who obtained cult-hero status among opponents of the Prime Minister after her moment of rebellion on Friday, broke her oath to the Queen and her signed contract with Parliament not to behave in a way that brings her impartiality into question.

As a result of her protest, future pages could be subjected to more intense background checks, said Mr. Tkachuk, chairman of the Senate committee on internal economy, budgets and administration. A sub-committee of that body met Tuesday to discuss what the implications are for security in the Senate and for the conduct of the page program itself.

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"I don't have to tell you what would have happened if she had something else inside her jacket instead of a poster," Mr. Tkachuk said.

Liberal Senator Jim Munson, meanwhile, used Twitter o send out a message of support for pages. But, in his address, Mr. Tkachuk said: "I pray that no one else here assisted her in this stunt."

Ms. DePape's actions caught everyone in the Senate by surprise, he said.

"Being a familiar face, it struck few of us as odd when she made her way from her place into the middle of the chamber," Mr. Tkachuk said. "Many of us thought she was there to assist someone, not to protest."

It was a clear act of "contempt" for the Parliament that Ms. DePape had sworn to serve, he added.

"Brigette dishonoured her fellow pages. She sullied the page program itself. She betrayed those who put their trust in her - and she insulted this institution. What she did was not heroic. She was surrounded not by enemies but by people she could trust not to harm her. People unlike her, who believe in and adhere to a code of civil behaviour."

Ms. DePape, who has been working as a page in the Senate for about a year and who was immediately fired from her job after being led out of the chamber by the Sergeant-at-Arms of the House of Commons, said she staged the protest because she believes democracy was not served by the recent election. Mr. Harper's Conservatives won a majority with just 40 per cent of the popular vote.

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Ms. DePape also said she believes the Conservative government's policies on the environment, social programs and the military are destructive, and that civil disobedience is needed to try and stop them.

She has since been given job offers, including one from American filmmaker Michael Moore, and has been deluged with messages from supporters. But Mr. Tkachuk is not one of them.

"All of us here should be offended by what she did. We expect - in fact demand - that our pages behave in a neutral fashion," he said. "That is the only way the program can work."

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About the Author
Parliamentary reporter

Gloria Galloway has been a journalist for almost 30 years. She worked at the Windsor Star, the Hamilton Spectator, the National Post, the Canadian Press and a number of small newspapers before being hired by The Globe and Mail as deputy national editor in 2001. Gloria returned to reporting two years later and joined the Ottawa bureau in 2004. More

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