We all lost something last week. Something we used to value but now don't care too much about anymore; it was ripped from us and no one complained.
Obviously, we can still fly the maple leaf and file tax forms. We can call ourselves Canadian. We can even drink the beer and root for hockey. But it's all charades or, perhaps, like being a member of a fan club. We get a few perks, some tidbits of information, but have no real impact.
As of Tuesday May 21, our Canadian ID has about as much value as a Club Z card. Because on May 21, our Prime Minister responded to a national crisis of democracy and our demands for answers by running off to Peru to attend a conference of a group which the PM says it is too soon to consider joining. Not a critical meeting, just a bit of minor business.
We citizens demanded answers. Instead, we got yet another promo for the Economic Action Plan and a round of applause. It's like we contacted customer complaints and were told how great the company is, then hung up on. The founding principle of Canada's system of responsible government is that parliament is responsible to citizens. Last week, citizens demanded answers from their PM -- a reasonable enough request -- and the leader of our responsible government promptly ignored us. He treats us like we have no rights at all.
And given our lack of reaction, I guess we don't.
I did two things the weekend before this horror show. I wrote a blog post about this Senate-PMO thing because I didn't like the other articles; how the rights of citizens were not being discussed, just a focus on the relative merits of Senate reform.
The other thing I did was write to the Governor General, begging him to intervene and preserve our democracy.
No, in a fantastic feat of mental magic, I will now predict your reaction: "Geez, what a nutbar!" or "Waste of time; he's Harper's crony." I have every confidence my prediction is correct. After all, most people think that average people are far below the notice of lofty individuals like the Governor General. Therefore, any average person hoping to connect with the GG must be delusional. That doesn't bother me. I'm a writer -- being delusional is practically a job requirement.
What bothers me is that second response: the fatalism, cynicism, the lethargy. Similar comments emerged across social media, comments along the lines of, Johnston was appointed by Harper, he's not going to do anything!, and Good luck with that, the GG is a Harper crony or Harper owns the House, bought the Senate, and controls the GG. There's nothing we can do but wait for the next election and so on. You can find more examples by reading the comments on any of the news items.
Where does this attitude come from? Not long ago, we were proud of our citizen voices. Parliament routinely withdrew or changed legislation if we spoke out. We citizens were the backbone of our democracy.
It seems we lost our spine someplace; or had it removed. Either way, that indignation which kept Canada out of Iraq is gone. We no longer hold government to account. We shrug. When protestors flood Parliament Hill and the PM flies off to Panda-ville, our shoulders head for our ears and our mouths spit out, "What did you expect?"
The exact same thing happened when the PM flew away from questions. What did you expect?
I'll tell you what I expect: I expect the leader of our country, when accused of corruption on that scale, to stand his ground and answer a few questions about it. I expect my PM to treat the media like the voice of the people, not some pesky kids. I expect a scandal-laden Parliament to cancel summer break -- what are they, school kids? -- to cancel the break and get to work sorting things out. And I expect my Governor General to act in the name of citizens and protect democracy.
Call me crazy for wanting government to do its job; I am sure some have, which saddens me. But what makes me downright miserable is the reaction of the thousands of Canadians I have spoken with, read comments from, or otherwise observed in the past two weeks. Those people -- my fellow citizens -- have simply given up citizenship. With shrugs and slumped shoulders, Canadians have decided not to have a voice.
We have a PM who won't talk to us; a government which targetsgroups and individuals for speaking against it; government seizing control of the public media; confirmed fraud in the last election; and breech-of-trust and/or bribery by the Prime Minister's Office - an increasing list which makes us look like a banana republic. Our reaction? *shrug* "What are you gonna do?"
We went to the United Nations in its early years and crafted the Universal Charter of Rights. We sent our Forces, police, and observers to distant lands to bring our rights to people. Canada's troops have died in the name of freedom and democracy all over the world.
But, hey, what are ya gonna do?
We might as well tear up our passports and SIN cards: we have rendered Canadian Citizenship worthless.