CBC and its Massey Lecture series asked what citizenship meant to its audience this past week. After the events in Ottawa and St-Jean-sur-Richelieu on Monday and Wednesday, it means we all need to stay together against these threats working to tear us apart.
To mark the release of former Canadian Governor General Adrienne Clarkson’s new book, “Belonging: The Paradox of Citizenship”, the CBC, amongst other activities, posted a survey on its website about the virtues of being a good citizen. The virtually even split amongst the six options by the 679 participants, at the time of this writing, reflects the diverse opinion on the subject, but the survey’s choices highlight many of the values that define our free and open society. Those values, as well as our way of life, were very likely challenged by the attacks in Ottawa and St-Jean-sur-Richelieu this week.
Fair democracies mean that every member, no matter their income, gender, religion, or lifestyle, is a free and equal partner towards deciding on how our society is run as represented by our privilege to vote. More importantly for Canada, as a principle-based country founded on peace, order, and good government, contrary to those terrorists wanting to impose upon us a worldview to suit their myopic limited purposes, this collective input should continue to be made towards supporting a prosperous, equitable, and mutually beneficial society.
This is why, through the talk in the wake of the events this week by our leaders about not being intimidated by terrorists and/or any other grudge holder bearing weapons, we should understand that we need to strengthen our resolve for the values that support our society and guides us towards an even greater potential. While these incidents require our greater caution, these aggressors, amongst their objectives, seek to force us to retreat from our involvement in the ongoing grand public experiment that continues to evolve in ways unimaginable and impossible without our freedoms and rights.
To answer the CBC’s question, then, to me, citizenship means that you carry the responsibility of participating and contributing towards a society that endeavours to determine and meet its democratic potential. One that is fair, equal, mutually beneficial, and only possible by working together. This means each citizen needs to maintain a public interest point of view, even in the face of threats to our individual interests whose protection, in my view, is a primary duty of government. It is only through each citizen’s equal involvement in the formation of the common good that a truly democratic, rather than an imposed, public interest can become reality.
Corporal Nathan Cirillo and Patrice Vincent lost their lives defending such values against these attacks. Yet the hope and promise that accompanies this vision was still present yesterday with Clarkson’s Massey Lecture in Vancouver as was the We-Day event celebrating the public service of 20,000 BC students in attendance. That which threatens to tear us apart requires attention, but our focus must remain on what keeps us together.