Last week, a teenage girl who was suspected of harboring drugs while in her Quebec school was taken by her female principal and vice-principal to a room where she was ordered to remove ALL of her clothing, including her underwear. I am continually struck by the notion entertained by certain people, including rather a lot of school administrators, that young people are not rights-holders.
Our classes often look at cases and circumstances where a decision must be made about what happens to people's bodies, and indeed, to their lives. Do students who do not yet have the right to vote care about such issues? My experience is that they care deeply and passionately. They are profoundly interested in fairness and justice -- and they are waiting for us to listen.
I heard a story this week about a civics lesson. It did not take place in a high school. It was a lesson both learned and taught by some elderly newcomers who were participants in a civic awareness project. Along with learning to speak English and finding out about the systems and the laws of Canada, these folks are being challenged to engage with their new communities.
When the shirtless jogger encountered Rob Ford at the Canada Day parade he took the opportunity to do something the media had been forbidden to do the day before: He asked the mayor questions. Like it or not, our elected leaders should expect to be asked hard questions -- and they should be ready to answer those questions, because in a democracy, we expect accountability. And we should be relieved that teachers like Mr. Killoran are demonstrating the courage it takes to stand up and hold politicians accountable.
Imagine if we celebrated Canada's democratic volunteers in the same way we celebrate our entrepreneurs, sports stars and community leaders? Samara is trying to do just that, by finding and highlighting the work of these people in the Everyday Political Citizen project. After all, politics will only change if citizens show the way.
Many issues will come up when the civic elections happen in October. One important issue that should take a seat front and centre in the campaigns is whether the City cares about public engagement when it comes to new developments that are due to appear right next door to your home. If the cases of the Stadium Centre and Shawnee-Evergreen developments are of any indication, Calgarians should expect a rude awakening when plans are put in place to reshape communities.
These days Vancouver city hall is twisting itself into pretzels trying to figure out why citizens have stopped engaging with the political process. In my view, Philip Owen was the last mayor to really make a personal effort to get to know the city he led. He wasn't in a bubble created by political aides -- his staff was tiny in comparison to those in office today. Often regarded as a "mayor's mayor," he made himself available to citizens, media, and through a primetime cable TV call-in show.
If we want our own children to learn to be courageous defenders of rights, we must first engage them in thinking critically about those rights. While adults may feel uncomfortable talking to children about the place of religion in society, we can still teach our children that people whose beliefs and practices differ from their own are deserving of respect and understanding.
I've been watching the discussion of millennial citizenship on the HuffPost. It's a spirited exchange. Perhaps it's worth taking a step back and re-examining what we mean when we talk about political engagement; at the core, I'd submit, are principles that apply regardless of age or demographic. It's the ability to engage in critical thought that makes us "citizens," rather than mere "consumers" or "taxpayers." It's the ability to follow a line of reasoning, to view an argument analytically, to evaluate the evidence on which it's based and determine whether it makes sense.
The President was again in a debate with a challenger, and again Canadians were glued to their seats. It is easy to understand why Americans cared about these debates -- it is their country, after all. What is less easy to understand, and more interesting, is why Canadians did. Canadians are watching these debates because they are convinced that America and its values matter in the world. If Trudeau, Harper or Mulcair seek to inspire Canadians they would do well to take a page from our neighbours to the south and convince Canadians, no, tell them, that we are not just another country.