I went for an evening run here in Victoria a couple of days ago. The run took me down to an oceanfront walkway where I could see the mountains on the other side of the strait, the choppy water turning dark as the sun was setting,
the almost-full moon, and many friendly people walking their dogs, waving, smiling. I passed a tour bus parked at a lookout and about a dozen tourists taking pictures of the view we were sharing, while I thought how fortunate I am to routinely run in a place that is so beautiful that people come from around the world to see it, that they judge it photo worthy. I ran through well-maintained parks and well-lit streets, and when the night fell and I was jogging back through a few blocks of what passes as Victoria’s inner city, I still felt safe and protected.
This is all to say that I live in a gorgeous city, in a great country, and I know how lucky I am. When we’ve had medical emergencies or treatments, I find I usually only need to pay for the parking at the hospital. The schools are good and the teachers committed. People’s attitudes to me and my partner, as immigrants, are warm, welcoming, and inclusive. There are playgrounds everywhere here, public transit, bike lanes, and bike paths, and a good public library system. Canada gets so much right, and Victoria and Toronto have been such good places to live in, that I can’t be anything but grateful to have been adopted by this country.
And yet, though grateful, I’m also increasingly disgusted and exasperated by the government that this country has imposed upon itself for the past ten years, a government that vastly contradicts everything that makes the country great. How have its citizens allowed this to happen for so long? How has this seeped under us? The government dismantles our social welfare and it attempts to buy off those of us with comfortable salaries through tax cuts. We keep accumulating Fossil of the Year awards, while our government blocks any pragmatic efforts to rein in climate change and hustles to extract and sell the dirtiest fuel we’ve found. We allow government scientists to be censored, science funds to get cut, and research libraries to get destroyed. We let ourselves get worked up over this or that loose terrorist threat, while we let our intelligence services entrap weak-minded folks, and our leaders boast and try to act more macho than the US or Russia. We let ourselves get spied on by our own public servants, spied on to such an extent that, frankly, I’m fearful that inconsequential as I may be, voicing my concerns might get me a file somewhere. Even more so because, astonishingly, for a nation built on immigrants, we’ve also just passed a law (C-24) that allows the government to revoke my citizenship (or that of any dual citizen, even if born in Canada—my daughter, for instance; perhaps you?) without trial, if I commit any acts that are “contrary to the national interest of Canada”, and we’ve passed another law (C-51) that defines such acts in the vaguest terms to include, potentially, dissent or discussion.
I cannot reconcile the beautiful country around me with its increasingly brutish government. I understand that Harper is trying to bend us to its ideology; I don’t understand how so many of us are letting him get away with it.
This is a bittersweet Canada Day for me: there is so much to celebrate, but so much bad work to repair too. There is an election coming. I truly hope that by the next Canada Day this government will be out, and reparations under way.