"I have never been especially impressed by the heroics of people convinced that they are about to change the world. I am more awed by those who struggle to make one small difference after another." Ellen Goodman
There are so many important issues facing us today, that at times it all seems so overwhelming. How can we possibly fix everything? Climate change, poverty, homelessness, intolerance, war .... where do we start?
Fortunately, we have many Canadian heroes who don't focus on the enormity of the tasks ahead, but on some small measure where they can exact change.
But the difference that they are making could very well be the most important issue of all. Our right to protest. Because when we allow ourselves to be silenced, we have no hope of changing anything.
Two of these heroes are Jeff Peters and Andrew McCann, who were arrested during the Save the Prison Farms protest in Kingston. I've written before about the brute force used to silence those opposed to this decision.
But apparently brutality was not enough for our government. They wanted to make sure that none of their decisions would ever be questioned again, so they presented a 'diversion arrangement', whereby 'offenders' could exchange community service for a record.
This might sound like a fair exchange, except that part of that condition meant they had to admit that what they did was wrong. How can it be wrong to protest a decision that was completely unfair and made without debate?
I certainly don't fault those who agreed to this deal, because having a criminal record can follow you throughout your life, but several people refused, including Jeff Peters and Andrew McCann.
They are taking a stand, because this is no longer just about the prison farms, but our basic civil rights, that are being threatened.
“When a government starts trying to cancel dissent or avoid dissent is frankly when it’s rapidly losing its moral authority to govern.” Stephen Harper, Canadian Press, April 18, 2005
Lofty words from a man who now goes to enormous lengths to cancel any kind of dissent in this country.
Which brings us to Alex Hundert, one of many protesters at the G-20, who risked his own freedom to guarantee ours. You can read his story here.
Hundert was placed under a gag order that FORBID him from taking part in public political discussions. After appearing on a university panel he was rearrested. In Canada.
As one reader of the Star put it:
This is not the Canada I grew up in either.
While Canada has some of the best police officers in the world, we are still troubled with this blatant oppression by the authorities and bail conditions imposed. We totally agree with Osgoode Hall law professor Alan Young’s comment of “astonishing” — and may we add “appalling.” This is not the Canada we grew up in. We are losing civil freedoms in a democratic country. These recent totalitarian actions are something we thought only happened in Eastern bloc countries.
There is little doubt that Canada’s image has been eroded by incidents such as this. The recent rejection of Canada by the UN Security Council is a telling tale of just where we stand in the eyes of the world. It is time to stand up and defend the principles of fairness and justice of which Canada had long represented.
We are increasingly becoming an Eastern Bloc country where witch hunts are the norm and peaceful protesters arrested at gunpoint.
We can stay silent and allow this government to continue it's human rights abuses, or we can stand up to this by demanding answers.
Like where is the proof that the prison farms are too expensive?
Why were the police at the G-20 told to leave vandals alone and instead abuse those protesting this government's inaction on important social problems?
And why so many police in the first place?
A hero doesn't have to try to change the whole world, but if we have enough people willing to speak out and stand up for something they believe in, who knows? We just might.