Photo by Chelsey Faucher on Unsplash. | The Centennial Flame located in from of Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.

Let’s Make Canada THINK Again

Are we treasuring our democracy?

by Eira Braun-Labossiere 🌻 + Martin Braun-Labossiere

“If you want to make change and then preserve it, you need to be eternally vigilant.” *

I’m probably not the right person to write on this topic. That’s why I’ve asked my politically aware and news savvy husband, Martin, to write this with me, as it’s been a hot topic in our home for the last couple of weeks. Er… for the last year. OK, let’s face it, for the last four years.

Since January 6th, I have been glued to the news. I don’t think I need to explain why as many of you have likely been monitoring the news very closely too. But if you knew me, you’d be surprised.

I find it difficult to watch or read the news. I am not proud of this but I do it for self preservation. The way the news is presented usually makes me feel incredibly hopeless. I am presented with terrible, negative stories that do not point to any potential solutions. I don’t know how to reconcile this and so I admit, I bury my head in the sand, chucking an ear out occasionally to capture some headlines and synopses of current events from Martin.

Throughout the week, he will graciously curate and summarize stories affecting us today to help me digest important news. Then he gently nudges me to check the stories out myself. Martin asserts it is vital we not only keep abreast with what’s going on in the world today, it’s imperative we do so from various perspectives so as not to get caught in an echo chamber.

At this point Martin reminds me that he could lead me down the garden path for the sake of teasing, as he’s done a million times; but he always lets me off the hook. The point is, to keep me out of an echo chamber he always encourages me to check out multiple sources for myself.

Martin loves the news. He loves to be informed and comes from a family of curious folk who love to challenge for what is right and hold confident opinions. While I consider myself a curious kitten, I am not naturally bold enough to voice a challenge or express my opinion outside of a safe place but as I get older I find myself more concerned with the state of our world.

What has been driving me lately to the watch the events unfolding in the US is fear and anxiety I need to reconcile. There was a madman in power who tricked not only millions of Americans but his lies and misinformation have spread to many others across the globe, including our beloved country of Canada. Knowing there are Canadians that buy into the dangerous rhetoric being spread by people via social media with nefarious motivations quite frankly startles, mystifies and scares us.

You know what else boggles our brains? Our fellow Canadians who peak over the border like a smug Kilroy expressing a feeling of superiority over our neighbours to the south. “This wouldn’t happen in Canada,” many utter as they roll their eyes.

A pen to paper depiction of “Kilroy”, a little cartoon dude that hung his nose and fingers over a fence.
A pen to paper depiction of “Kilroy”, a little cartoon dude that hung his nose and fingers over a fence.
A scribble of “Kilroy” by Author.

Hmmm are you so sure?

The USA has taught us what happens when we take our democracy for granted, forgetting our history, or worse — whitewashing it. There is a clear and present rage against women and minorities in America. It only took a bungling narcissistic leader to gather a large nest of teeny tiny kindling, composed of tweets and hate groups over a course of four years to incite the blaze that is consuming our conjoined twin.

Not only are we mourning for the devastation of their mess, we are anxious about this dumpster fire finding a gasoline trail into our land.

Take, for instance, the bigotry expressed towards Indigenous and other minority groups in Canada that we have witnessed firsthand. Martin and I have recoiled with disgust and anger and disappointment from the comments we have heard our fellow country people express, and this applies to each of the five provinces we have lived in together. Are we so different from the land we are connected to geographically? Will our ancestors have fought in World War II in vain? They fought to defend our ideals against a man who shared certain Fascist ideologies with the twice impeached ex-president.

We can’t help but wonder, what Canadians are thinking right now?

Are they smugly nestled in their chair taking their liberties for granted, uninterested in changing their world views?

Are they on board with what they may consider righteous chaos burning down the States?

Are they re-examining their belief system, challenging the way they view people whose beliefs are nothing like theirs?

Fellow Canadians, we implore you to think.

Think clearly, think rationally, think critically. Do not use social media as a news source; don’t fall into the echo chamber. As we’re all aware, social media is designed to keep you there; either informed or misinformed, the algorithm does not differentiate. (And if you are not aware, we urge you to watch The Social Dilemma on Netflix.)

We need to continue to be critical of our own society’s failings in order to ensure that we find a way to make our country a great place for all, not just for some. We also need to be grateful for the positive things that exist in our democracy and the fact that we have a democracy. We need to celebrate our diversity as it is the strength we get through it that will renew our freedoms.

“Unity is strength…when there is teamwork and collaboration, wonderful things can be achieved.”

-Mattie J.T. Stepanek

To maintain liberty we always need to lubricate the wheels of equality to keep it moving forward. Like maintaining a good vehicle, democracy requires ongoing service. If ignored, it is sure to break down.

And so to our friends on Medium, in Canada and the US, Martin and I write this as a reminder that we must always be vigilant lest authoritarianism rises around us. It starts with lies, intimidating a free press, demonizing those who oppose you and a cult of personality. We must keep our minds pliable and look to build unity through the diversity of our society, not separate ourselves from each other.

We personally feel like we need to keep that vigilance in our own lives during these difficult times when people seem to hate so freely. Our hope is that our cousins to the south are able to, through change, find their way back to a kinder discourse.

Don’t kid yourselves, we Canadians have a lot of work to do ourselves to rebuild a society where many are bent on ignoring the sins of our past.

Find ways to educate yourself, they are all around you! Here are some ideas:

Understand history with resources like Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada.

Watch the TV Series First Contact Canada or documentaries like Crip Camp: A Disability Revolution and The Social Dilemma.

Get involved with groups like HIP — Reconciliation: Join the movement.

Read Untold Stories A Canadian Disability History Reader, edited by Nancy Hansen, Roy Hanes, Diane Driedger, Indian Fall by D’Arcy Jenish or projects like The 1619 Project.

Listen to podcasts about peace making: Romeo & Juliet In Rwanda: How A Soap Opera Sought To Change A Nation, an episode of NPR’s “Hidden Brain” hosted by Shankar Vadantem.

Consider what democratic reform might look like: Fair Vote.

Add another news source outside of your regular one.

And if it seems untrue, dig deeper using credible and professional sources.

*Shankar Vadantem summarizes in “Romeo & Juliet In Rwanda: How A Soap Opera Sought To Change A Nation”, an episode of NPR’s “Hidden Brain”.

Love to write about life📝/Obsess over Greyhounds + Lurchers🐕/Proud Canadian and four-time Albertan 🇨🇦

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