C/O Don Craig
True advocacy entails more than just empty words
By: Ardena Bašić, Contributor
cw: abuse, neglect
Professors and leaders are now acknowledging the ownership of the land they work and live on. The orange shirt has become a symbol of support for victims of the residential school system. Political leaders are making promises to address the issue of water advisories in Indigenous communities and inequities in education and housing.
While these symbolic actions exemplify desires to make positive changes, they are still only symbolic acts. Whether these intentions lead to actual change is contingent on whether leaders and members of society translate their intentions and words into tangible action.
Advocacy may very well begin with words, promises and acknowledging mistakes and atrocities of the past. However, as it pertains to the issues that many marginalized and oppressed groups such as the Indigenous population of so-called Canada experience, words represent only the preliminary step in building a better world.
Both Stephen Harper and Justin Trudeau have given formal apologies to the Indigenous community in regards to the residential school system. In 2021, Canadian catholic bishops also communicated their remorse for the role of religious bodies in the residential school system. Unfortunately, the Catholic Church and Pope have not followed suit. Calls for the church to take accountability for its role in the residential school system became widespread this past year given the many bodies of Indigenous children found in unmarked graves across Canada in what used to be residential schools.
Some action has been taken on the part of the Canadian federal government to follow up on their apologies and address the calls to action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. For example, the government has budgeted for their intent to address the lack of access to clean drinking water, develop better health and social services on and near reserves and contribute to preserving Indigenous languages.
Moreover, Sept. 30, 2021 marked the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. This day sought to commemorate the victims of the residential school system and entailed memorials and other events held across the nation.
There are also calls for institutions to remove statues and names of people who were involved in the residential school system. For example, Ryerson University will be changing its name, given its eponym, Egerton Ryerson, was an important architecture in designing the residential school system. However, changing an institution’s name is only a symbolic act and must be followed by more tangible action to support reconciliation and contribute to social progress.
There are still water advisories in place and the presence of inadequate infrastructure and services across Indigenous communities despite promises to address these issues. In fact, government funding for awards that serve to honour leaders in Indigenous communities has decreased. It is clear the government wants to take accountability of its past actions and do its work in laying the foundation for reconciliation, but this is not followed by proper, tangible action.
Only when tangible actions are taken after communicating an intent to do so will greater equity become a possibility. It is time Canadian society and its government follow suit on their promises and intents and invest more towards showing accountability and working towards reconciliation.
In sum, symbolic reconciliation is communication of an intention to right the wrongs of the past. However, this needs to be followed up by real action in order for true societal change to occur.
By Nicholas Marshall, Contributor
Grits. Reds. Libs. We need to talk. Let us consider Justin Trudeau’s domination in the 2015 federal elections. Here, Trudeau, the son of the heavenly father of our Constitution, descended from the lofty peaks of Canadian society to liberate our wretched souls from the clutches of Harper’s conservative austerity. I take it you were feeling pretty confident this time around. Trudeau was a media darling, beloved on the world stage and, in contrast with our neighbors to the south, a head of government that was hoping to unite our diverse population with Canada’s virtues of multiculturalism and equality.
But then, the scandals started rolling in. They began as relatively innocuous misdemeanours; his trip to India donning garb of another culture may have seemed like a substantial embarrassment, but it was only foreshadowing whats to come.
Things started to get more serious when the Liberal government approved the expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline. The Trans Mountain pipeline is poised to carve a path straight through the Liberal rhetoric on climate change, and undermine every word that spilled out of Trudeau’s mouth about protecting future generations.
Nothing could have prepared us for the big fish: the SNC-Lavalin scandal was a disaster for public confidence in our prime minister. A private corporation lobbying the government to change the law in their favour so that they could escape conviction was and is an international scandal. But to also pressure and demote your attorney general and then lead a coverup inside your own cabinet demonstrates a profound lack of respect for the political process and the rule of law. In fact, according to the ethics commissioner, the sitting prime minister had broken the law. At least things couldn’t get any worse, right?
We soon learned that the prime minister was “two-faced” in more ways than one.
So, where do we go from here? Justin Trudeau has been involved in scandal after scandal, while Andrew Scheer, the Conservative party leader, is climbing in the polls. Scheer, the leader who pinky promises that his personal opinions about gay people won’t inform his policy decisions.
So what do we do?
The truth is, most people like how the Liberals brand themselves, but in practice they don’t like watching their feminist darling sell war machines to Saudi Arabia. So, perhaps it’s time to wake up to the fact that Liberals campaign themselves as New Democrats and govern themselves as Conservatives, especially when they know no one is looking.
This election, it’s time we build our image of the Liberal party based on actions and not on words. We should recognise that the policies the Liberals win on are the actual policies of the NDPs and the policies they sneak in behind our backs are Conservative.
And, we must keep in mind that when Canadians don’t have the appetite for a scandal-ridden Liberal, voting Conservative is a counterproductive exercise in masochism (see Doug Ford). When your sheep start to bite, you don’t start shearing wolves.
This election has only just begun, so now is the time to get to know your candidates and evaluate them based on what they offer you as a citizen. Take nothing at face value, and remember that these people may not be exactly what you expected. But if you give it time, I’m sure they will all reveal their true colours to you.
Federal Liberal leadership hopeful and former astronaut Marc Garneau visited McMaster on Feb. 26 to meet with students.
Garneau became Canada’s first man in space in October 1984 when he worked as a payload specialist on the shuttle Challenger. He entered politics in the mid-2000s and currently serves as MP for the Westmount-Ville Marie riding in Montreal.
Garneau is widely considered to be in second to frontrunner Justin Trudeau in the race for leadership.
The down-to-earth mechanical engineer was greeted by a dozen students in The Phoenix and discussed issues ranging from education to oil sands. While his policies vary from those of his competitors, Garneau’s message was much the same as other candidates.
“As a party we have made some mistakes in the past few years, and we’re rebuilding,” he explained. “We have a huge amount of work to do.”
The Liberal Party has faced a major drop in support over the past decade. The number of seats held by Liberals in the House of Commons has been on the decline since 2000. Of the 308 seats, only 35 are currently held by Liberals.
Garneau is keen to see that change. His platform is based around a focus on the knowledge-based economy, a sector he feels has been neglected.
“My professional life has really been focused on the high tech sector,” he said. “I understand how innovation happens. We have the ingredients in this country – the people with good ideas. But we’re not helping them develop those ideas into commercial successes.”
He went on to say that the traditional Liberal focus has been on natural resources, rather than the knowledge economy. But he doesn’t want to discount the role of the West, in particular the oil sands, in Canada.
“I understand that they have become the economic centre of gravity of this country,” Garneau explained. He underlined the importance of “getting Westerners on board” with the party’s direction in order to be successful, citing his three-year term on the board of an oil company as relevant experience.
His platform has also resonated well with students for its policy on student loans. Garneau has proposed that students be able to defer repayment on the federal portion of their loans until they are employed and earning $40,000 a year.
“I think the best indicator [of this policy’s popularity] – and I’m not being facetious here – is that three days later, Justin [Trudeau] adopted the same policy,” he said with a laugh. “I think it’s a smart thing to do … it’s a good investment.”
Canadian media have been keen to hail Trudeau, son of former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, as the new hope for the Liberal Party.
But in the midst of Trudeau’s rise to stardom, Garneau claims to be more grounded. He has publicly accused Trudeau of being focused too much on vision and not enough on specific policies or strategies to accomplish his goals.
“The leadership of the Liberal Party is too important a position to be handed to an untested candidate who is hiding behind a carefully crafted public relations campaign,” he said at a Feb. 25 press conference. He challenged the Papineau MP to a one-on-one debate, which Trudeau declined.
The two candidates will join their six competitors, including former Toronto MP Martha Hall Findlay and Vancouver MP Joyce Murray, in Halifax on March 3 for a debate. The convention to choose the leader will take place on April 14.
The cheering tittered through the crowd, cutting off the introductory speaker, and throngs of people pushed to the aisle to just to get a glance at the man entering the room. He’s the other famous Canadian Justin. And he’s the newest candidate running for leadership of the Liberal Party of Canada.
Justin Trudeau’s visit to Hamilton on Oct. 10 was one in a series of meet and greets the leadership candidate has been doing since he officially announced his candidacy on Oct. 2.
Approximately 600 people came out for the event. It was held at the Sheraton Hotel and was organized my recent McMaster graduate Elyse Banham, a former member of the McMaster Young Liberal Association.
The meet and greet appeared to be comprised mainly of baby boomers, and the majority of the youth in attendance appeared to be affiliated with the Young Liberal Association. Well known Hamilton Liberal MPs, Beth Phinney and Judy Marsales, also attended.
The event was intended to be a rally for current Liberal party supporters, but also aimed to familiarize Hamiltonians with Trudeau’s campaign platforms.
Trudeau was introduced by former Liberal MPP Marie Bountrogianni (Hamilton Mountain). Bountrogianni described Trudeau as “a breath of fresh air to the political scene in Canada.”
She also commented on how his youth and experience better readied him to understand the crisis in youth “mal-employment,” given that one out of five 25-29-year-olds make less than half the median income in Canada.
Although youthful energy and passion have been championed as core values of the Trudeau campaign from the beginning, his speech, while charismatically delivered, fell short of addressing youth concerns.
Instead, it focused on the general agenda Trudeau has been presenting so far during his Canadian city tour. He discussed the implications of partisanship, criticizing both the Conservative party and the NDP for polarizing regions against each other, and for promoting ideologies which “micro-categorize” electoral issues.
Trudeau emphasized his determination to not engage in regionalism, pitting one region’s interest above others. This issue proved to be a lynch pin for Pierre-Elliot Trudeau, who has often been accused of polarizing Alberta and the West from the rest of Canada.
The content of the speech appeared to mimic the previous speeches delivered in early stops in Burlington and Mississauga. Despite the similarity of the speech to the many others Trudeau has delivered in the past few weeks, the trademark Trudeau charisma shone through, as evidenced by the shouts, cheers and applause which erupted and overpowered his speech at times.
Trudeau took time to personally appeal to Hamiltonians and addressed issues unique to Hamilton.
“Hamilton is a city with a tremendous heart. It’s been through some tough times and some great times. It’s transformed itself from a manufacturing hub to being a research and knowledge economy hub.”
Matthew Ing, a fifth-year Arts and Science student and member of the McMaster Young Liberals volunteered at the event. He explained that meet and greet was purposely not a fundraiser.
“A fundraiser brings certain groups of people...those who can afford to attend. To have as many people there and overcome regional divides, [the campaign] aimed to reach out to all Hamiltonians and make it an accessible event.”
In addition to being the MP for the Papineau riding in Montreal, Trudeau is the Liberal party’s critic for youth, post-secondary education, and amateur sport. Ing explained that Trudeau has actively sought out youth input and consultation in his campaign.
“The current government has no policy for tackling the [high] youth unemployment rate...you can rest assured that youth will be at the forefront of any issue Justin addresses.”
Trudeau concluded his speech by lamenting the recent decline of the Liberal party, which won only 35 seats in the last federal election and lost its title of Official Opposition Party.
The campaign has focused on branding Trudeau as the product of a new post-partisan generation of politicians. He has strongly distanced himself from the superior and entitled attitudes that he implied have been historically present in the Liberal party.
Instead, he advocated for a new party, which viewed Canadian interests as a whole, and aimed to speak for and listen to all Canadians.
“Hard work and heart, of the type that has always characterized Hamilton, for example, is the only thing that is going to get the Liberal Party to move forward once again, it’s the only thing that is going to get Canada to move forward once again.”
Assistant News Editor
While disco fever may have died with the 80’s, it seems that Trudeau-mania is still very much alive.
Justin Trudeau, son of the late prime minster Pierre Trudeau, MP of Papineau, Quebec since 2008 and current Liberal critic for youth, post-secondary education, and amateur sport, came to McMaster on Oct. 12 to participate in an open-mic question and answer session sponsored by the Young Liberal Association of McMaster.
“This is an extension of something I was trying to do, which is getting out talking to people who are more or less engaged in politics,” said Trudeau to a group of roughly 300 McMaster students and faculty.
While many of the attendees may indeed have been “engaged in politics,” Trudeau was quick to highlight the voter apathy that characterized much of the political system.
“Politics is more polarized than it’s ever been. It’s source of cynicism more than it’s ever been. It’s more about strategic divisions than it’s ever been.”
Despite such a pessimistic political portrayal, realistic as it may have been, Trudeau’s presence seemed almost a contradictory reflection of the current political system and a hint of what the future could hold.
Arguably following in his father’s footprints, Justin Trudeau began his stretch in politics throughout the 2000s after four years of working as a high-school teacher in British Columbia. Beginning his political career with open support for outgoing prime minster Jean Chrétien at a 2003 Liberal leadership convention, Trudeau is currently the Member of Parliament for the Montreal electoral division of Papineau. At 39, Trudeau is still young for a politician, but many believe he is scrutinized through the lens of legacy: to one day take office as prime minster.
Trudeau did not comment on this directly. Instead, he stressed that there is dire need to change the current mechanisms of politics, calling this, “the need to change space and time.”
“In the past, civilizations either adapted or perished. We don’t have that luxury. We are not a cluster of local civilizations. We are global. Everyone is connected.”
He added, “If our system collapses, it collapses everywhere. We cannot let the issues of poverty and economic instability to hit full force before we shift our behaviours.”
Such issues, most of which captured the dialogue surrounding politics, are only as important as people make them. Trudeau acknowledged this. He admitted that while politics is meant to stress the importance of social issues, there has been a systematic dissatisfaction at all level of governance.
“Partisan politics turns people off of politics,” he noted, “but it’s never been more important to connect people with politics because the stakes have never been higher. We have to rethink very basic assumptions of where we are in this world and what we want to do.”
Only through commonalities between individuals, rather than division between them, can this be achieved.
This, however, is not a task necessary for the leaders of tomorrow. Instead, Trudeau stressed it was an absolutely necessity for the present.
“I hate when people say to the young, ‘You will be leaders of tomorrow,’ because it’s conditional,” he said. “If you do homework, get good grades, meet the right people, then yeah, you’ll be leaders of tomorrow. If. We don’t need that. We need to give you the tools to be a good leader.”
One of these tools implicitly stated was questioning the status quo and those who represent it. In this light, an open question period followed Trudeau’s brief speech.
Students, faculty and members of various organizations queried on variety of topics from teenage pregnancy to less than optimal funding for research in Canada.
While each response was different, whether it addressed access to post-secondary education or mitigating political differences to ensure the nation’s best interests, Trudeau seemed to centralize on the common theme of choice, and ultimately, passion for that choice.
“I don’t care if you get involved in active politics or not,” he said. “I care whether you get passionate about something in your community or not. Politics are not for everyone … but if more individuals find what they are passionate about, change will come.”
He stressed, “As soon as individuals realize the power to shape the world – when they choose this to do, not to do, to support, not to support – then the ability to change the world goes from a nice idea to being flat out inevitable.”
And maybe, just maybe, changing the world, or at least the political system, begins with inspirational words like those.
Justin Trudeau will be visiting two other Universities throughout the week, delivering similar non-partisan talks to students, after which he will return to his Papineau riding.