Recently, the principal of a large high school in Toronto announced, with the approval of the parent council, that all students attending this year's prom would be subject to a breathalyzer test. The belief that we set everything else aside when safety is our concern, means that we could find ourselves subject to the most egregious measures, so long as we believe that the intention of such measures is safety. A school prom is not just another party. It is a special rite of passage, like a graduation ceremony. What students wear, who they go with, what music they will dance to are all planned even years in advance. So telling students that if they don't want to be searched, they can just stay home is deeply unfair.
Now that Black History Month is over (didn't take long) I feel more comfortable in saying that I very much dislike it. Black people are more than a month, and are more than several prominent black figures. Black history should be a regular part of educational curriculum and media programming, yet it is differentiated and set aside, just as black people were not so long ago. How is this good?
You're a prisoner in your own home. Not able to fall asleep from the gunfire down the street, you fear that your house is next. You protested a new law that gave even more power to a despotic government. One of your friends was murdered, another was raped. This is a fear that has not played out in the western world. We have security, peace, and far more freedom than others.
Mandela was a towering figure of our time, a key person in the struggles for human rights and social justice. The 20th century was a century that saw some of the worse violence in human history, two world wars, brutal dictatorships, colonization of developing countries by imperial powers, and threat of nuclear war.
Martin Luther King III, son of iconic American civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., had a legacy violently forced upon him. When he was ten years old, his father was assassinated. Six years later, his grandmother was gunned down in her church. To this day, King fights to better his community under the family name.
Let's not let our fight for equal rights be clouded by the fact that LGBT people can get married across our great nation (and a number of U.S. states). In many countries, homosexuality is still illegal and punishable by imprisonment or death. People who are still fighting for basic rights and freedoms need our help.
Just north of the city, I sat in a room full of frustrated immigrants who had gathered to listen to promises made by Cécile Kyenge, who just last week made history when she was appointed Italy's first black cabinet minister. In Italy, if you are a child of immigrant parents, you are considered extracomunitari, a "foreigner" before the law. But maybe not for long.
Less than a generation ago, Canada was a world leader when it came to the fundamental democratic freedoms of assembly, speech and information. So perhaps it is time for us Canadians to wake up and smell the suppression -- no longer are censorships solely the purview of tin-pot dictators in far away regimes.
Can a single constitutional document change the evolution of a society? I would argue that happened with the Canadian people when the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms was signed on April 17, 1982 by the Queen on Parliament Hill. On April 17, 2012, we should all be celebrating the 30th Anniversary of this historic document.
It is painful to be called an anti-Semite by a deceased saint. Yet the dead speak, even when we wish they'd keep their thoughts to themselves. There is a tremendous effort to deny that Martin Luther King ever said these words: "When people criticize Zionists, they mean Jews. You're talking anti-Semitism." Unfortunately, he did.