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Brigette DePape, Protesting Page, Gets Michael Moore's Attention

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THE CANADIAN PRESS -- Michael Moore, the high-profile American activist and filmmaker, has become a cheerleader of the Senate page who lost her job for her stunning protest against Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

"For a young person to do that and to do it peacefully, and quietly and with grace, I thought it was a very powerful moment," Moore told The Canadian Press on Sunday from New York.

"Every now and then there is an iconic moment where an individual takes action, and it inspires others to think about, you know, what else would we be doing."

Moore has become 21-year-old Brigette DePape's most prominent supporter, posting a photo on his website showing her holding up a "Stop Harper" sign in the Senate chamber during Friday's throne speech.

Moore, famous for films such as "Bowling for Columbine" and "Fahrenheit 9/11", even posted a link on Facebook offering her a job after hearing that she was fired.

The prominent filmmaker and left-leaning political commentator has been a leading voice against big corporations, gun ownership, the Iraq War, and the American health care system. He is a longtime critic of Harper's Conservatives, routinely urging Canadian voters to vote for another party.

When contacted with news of Moore's support, DePape reacted with excitement -- even briefly breaking into a giggle with a friend -- before regaining her composure.

"It's nice to have the support of people who think critically," DePape said by phone on Sunday.

Not everyone was happy with the protest, however. DePape was criticized by many Parliamentarians who suggested the act was disrespectful, while others have argued her call for an "Arab Spring" in Canada showed a lack of perspective.

A former parliamentary page said the stunt reflected poorly on the program, known to be a stepping stone for young Canadians interested in politics.

Kyle Ahluwalia, a University of Ottawa graduate who was briefly DePape's roommate, said the stunt is a black eye for past, present and future participants.

"I think whether or not it's a good message to send, it wasn't the right way to do it," he said an interview.

Moore said a functioning democracy should "encourage you to be disrespectful, to question what is going on."

"I think that Canada and Canadians probably need to put aside the full respect thing and bring out their inner hockey stick and get to work on preventing their government from turning into a version of ours," he said.

DePape said she has no regrets about the incident and remains convinced the best way to stop the Harper government is through acts of civil disobedience.

"I really think it's only through inappropriate action that you can challenge the status quo and have real change," she said, adding that she's been overwhelmed by positive feedback from Canadians.

"It's been really inspiring."

More than a dozen Facebook pages in support of DePape have already popped up, with names such as "Canadian hero" and a "True Canadian Patriot."

"You are such an encouragement for this old WWII veteran and I so admire your courage and commitment to this just cause for which you stand so bravely," said a comment attributed to Bruce Jones that was posted on one Facebook page.

A "Stop Harper" protest inspired by DePape has already been planned for Ottawa on June 10.

DePape said she initially joined the Senate page program to learn more about politics, but became convinced the Conservative government's agenda was wrong-headed on issues ranging from the environment to social programs.

The international development graduate said she hasn't decided her plans yet, though she will be participating in anti-Harper rallies and social movements.

DePape stood in the Senate chamber for about 20 seconds holding the sign on Friday before she was ushered out by security.

Guy Giorno, the Conservative election campaign boss and Harper's former top staffer, said the incident raises "real security questions" about whether employees should be screened.

"This time just cardboard but could have been anything," he wrote on Twitter.

Giorno's concerns echoed those expressed on Friday by Senate Speaker Noël A. Kinsella, who said security concerns would be looked into.

By Benjamin Shingler, The Canadian Press

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