Just before the New Year, Samara asked for nominations for the Best Moment in Canadian Democracy in 2012. Below are the five finalists, and we hope you'll take a minute to vote for your favourite.
Despite the cynicism that we all feel from time to time, these five serve as important reminders that there are democratic mechanisms at our disposal, and that despite Canada's imperfections we are lucky to live here.
Le printemps érable: Also known as the Quebec Student Movement, le printemps érable showed the power of protest when hundreds of thousands of Quebec students marched through the streets, organized province-wide strikes, and built alliances amongst student organizations, sending a strong message to the provincial government that they were not in favour of the proposed tuition fee hike. Months and a provincial election later, the newly elected PQ government cancelled the tuition hike on their first day in office.
Women Premiers: 2012 saw another woman added to the First Ministers' table with the election of Pauline Marois in Quebec, to say nothing of her being Quebec's first female premier. Of Canada's 12 First Ministers, five are now women: Eva Aariak in Nunavut, Kathy Dunderdale in Newfoundland and Labrador, Christy Clark in British Columbia, Alison Redford in Alberta and now Pauline Marois in Quebec.
Checks and balances in place: In Canada, we have a set of laws that ensure our democracy is in good standing. If there was ever any doubt that these laws are saving us from ourselves, 2012 provided many examples. When accusations of voter suppression emerged, the Supreme Court stepped in to ensure our 2011 federal election was legitimate; the mayor of Canada's biggest city was found in violation of important conflict of interest legislation; and systemic corruption in Quebec municipal politics is being exposed through the Charbonneau Commission. These are just three examples of the system saving the system.
Speaker protects minority voices: In the Fall of 2012, over 1,000 amendments were proposed in the House of Commons for Bill C-45. In an effort to lower the amount of votes on these amendments, Government House Leader, Peter Van Loan, raised a Point of Order asking if the Speaker would dismiss some amendments while group others based on category. "I am not a betting man," Van Loan said, "but I am willing to bet anyone in the House that I do not foresee any of them passing." Scheer disagreed:
The Speaker does not make decisions based on who is in control of the House. Report stage motions are not, and never have been, selected for debate and grouped for voting on the basis of who the Chair thinks might win the vote on them.
With his landmark ruling, Scheer has ensured that all members of the House have equal opportunity to propose amendments, and have the House consider these amendments and vote accordingly.
Idle No More: In October 2012, four women in Saskatchewan planned an event to protest changes Bill C-45 would make to three pieces of legislation in particular -- the Indian Act, the Navigation Protection Act (former Navigable Waters Protection Act), and the Environmental Assessment Act. From this event, a movement emerged and Idle No More has garnered much media attention and discussion since. Idle No More Mission Statement: "Idle No More calls on all people to join in a revolution which honours and fulfils Indigenous sovereignty which protects the land and water. Colonization continues through attacks to Indigenous rights and damage to the land and water. We must repair these violations, live the spirit and intent of the treaty relationship, work towards justice in action, and protect Mother Earth."
Nomination process: On December 28, we posted a blog entry and launched a social network campaign asking the public for nominations for the Best Democratic Moment in 2012. The moments with the most nominations are those you see above.
Please vote for your top moment, and here's to a democratic 2013.