Canada 150: Thoughts on July 1, 2017
Janet Keeping, Leader, Green Party of Alberta
Reflecting on Canada 150, this is what hits me hardest: I am exceedingly grateful to live in Canada. Most people in the world live in countries governed by brute force and tyranny, by discriminatory and arbitrary dictatorial regimes. Even some of the world’s oldest democracies, such as the UK and the US, are ailing, threatened by governments that seem to serve the rich and largely ignore or abuse the poor. We are comparatively fortunate, and July 1 is a day to acknowledge that relative good fortune.
July 1st and onward, we should all be sure to appreciate the privileged place where we live. However, if you truly care and respect something, you should never turn a blind eye to its flaws. Canada is no exception, for all the freedom and abundant opportunities, there is still much work to do if we are to create a truly inclusive and sustainable nation.
For example, the government structure put in place by the Constitution Act of 1867 – the statute that brought the country of Canada into existence 150 years ago – is deeply flawed. The most glaring flaw is that it fails to respect Indigenous people and thus fails adequately to provide for how their communities are to function within our network of public institutions. Nevertheless, together with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms added in 1982 and other strands of British law embedded in our system of government – for example, the rule of law – the structure created in 1867 has provided us with a foundation from which we are able to struggle for better, most importantly for greater justice, both social and environmental.
And make no mistake, struggle it is – change is hard.
Many Canadians are limited by poverty, illness and other forms of oppression from fully engaging in this struggle. Indigenous people are disproportionately represented amongst the disempowered. But most Canadians are free to engage in that struggle because we have a system of government which allows us to do just that – to advocate vigorously for what we think is right.
Our system of government guarantees us almost nothing else, other than the opportunity to struggle. But at least – unlike most people in the world – we have that.
In celebrating July 1st we are celebrating the system of government first introduced 150 years ago. And compared to what else is on offer around the world, there is no doubt we are lucky to be Canadians.
But luck won’t be enough to see us through the next 150 months, let alone years. More Canadians need to get involved with the struggle to protect and improve our system of governance and to make Canada a more socially and environmentally just place.
The alternative? We risk losing what we have inherited, and that would be a terrible legacy indeed.