A Letter to My Country

Hi Canada. We need to talk.

Do we stand for anything anymore? Anything at all?

I remember not so long ago we stood for something. It seemed like every day we stood for something new. One day we’d be refusing to join in on the sham of a war in Iraq, the next we’d be reexamining whether there’s a legal basis for charging people on marijuana laws. I felt like my head would explode when gay marriage swept the nation. My heart swelled when we signed the Kyoto protocol and I felt like maybe, just maybe we might work towards something truly globe-spanning, something great, something worthy.

It was as if for a while we were looking at the world and really understanding what it’s going to take to make it last, not just for us but for every future generation. It’s not just about climate change, Canada. It’s not just about preserving the peace. Or granting a few new rights. If we’re going to make it then we have to have a vision of who we should be in the world. We aren’t the world’s watchdog. We’re not its bank vault. We’re not its cheap labour pool and we’re not its favourite kicking dog either. We are the people who are moving past the past. We are the people inventing the future. Living together without having to obliterate every trace of difference. We are the people who are standing up for one another. We are the people who are through with getting lost on obsessive quests for righteousness. We are the people who prefer to live and let live. We are the people who work with others, not despite them.

There isn’t a party for this, Canada. There isn’t a party for it, but there is one against it. Every time I look back on the last several years I get sick to my stomach from the losses we’ve taken. We’re not cooperating on global climate change anymore. We haven’t seen a socially interesting policy in years. All we’ve seen is a government that lucked into its position and is trying desperately not to screw up, and they can’t even really manage that. All of this get-nothing-done politics just proves the wisdom of their predecessors in shaping our future.

I want that other Canada back, Canada. I’m through sitting quietly while the top man plays piano days after his party guts our ability to foster working artists. I’m done listening to a rhetoric about how tough these bastards are on crime when they’re driving a spike through the middle of our society, driving the poorest farther and farther down and the richest ever farther up out of reach. I’m done waiting in vain for those in power to participate in justice when things happen outside of our borders to people we call citizens. I’m through with black-clad brigades doing terrible things to the rights of our citizens inside our borders.

I feel like we don’t stand for anything but political expediency now. I feel betrayed by the leaders of our country. I believe that we were better all those years ago than we are today, and the intervening troubles have little to do with the reasons why.

I look at Canada at home and I find I hardly recognize her. The guts got ripped out of the country and there is the nascent lie that oil can fill that void, the same oil that drives the end-cap economies of the country and tears the holy hell out of every place where it flows. I look at St John’s now and see an ever growing number of the poorest citizens on the street. I think of the many stories I have heard over the years of the damage that has been done to the camp towns of Alberta, not just environmentally but culturally. Newfoundlanders know this: moving to Fort Macmurray has long been a case of taking your life in your hands. I see the swell rising in other places now, out of the once-indomitable middle and out west or south or farther afield altogether.

I see, with the rise of these poor souls and the rise of a bottom rung, a government that thinks the words “tough on crime” will cure these new ills they are building. I see the emergence of a society that is damaged by a growing wealth disparity, and I see the response to that in the form of harder prisons and black-clad storm troopers turned on our own citizens and I wonder, you know, I wonder how it is we got here. I thought we stood up for each other. I thought that’s what it meant to be Canadian. New or old, west or east, in the hard times we’ve sent bread and fish across the thousands of miles that separate us to keep the family going.

I look at Canada internationally and I see how far we’ve fallen from that proud moment when we said no, not this time to the Iraq war. I see that we no longer behave as if the solution to climate change is international in scope, or indeed as if we have any role in that solution whatsoever. I see that we have lost the respect of the community at large despite surviving the world economic troubles in top form.

I see the parties of the left get lost down fighter jet rabbit holes instead of focusing on the labour-antagonistic policies of their opponents and the gigantic hole where proportional representation should be. I see them fail to mention that this “transparent” government has been systematically muzzling and killing off sources of fact for nearly their entire sitting term, and much more moreso since they got their “majority”.

I see a leader that has doubled down on oil. I see a leader that has control freak tendencies and a caucus that is, thankfully, finally starting to tear itself apart trying to appease him. I see a leader that wants us to be like the USA, an admirable country to be sure but not one I have any desire to emulate. I see a leader that has never elaborated a vision.

I see you Canada. I see you and some days I still love you. But some days I miss who you used to be.



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