Yesterday the Toronto Star hosted an online chat about Canadian democracy. The conversation between columnist James Travers and Green Party leader Elizabeth May was somewhat interesting, sometimes confusing (I get the feeling there was a delay, and May had some difficulty using the Cover it Live system).
At the end of this chat, which lasted an hour, May said something that I just had to respond to.
Her quote (at 12:00 in the chat): “Politicl parties are not mentione in our Constitution, but now their process and power dominate our parliamentary democracy. ”
This drove me a little bit crazy. She’s not wrong, political parties aren’t mentioned in the Constitution. Neither is the office of Prime Minister. We have a Prime Minister because of this little clause in the preamble of the British North America Act of 1867:
“Whereas the Provinces of Canada, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick have expressed their Desire to be federally united into One Dominion under the Crown of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, with a Constitution similar in Principle to that of the United Kingdom..”
This little section forms the basis of quite a lot of Canada’s political environment. The U.K. has a Prime Minister, we have a Prime Minister, the U.K. has political parties, with that holding the most seats forming government, and by default, that’s the way our system works to.
You learn a lot about the preamble when you do a degree in political science with a concentration in Canadian politics.
Ten years ago I got home from school, turned on the TV and was incredibly confused by what I saw.
Police surrounding a school, kids running away from the building, climbing out the windows.
I watched in horror as the whole situation at Columbine. I was 18, in high school, the same age as the kids who were doing the shooting and the kids who were being killed.
When I arrived back at school the next day, my principal, Mr. Dagenais (who was tragically murdered with his wife a few short years later), announced a moment of silence for all the victims at Columbine and I heard two 18-year-old boys at the back of the room – one said “oh yeah, did you hear about that?” and started laughing as he tried to explain that 2 stupid kids walked into their school and murdered 12 people.
And I nearly starting crying for the ignorance.
I hope they feel sorry today. I hope they remember the way they acted and feel shame.
For as long as I can remember I have been trying to define what I want to be when I grow up. In the back of my mind I knew I always wanted to be a writer, but I also knew that is very, very hard to do, so I went through a multitude of other career choices.
When I was really little I want to be a teacher and a dancer and a princess and all the things little girls are supposed to want to become.
After I saw Phantom of the Opera, I was determined to take voice lessons and grow up to be a star on Broadway, but I was shy and overweight and hadn’t been training at all.
When I was in Grade 4, I was determined to be an archaeologist and travel to Egypt.
When I was in Grade 9 I wanted to be a hockey scout and coach.
When I was in Grade 12 and OAC, I wanted to be an athletic therapist for a hockey team and even started working my way towards that goal (I did two co-op placements and applied to university for Kinesiology).
When I was 19 that goal died very quickly, I had a nervous breakdown and ended up back home, starting my search all over again.
When I was 20 I applied to colleges for journalism and started my journey to a career that I had been avoiding all my life – I didn’t want to follow in my father’s footsteps, I didn’t want to do what most of the rest of my family had done. But I loved it. For two years I was a star. I excelled in that program and I thought I was finally where I needed to be. Then I made me way out into the real world of journalism and it was very, very hard.
When I was 23, I went back to school to get a degree and give myself three years to figure out where I was going to go now.
When I was 26 I started a job that was everything I had decided I wanted – Three months later I had failed at that too.
Now I am 28 and I am starting to form real ideas about what I’m good at, what I enjoy and what kind of a difference I want to make in the world.
I don’t know what part of the last few weeks has made my intentions so clear – the introduction of a new law in Afghanistan and a real debate about what good the war there has really done for the women we said we were fighting for might have been the final straw.
I want to work for women. I have known for a few years that I am a feminist (no matter the questions some women might have about my choices). I want to fight for women’s rights and I want to teach people around the world about the real differences that can be made when women are giving the opportunities they so often lack.
When we give women the chance to succeed – the chance to go to school, to start her own business, to take care of her family – huge differences can be made. It isn’t only her family that benefits, entire communities do. Successful women can change the world.
I want to help them do it.
I haven’t found the outlet for this goal yet, but I will. And I will see the world change before my eyes.