Every day, the news through all its venues reaches us with increasing calls to humanity to rise to the occasion and effect change. Our great danger is the temptation to move from one issue to another, like a stone skipping over a quiet pond, instead of sticking to our original commitments, seeing them through to the end. Just such a cause occurred 842 days ago, when the Nigerian terrorist group Boko Haram captured 276 Nigerian schoolgirls, dragging them off into captivity and the kinds of horror that are too easy to imagine.
Canada does not appear to possess a definitive or authoritative narrative that properly connects when and by whom the country was founded. While surveys reveal that most Canadians believe that 1867 is the founding date of Canada many of those same people think the First Nations are amongst the founding peoples.
As the leading elected official, the prime minister erred significantly, and his subsequent apologies contain a hint of his awareness of how Parliament was belittled through his action. And when NDP members sought to keep the Opposition Whip from proceeding down the aisle with his government counterpart, they too played their own erring part in the twisted plot.
Truthfully, unless you are a member of our indigenous peoples, we are all immigrants, regardless if you gained your citizenship yesterday or 16 generations ago. Historically, immigrants and refugees who adopted Canada as their country of choice contributed to the development of Canada's social, economic and civil fabric.
According to a recent survey, some two in three Canadians agree that "with the exception of Canada's aboriginal peoples everyone that settled in Canada is an immigrant." The 2011 Canadian census reports that there are more than 31 million non-Aboriginal Canadians. That would make for a very substantial number of immigrants and clearly not correct with the official figure reported in the census being just below 6.8 million.
It's not often that journalists talk about themselves. As much as we convince readers on a daily basis that the subjects of our stories matter, we failed to convince you that we matter. It comes as no surprise then, that much of the mudslinging in recent weeks in response to reporters speaking out about the massive layoffs are based on a misunderstanding of what we actually do and why.
When Justin Trudeau was elected in 2008 it was clear to everyone that he could never be destined for the backbenches. They sat Justin Trudeau directly behind me in the House and for almost three years I got a ringside view of his development. His rhetoric, at times bawdy, nevertheless carried intensity in the Parliamentary chamber. I was asked more frequently than I could count whether he was the real deal or just his father's son. My answer was always the same: both.
Nothing in recent history had redefined what it means to be Canadian more than Bill C-24. This bill, made into law, allows the government to take away the citizenship of undesirables. Although currently limited to acts of terrorism, the government has expressed an interest in using this law against other acts.
Austerity, privatization, deregulation, outsourcing -- yada, yada, yada -- all served up with noxious sides of deficit hysteria and tax cuts, not to mention the attendant knee-capping of government's ability to act. Brian Mulroney. Jean Chretien. Paul Martin. Nods to the knuckle-draggers aside, Harper's just peddling more of the same. Seriously, can anyone point to a substantive change in the country's direction over the past few decades?
In response to the ongoing Syrian refugee crisis, our current Canadian government has reluctantly offered some support. We shall, according to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, accept 10,000 refugees over the next three years. As medical students committed to global health, we call into question this lukewarm commitment to such a pressing crisis and call for stronger commitments in line with Canada's values.
The photo of three-year-old Alan Kurdi washed up on a Turkish beach awakened many voters to the human cost of our hardened, fear-based approach to immigration and foreign policy. But equally important and more difficult to acknowledge is the way the refugee crisis has cast an uncomfortable light on the question of who "we" are, and how our laws make us. To understand the anemic Canadian response to the refugee crisis, we must place it in the context of a broader policy overhaul that has radically reshaped the meaning of citizenship in Canada.
Despite the fact that Canadians are in the deep and lazy days of summer, there has been more interest in the federal election campaign that many believed unlikely. It's not due to the parties, their leaders, or their policies. With most of the election still ahead of us, those aspects will likely become more prominent. No, it's likely that healthy attention to this election season is due to a kind of restless desire amongst Canadians for change. This could well be the real story of Canada's 42nd federal campaign. It's not really about who is chosen but the choosers themselves.
I'm not sure which Canada to celebrate this year. In the past I celebrated John Diefenbaker's Canada, the one that introduced the Canadian Bill of Rights, Pierre Elliot Trudeau's Canada, that birthed the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and Mulroney's Canada that fought to end Apartheid. But in Stephen Harper's Canada, what is there to celebrate? In Harper's Canada, citizenship, now considered a privilege, has two tiers.