I never thought I’d become an activist.
For most of my life I was really proud to call myself Canadian. We are known for our forward thinking, our democracy, our kindness towards others, and our natural beauty. We are often seen as America’s little sister, and this has never bothered me because all of what the US lacks in grace, benevolence, consideration, and universal healthcare, we have. Or had.
I live in a country where everything I want is at my fingertips, and the term “first world problems” is commonly used to describe our biggest day-to-day complications. Countries who are known for political uprising have it way worse than we do. And that has bred a generation of extremely apathetic Canadians, myself included.
It is possible for me to go about my day without even giving a thought to the politics that are shaping this country. I’m able to get in my car, fill it with gas, drive it to the grocery store and buy anything I could possibly want. I am (mostly) treated as an equal to men. My entire family lives nearby, and I have not lost anyone close to me due to war or famine. I have rights. I can wear what I want, and I’m allowed to vote. My biggest problem on any given day may be the traffic, or the fact that my cat knocked something off the counter. While others are being terrorized by strife, poverty, suppression, I’m busy scolding a cat.
So what’s the problem, right?
For the first time in history, Canada has a government who is threatening to take a lot of that away from us. Our current Prime Minister is a scary man with little compassion. He is not above lying and cheating. And while it would be easy, and even cathartic to make fun of him for his austere hairstyle and his beady little eyes, neither of those things come close the real problem (And Margaret Atwood did it far better than I could, anyway).
Our democracy is slipping away from us one bill at a time, and we’re so entrenched in the cushy Canadian lives we’ve become accustomed to, that we can’t fathom it actually happening. Kind of like climate change. Which is another thing the Conservative government is ignoring.
“Instead of convincing critics Canada could be trusted to develop a carbon-intensive resource in a sustainable fashion, Ottawa instead boasted about Canada’s “emerging energy superpower” status, lashed out at environmentalists and thumbed its nose at international climate change efforts” – McLeans
Our government is hoping that our youth will continue to be apathetic, because that is the only hope they have of being re-elected. Stephen Harper has made voting in the upcoming election more difficult, intentionally, so that people don’t vote. And for a country that totes itself as a democracy, that isn’t very democratic at all.
“Millennials … have become the largest demographic in North America. Study after study suggests 18 to 34-year-olds are more progressive than members of older generations on many issues — including climate change. Yet they’re the least engaged with the current political system. Less than 40 per cent of young people cast a ballot in Canada’s 2011 federal election. If 60 per cent had voted, pollster Nik Nanos has calculated, Stephen Harper likely wouldn’t have won a majority government.” – the Tyee
If we don’t vote, we will lose our right to. And that’s why throwing your hands up and exclaiming “but I don’t like any of the parties!” or “I’m not into politics!” is not good enough. Being into politics has never been so important.
In the last Federal Election, only 38.8% of people ages 18–24 voted (according to Elections Canada). And why would they? None of the candidates spoke to them, choosing to reach out to folks in retirement homes who’s next vote might be their last, instead of attempting to find level-ground with our youth. Shame on them, for taking the low-lying fruit.
This Federal Election, our current monstrosity of a government is hoping for the same statistic. They’re really hoping our youth keep an apathetic view on politics, because they know that if the younger demographic bands together, we can change the political terrain of this country.
And god knows, it needs to be changed.
Bill C-51 is threatening our freedom. Bill C-24 is threatening our democracy. Bill C-45 is threatening our environment. Harper hopes you won’t bother reading up on what those bills even are. They don’t sound very terrifying when they’re simply titled “Bill”. And there are many, many more. Harper is dismantling this country one bill at a time, and he’s being sneaky about it because he hopes you won’t notice.
Elections Canada can no longer encourage you to vote (thanks, Harper). But I can. So I’m asking you, the youth of today who will become the Canada of tomorrow. Please, please go out there and vote. You are our future, and you have a responsibility. Take a few minutes to do some research and vote for the party that most closely aligns with your views. You may not agree with everything they stand for; you may glaze over while trying to read their tediously written platform promises (I know, right?). There will be words you don’t understand. But don’t let that stop you from voting. Being informed has never been so important.
Because not voting is dangerous. And if we don’t vote on Oct. 19, we are going to see that first-hand.
I have become a political activist. I’m not sure how it happened. I think I raised my head one day, put down what ever social media platform I was wasting my time with at that particular moment, and realized that I am part of the change that needs to happen in this country. I think it’s time you did the same.