Tag Archives: Canada

Canada 150

Well, that’s over.

For those of you wondering what the heck I’m talking about (moreso than usual), this past weekend was not only Canada Day, but the much-hyped ‘Canada 150’, the 150th anniversary of Confederation and Canada becoming a (reasonably) independent nation. Since I live in Ottawa, this has been Red Alert Status stuff for what seems like the past ten years and finally, all the planning and preparations went into action.

Predictably, there was chaos and people got pissed off and probably a lot of people had fun and I avoided all of it.

I’ve written about Canada Day and what I think about where I live at least a couple times before, and usually ended up saying something about how grateful I am to live where I do (which I am) and how I think, overall, that this country is pretty great (which in a lot of ways it is). When I was younger, I would have said it was unambiguously great and said it was the best nation in the world.

As time has gone by, I guess I’ve learned more about Canada’s history, how it’s treated various different groups of people, how we haven’t always done so well, and continue to not do so well in very important ways. So, as much as I still admire a lot of what has been built here, in this place, I think there are a lot of things that absolutely need to be criticized and a lot of things that we need to insist are done differently and better. This country now both makes me very proud, and very ashamed.

I love the story about the Syrian refugees who came here and opened a chocolate business, not only supporting themselves but becoming employers in their new home. This is Canada. I really love the story about another group of refugees who, when the city of Fort McMurray was devastated by fire last year, launched a relief effort, because they knew what it was like to lose everything. This is Canada.

My friend Jay Odjick went to the opening of an exhibit at the Canadian Museum of History that he did the art for, and on what should have been a proud and special evening for him, he got hassled by security, and this is also Canada. There are over 150 communities that do not have drinkable water. Most of them are First Nations communities, and this is also Canada.

Canada is a country that does a lot of things right, in terms of rights for LGBTQ people, rights for women, a healthcare system that I am ever more grateful for as I watch the spectacular mess to our south, and in providing a place of safe refuge to people who desperately need it. All of these are things that, even as we can continue to do better at them, we can take a lot of pride in.

We do a lot of things wrong. Maybe foremost among those is our relationship with and treatment of First Nations people, for me our great national shame and something we must absolutely fix. We sell weapons to repressive regimes. We don’t do enough to safeguard our environment. These are things that we have to take our lumps for and commit to doing far better with.

As I get older, the more I see both the good and the bad in this place where I live, and so I feel less excited about Canada Day and less able to get excited about a celebration of a nation that still has so much work to do. The legacy of this place is absolutely one of peacekeeping and inclusion and achievement; it is also one of genocide and colonialism. So I end up more thoughtful and regretful on Canada Day than anything else, and especially on this Canada 150 that was supposed to be Canada Day plus plus plus.

I guess what I want to believe is that the intentions of this society are right and the trend is towards what is good and fair and just, that the forces here that are still about exploitation and division and repression are on the wrong side of history and that we will, day by day, improve this place and make it into a society we can take unqualified pride in.

The past is never going away, and we shouldn’t deny it or try to forget it. We can do better, and say that that’s not who we are any more. I would like very much to be, in whatever teeny tiny way, a part of making this place better, and there’s nowhere else in the world that I’d want to live. This land is a great blessing, the society that lives in it (I think) fundamentally has good intentions, and we need to live up to the latter so that we might be able to say we deserve the former.

Which is a lot more complicated than just saying that I live in a great place and that my country is amazing, but I think it’s closer to the truth. I feel like the truth is maybe the most important thing for us to hang on to these days, so there you have it.

I’m glad the ridiculously over-the-top Canada 150 celebrations are over, because maybe now we can focus on building a Canada that deserves a celebration.

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Action That Day

Good morning. I’m going to do something I don’t usually do on the blog today and talk a little bit about politics. I know people don’t come here for political discussion, and I have no intention of turning this into a place for political wrangling, but bear with me this one time, especially if you live in Canada. We’re just under two weeks out from the federal election on October 19th. I’m going to make use of whatever size of soapbox this blog gives me today to encourage you in the strongest terms possible to get out and vote.

I’m not going to tell you who to vote for; if you know me, you probably already know who I think you should vote for, and if you don’t know me, I don’t imagine you care who I think you should vote for. In any case, I think you should figure this out for yourself. I am going to tell you to vote, though.

Lots of people argue that it doesn’t matter if they vote or not. This is incredibly untrue. In the 2011 election, over 9 million Canadians didn’t vote. That meant that the current government won a majority government – letting them essentially do whatever they wanted for the next 4 years – with the support of less than 25% of eligible voters. Whether you’re happy with what they did or not, the numbers paint a fairly clear picture; there is a tremendous difference waiting to be made by people who did not vote in the last election. They could change the picture completely.

Sure, millions of other people will vote and your single vote doesn’t look like much in that context. That’s what democracy is, though, and every result in the election is nothing more than the adding up of all those single votes. You may argue you don’t have much power on election day, but you have exactly the same amount of power every other voter has. A glance at history shows that ordinary people voting brought in such mammoth changes as women’s suffrage, the minimum wage, health care, laws protecting the environment, and on and on the list goes. Elections have transformed our society, perhaps not always as quickly as we might prefer, but the changes are undeniable.

Some people will say that they don’t vote because politics doesn’t affect them. It’s very clear that this is not true either. The government decides many things that affect us every day; how much tax you’ll pay, what benefits may or may not be there when you need them, what rules businesses have to play by, what the rules of our society are going to be. To make even a somewhat meaningful list would have me writing the rest of the day. In fact, I guarantee that whatever issue is closest to your heart is affected to some degree by the decisions the government makes. This election is your chance to weigh in.

A lot of people will then say they don’t vote because the parties are all the same. This is demonstrably not the case; if you spend even a little bit of time looking at their positions on various issues, you’ll see very different points of view. Now, that’s not to say that there will necessarily be a party promoting the point of view you like the best, and perhaps it’s even less likely that you’ll find a party that you agree with on every issue. That can be frustrating and disheartening. I think it’s still important, if you have even one issue that you care about and think is important, to do a little research and find the option that you like the best, or (in the worst-case scenario) the alternative you dislike the least. You may rest assured that lots of other people will be making a choice, and if you don’t vote, those issues you think are important will be decided by opinions that don’t include yours.

One of the interesting things that I came to understand about young people from my teaching experience is that young Canadians care passionately about many issues: the environment, equal rights, and ethics in the economy being prominent among these. At the same time, they’re not interested in politics and tend not to think that voting is the right way to promote the agendas they believe in. For what it’s worth, I think it’s a terrible miscalculation. Absolutely there are other forms of activism, many of which did not really exist back in the Precambrian Era of my youth. Many of them can be effective. However, that doesn’t seem to me to be any reason to abdicate another way to have your voice heard, by choosing a party that most closely aligns with your beliefs and casting your ballot in their support.

You can go further and engage with politicians and ask them to support the ideas you believe in, but even if you don’t go that far, your vote is a chance to push Canada’s government (which does decide a great many things) in the direction you’d like it to go. Many people say that politicians don’t listen or speak to youth; although there is a lot being talked about in this election that seems to me directly relevant to younger Canadians, if you feel ignored, one way to get their attention is to show that young people are going to get out and vote. Even if you adopt the most cynical interpretation of politicians possible – that they’re ultimately self-serving and interested only in their own power – if you demonstrate that you’re key to obtaining or maintaining that power, they’re likely to help you out.

There is of course also the argument that there are people around the world who are willing to die for the right to do something that many Canadians can’t be bothered with. It sounds a bit overwrought and dramatic, but it is actually true. It doesn’t seem like a significant amount of power to us, and arguably it isn’t, except when you don’t have even that. We do have some opportunity to hold our government accountable and influence the direction it will take. It was an immense struggle to obtain that right, and I don’t believe we should take it lightly.

I suppose my most basic reason why I think people should vote is this: You don’t get asked what you think about all the issues that affect us and our nation and our place in the world very often. Most of the time, especially when we have a majority government in power, the mechanisms of government grind away, relatively heedless of voices from outside the great sausage factory of legislative authority. However you evaluate this one time when you do get asked, it seems to me a terrible shame to throw it away.

Please vote in your next election, wherever you are. Here in Canada, it’s quite soon. All the indications are that this is a pretty significant one. Don’t lose your chance to be one of the opinions that gets heard.

(If you haven’t yet received your voting card from Elections Canada in the mail, now is the time to go to the Elections Canada office nearest you and make sure you are registered to vote!)

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Ok, no more politics for a while, I promise.

I ha a great time at the Ottawa Geek Market on the weekend and, as a result, am looking forward to upcoming events even more! I will be at the Can-Con SFF convention at the end of the month (details to come) and at Ottawa Pop Expo in November (details … also to come). And, of course, we’re now getting very close to the official launch party for The King in Darkness and four other great titles by local authors – details here if you missed them before.

Also, The King in Darkness is now available (in both e-book and paperback editions) direct from Renaissance Press for a lower price than you’ll get on Amazon right here. If you buy the book this way, you can still leave a review on Amazon or Goodreads to help boost signal about the book if you would like, and it’s much appreciated!

Amid all that, I am (I swear) finding time to write and I’m about halfway done the manuscript for what I hope will become the sequel to The King in Darkness. Much work to do.

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