‘We are taking this incident very seriously’

Senator David Tkachuk, chair of the Senate standing committee on internal economy, budgets and administration, rose in the Senate yesterday to offer his colleagues the following update on the rogue page situation.

Honourable Senators, all of you will be familiar with the following: I do swear that I will be faithful and bear True allegiance to Her Majesty The Queen Elizabeth the Second, Queen of Canada, Her Heirs and Successors. So help me God.

That is the oath of a Senate Page.

A regrettable incident took place on Friday during the Throne Speech. A Senate Page, Brigitte DePape, chose to disrupt proceedings.

She broke her oath to the Queen and her signed contract with Parliament not to behave in a way that brings her impartiality into question.

We were all surprised by what she did. 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. Many of us thought she was there to assist someone, not to protest. She walked back and forth with her STOP Harper sign until the Sergeant-at-Arms from the House acted to remove her.

This was clear contempt for the Parliament she had sworn to serve, taking place as it did in the middle of one of the most democratic acts in the world — a post election address from the Queen’s representative, who was flanked by a newly elected Prime Minister and the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Onlookers were MPs lead by a speaker who won a seat in this great institution at the age of 25, only a few years older than the protesting page.

Brigitte dishonoured her fellow Pages. She sullied the Page program itself. She betrayed those who put their trust in her. And she insulted this institution.

There are those who have characterized what she did as heroic.

No. Heroic are the men and women, many of them her age or younger, who serve in Afghanistan, defending the principles and practices of democracy that resulted, most recently, in the election we just had.

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.

All of us here should be offended by what she did. We expect – in fact demand — that our Pages behave in a neutral fashion. That is the only way the program can work. They are allowed to have political opinions. In fact, I hope they all do. But for the duration of their time as Pages those opinions, those leanings are to be left outside this chamber.

We are taking this incident very seriously. The Page was fired immediately. She has also been banned from the Senate, the House and the Library buildings.

The Security Sub-Committee of Internal Economy met this morning and the Steering Committee will be meeting this afternoon to discuss what the implications are for security in the Senate and for the conduct of the Page program itself. We will be looking into the hiring practices for Pages, including the background checks that are done related to those. I pray that no one else here assisted her in this stunt.

Honourable Senators, I can assure you that after due consideration, we will take all the appropriate measures that the circumstances dictate. I don’t have to tell you what would have happened if she had something else inside her jacket instead of a poster. I will keep you informed of developments.

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