By Sheri Monk
When the topic of politics comes up – and it always does – so many people exit the conversation by saying, “I hate all politicians – they’re all the same.” And I’ve always been bothered by that response because it comes from a place of such unacknowledged privilege.
We live in one of the best countries in the world. We have universal healthcare and education. We have a low population density, large land mass and access to the fourth-largest source of fresh water on the planet. We have a justice system that although not perfect, allows most of us to feel safe. And we have a democracy that allows every adult to participate, to shape not just our country, but the world around us.
But those amazing privileges aren’t static. They aren’t enshrined or written in stone. Just like a barn or a truck, they require attention and maintenance to remain in working order. Women weren’t allowed to vote until 1918 – only 100 years ago. But it wasn’t until 1960 that Canada’s Indigenous people were given the right to vote. We like to think of Canada as a beacon of light in an unjust world and in some respects, we have earned that reputation. But people – many of them oppressed minorities – have suffered hard to change attitudes, values and ultimately, our highest laws.
Part of upholding our freedoms is remembering history instead of romanticizing it. We excel at honouring the memory of the veterans who fought for our country, but we need to remember the sacrifices of so many Canadians who also sacrificed and didn’t enjoy those freedoms because they were different. It is mind-blowing that thousands and thousands of Indigenous people fought in both World Wars – and for a country in which they weren’t even allowed to vote.
Immigration to Canada was perceived like Willy Wonka’s golden tickets, but the reality on the ground was often much different. Driven by a desire for a better life and opportunities for their children, immigrants came here with high hopes and often not much else. They frequently ended up working on farms for very little pay, and their children sometimes were kept out of school to help. One Dutch immigrant I spoke to recently said his family stayed in a one-room shack that passed for employee housing. The family spent three winters there before sending him off to work at another farm. All his wages were given back to his parents, and eventually, they were able to scrimp and save for a homestead of their own. He left Europe with a Grade 5 education, and that’s what he will die in Canada with.
We saw it when we were dealing with Trump over NAFTA, and we’re seeing it again with the Covid-19 pandemic – the frighteningly predictable results of the “they’re all the same” and “lesser of two evils” mentality. That attitude, in the past, assumes that people will tell some white lies to achieve power, but that they will have the baseline credentials needed to lead. This is not the case in the United States currently, and we are all paying the price. Despite lacking morals, values, skills, experience or the raw talent to lead a nation – much less one of the most powerful countries in the world – Trump was elected. He was elected by a lazy electorate that was attracted to platitudes instead of policy, and to conspiracy instead of reality.
Let me tell you about this “fake news” myth that Trump has created to cover up his own ineptitude. Journalists – real journalists that work for real news agencies – can’t fake news. Sure, they can make errors, but newspapers, television networks and other media gather and verify information. For example, when I write articles, I record every single interview, and I keep it – forever. We keep records of our information sources, and statistics come from reputable authorities.