Monday, 20 May 2019
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Letter: We can have the country we want and deserve

KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – I just finished reading In Extremis: The Life and Death of the War Correspondent Marie Colvin  by Lindsey Hilsum. Colvin covered major wars and conflicts around the world for a quarter century. She wrote about the individuals most affected (regular citizens but also rebel and political leaders, usually the underdog) because she believed that by bringing the everyday stories about the horrors of war to the world, she could make a difference. She was successful enough that Bashar al Assad, the president of Syria, frustrated with her ability to get out stories he was trying to keep hidden, targeted her. She was killed in a barrage of sniper fire in February 2012.

In North America, perhaps particularly in Canada, we tend to think evil happens elsewhere. Oh it’s sad but whatever, what does it have to do with me? I have a job, a home, health care, I give to charity. Sharing a border with the United States has allowed Canadians to roll our eyes, point our fingers, and congratulate ourselves on being better.

But we’re not better and we’re foolish for thinking we are. The days of pleading ignorance are long past or should be. We know about the attempted genocide of the land’s aboriginal people; the racist immigration policies against the Chinese; the internment of the Japanese; the enslavement of Black people; the war on working people; immigrant fear-mongering. Really, the list goes on and on. That is our history. We are not different.

But we could be. I’ve been thinking about Nova Scotia in particular (because that’s where I live) where we are halfway through a second term of a “liberal” government that is particularly egregious in their deliberate lack of transparency. They count on us not paying attention as they decimate the health care system — with the advent of the NS Health Authority came 50,000 people and counting without a family doctor, emergency rooms closing because of shortages, nurses burned out with unreasonable workloads. Our schools have been so needlessly reorganized that parents don’t know where to go and who to talk to about what’s not working.  This while millions of dollars go to projects like the Yarmouth ferry with dubious, at best, returns.

Elsewhere in Canada, nefarious deeds are being acted out in a dizzying fashion that is sometimes hard to understand. Alberta has had years now to invest in a green economy, including training workers laid off because of the dying oil fields. Those fields are not coming back. But instead of moving toward a future that is sustainable, they choose to be stuck in the past. They are still allowing oil companies to be the unelected governing party. They think climate change is a joke. They don’t have a plan even as we watch states of emergencies being called against floods in the east and fires in the west.

Ontario’s new premier, Doug Ford, needs an essay all to himself because if he is successful, and so far he seems to be, in cutting billions of dollars from the health care system, from schools, from support for the marginalized as well as the arts and environment, he will have changed the face of Canada for the worst. He’s not even pretending he cares.

So … back to Marie Colvin and terror around the world … I don’t see it as a big leap to draw parallels between the election of populist governments here (including the opposing federal conservatives under Andrew Scheer) and oppressive regimes elsewhere. We have time, though, to stop them here before they inflict more damage. It takes people speaking out and communities working together, not allowing ourselves to be divided.

Like Inez Rudderham who posted a video challenging Nova Scotia’s premier to admit there is a crisis in the province’s health-care system after her cancer went undiagnosed for two years, all of us can  stand with her and for us by not staying silent. Like the everyday people who are working to ferret out the systemic racism that keeps illegal street checks in place, we can stand with them and say ‘enough’.  We need people who don’t usually speak out to join those who do and for everybody to stand together for the good of all of us. It’s time to let it be known that the disenfranchisement of minority groups, intended or not, is not OK. One step forward, maybe two back, but on we go. We can have the country we want and deserve. It is our choice.

See also: Joanne Bealy: White silence

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