Bring Back Our Girls

Dear Mr Paradis, MP, (Mégantic-L’Érable)

I am writing to ask what Canada is doing to encourage and support the Nigerian Government in having the Nigerian School girls returned to their families.

I know that you are traveling to Abuja, Nigeria this week for the World Economic Forum on Africa. It concerns me that this Forum may be continuing on as if the Boko Haram group has not changed the course of so many lives right there where you will be. It concerns me too that these young lives are girls who, too often everywhere in the world, are treated as expendable. Mr. Paradis you have a daughter. I too have daughters, two of them. I can’t imagine the horror and pain that I would feel if this were to happen to them. In fact, through them I feel some of the horror and pain that the Nigerian parents are feeling. Can you feel it?

Please Mr Paradis, tell us what you are doing as Minister of International Development to support the #BringBackOurGirls campaign. Voting Canadians like me, mothers, parents like me, concerned world citizens like me, we need to know what stance Canada is taking with regard to this urgent issue. How is this impacting your participation in the World Economic on Africa in Abuja, Nigeria this week?

Thank you.
Betty Gilgoff

Interesting articles & reports worth reading or watching:

1) Here’s Why Nigeria Hasn’t yet found It’s Missing Girls http://thinkprogress.org/world/2014/05/06/3434288/nigeria-army-boko-haram/

2) Some growing interest. Watch the ABC news video at  http://abcnews.go.com/International/bring-back-girls-rallying-cry-kidnapped-nigerian-schoolgirls/story?id=23611012

On Being Inconvenient

I’m definitely on a steep learning curve and planning to blog more and more as I go, simply to chronicle my transformation into Another Inconvenient Citizen.  The idea of an Inconvienent Citizen, as will be posted on the new Inconvenient Citizen blog site being launched soon, is as follows:

The goal of An Inconvenient Citizen is to mobilize citizens under the banner of “protest for the rest of us”, including people who never really thought of themselves as protesters before. We believe people will be motivated to action once confronted with the facts about how the Harper government is negatively changing our democracy and negatively impacting our environment. Even if action is as low key as simply voting when they might not otherwise have voted (good), or convincing a number of others to vote who might not otherwise have voted (better); or (best) a combination of voting, convincing, signing petitions, writing letters to political parties, newspaper editors, etc. and generally becoming royal pains in the butt by advocating that our “first past the post” electoral system needs to be changed to give us a “fair democracy” (which for me includes the idea of a more “representative” system).

In other words, we are hoping that Inconvenient Citizen will make life really “inconvenient” for Harper AND for the other parties as we head towards the next election. We hope Inconvenient Citizen will advocate for the defeat of Harper’s Conservatives AND convince other parties to co-operate with each other to agree on a united platform “for fair democracy”.

And – oh yes – we would like to see young Inconvenient Citizens re-engage with the electoral system, and see other older Inconvenient Citizens convincing youth to do so. Participate in the next election to achieve a modified system. How about a rallying cry like “YOUTH WANT IN”. (By the way, this slogan will resonate with people who remember Stephen Harper as a former Reform Party Member of Parliament who ran for office with the slogan “The West Wants In.”)

I’m excited to be identifying with this group. From the mentors within, I am learning more and more about a variety of issues and politics. Our original Inconvenient Citizen, Jackie DeRoo, is an excellent researcher. She is passionate and committed to issues around democracy and electoral reform as well as environmental health and sustainability. She is tenacious and knowledgeable. I’m honoured to work alongside her.

Over a year ago I attended a protest in Surrey, BC, where George Bush had been invited to speak. At that rally and then a followup event  Gail Davidson, Lawyer for Stop the War, spoke about being involved in activism. Her advice that I remember most clearly was that to be involved in activism one needs to not get sidetracked by the wide variety of issues, but instead pick one or two that are close to one’s heart and dig deep. For the past year those words, word that were meant to help and guide, have resonated with me and in a way that rather than being helpful have perhaps hindered my active involvement as I searched for the “right” issues, never quite sure if “this,” whatever it was, was the right issue. For now Inconvenient Citizens is helping me in providing a space to talk with peers and be inspired in the little things I can do. I’m able to let go a little of being overly concerned with whether or not each issue is what I want to commit to.  Through the Inconvenient Citizen group I am beginning to connect with other 55+ activists, many like Jackie who have not been particularly politically before now. Slowly we are becoming aware of the vast resource that our demographic group can provide to the political landscape. In reality I believe we are a sleeping giant just slowly awakening.

Help Is On the Way If You Get On Board

I have rarely been a member of any political party, at least until last year when I realized what wonderful work Elizabeth May was doing on behalf of all Canadians and so I joined the Green Party. But that was last year. As of this month I am no longer a Green Party member.

Elizabeth May is still amazing but she needs help. She can’t save us alone. Our country and our environment need help.  Most importantly, right now until March 3rd we have a very unique opportunity to offer that help but we all need to get on board. Rick Mercer perhaps says it best, with levity, in his rant about the Liberal Leadership Race:

What Rick Mercer doesn’t talk about is the benefits for Canada in supporting Joyce Murray’s campaign as it fits well with the urgent care that Canada needs for our democracy, sustainability and stewardship of the environment. I’m pretty new to this whole political scene as an activist. More on that is coming in future posts but right now I’m motivated and excited by what Joyce Murray is offering up by way of creating some real change for Canada.

Many of us already know that our democratic system is not representing Canadians well enough. That Stephen Harper could have been elected as Prime Minister of Canada with a majority government with less than 40% of the popular vote, and with less than 23% of those eligible to vote actually voting for him, is just wrong. The system needs to change and it needs to change fast before this government, or quite frankly, any other government with a minority-earned-majority continues to follow the self interest of so few, ignoring the need for a more just, sustainable and equitable society.

As Rick Mercer says, this may well be a one time opportunity. Sure, one needs to sign up to the Liberal Party, but only as a supporter. One does not need to join and it costs no money. Any one of us can still be free to join any party after the Liberal Leadership election. To be eligible as a supporter one only needs to meet very limited criteria. This includes the following:

  • either be a member of the Party or
  • (a) be at least 18 years of age;
  • (b) support the purposes of the Party;
  • (c) be qualified as an elector who may vote in accordance with part 11 of the Canada Elections Act or ordinarily lives in Canada; and
  • (d) not be a member of any other federal political party in Canada.

The Liberal Party purposes are a little less clear. The web site for registering asks one to agree to what is essentially the preamble of the Liberal Party of Canada constitution. It states the following principles but I had to assume they are the purposes I am required to agree to:

The Liberal Party of Canada is committed to the view that the dignity of each individual man and woman is the cardinal principle of democratic society and the primary purpose of all political organization and activity in such a society.

The Liberal Party of Canada is dedicated to the principles that have historically sustained the Party: individual freedom, responsibility and human dignity in the framework of a just society, and political freedom in the framework of meaningful participation by all persons. The Liberal Party is bound by the constitution of Canada and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and is committed to the pursuit of equality of opportunity for all persons, to the enhancement of our unique and diverse cultural community, to the recognition that English and French are the official languages of Canada, and to the preservation of the Canadian identity in a global society.

In accordance with this philosophy, the Liberal Party of Canada subscribes to the fundamental rights and freedoms of persons under the rule of law and commits itself to the protection of these essential values and their constant adaptation to the changing needs of modern Canadian society.

The Liberal Party of Canada recognizes that human dignity in a democratic system requires that all citizens have access to full information concerning the policies and leadership of the Party; the opportunity to participate in open and public assessment of such means, and such modifications of policies and leadership as  they deem desirable to promote the political, economic, social, cultural and general well-being of Canadians.

To realize this objective, the Liberal Party of Canada strives to provide a flexible and democratic structure whereby all Canadians can obtain such information, participate in such assessment and militate for such reform through open communications, free dialogue and participatory action both electoral and non-electoral. This Constitution sets forth the institutions, systems and procedures by which the Liberal Party of Canada, in co-operation with its provincial and territorial associations and electoral district  associations, works to implement these ideas on behalf of all its members.

In my opinion, these are pretty general and vague. They aren’t hard at all for me to support as the basis for a civil and democratic society.

As per my previous blog post, I have withdrawn my membership from the Federal Green Party and am now registered as a supporter for the purpose of voting in the Liberal Party Leadership Election.  At this time I believe that I will be supporting Joyce Murray, and only Joyce Murray, as leader. I’m taking this vote very seriously and so am also doing the ground work to really, really research who Joyce Murray is, what she stands for, and whether or not she deserves my vote. In fact I’m learning everything I can about all of the candidates and I will be voting for the candidate who I think will put my concerns at the forefront. I want a Liberal Leader who understands that we need to oust Stephen Harper first and foremost; a leader who understands that the politics of our diverse nation has to be about cooperation, not just now but forever down the road. I want a leader who understands that we need  electoral reform so that we will never again have a minority-elected-majority. I want a leader who cares about our environment and about sustainability, and yes about economic development but not at the expense of the health of our citizens and not solely for the benefit of the corporations. I want a leader who is honestly respectful of diversity including our First Nations. Someone who values women. So far, the only candidate in the running who seems to be the kind of leader that I can support is Joyce Murray.

As a newbie to this world, I’m going to keep on blogging so as to report on what I’m learning. If you have video clips or articles I should check out to help me in my research, please comment and let me know. I’d appreciate your comments and opinions. Even more, I’d love for you to get involved if you aren’t already. Please join me in being a liberal supporter. Help make a difference.

 

 

 

Baby steps at being Inconvenient

Two days ago Elizabeth May wrote a blog post on political cooperation. She begins it with the following:

Greens favour a cooperative strategy in the next federal election.  We need to move away from First Past the Post (FPTP), to a voting system that will ensure every vote counts and that the popular vote will be reflected in the proportion of seats held by each party in the House of Commons.  And while we are discussing the impact of FPTP, it is clear we need some form of cooperation between the New Democrats, Liberals and Greens to avoid another term of Stephen Harper’s agenda.

While she continues on in the post on to say that she will not endorse a candidate for the Liberal Leadership election, after all, how can she as the leader of a different party, she acknowledges her respect and regard for candidates who are colleagues in the House, specifically Justin Trudeau, Marc Garneau and Joyce Murray. And then, much to my delight and surprise she points out that Joyce Murray’s success, whether a win or not, would “advance the shared goals and objectives shared by the Greens, by NDPers who supported Nathan and by many across a political, progressive spectrum.” She commends Murray’s “political courage and integrity”. In that spirit, she all but endorses Murray’s run for leadership.

Three days ago following a discussion with other “Inconvenient Citizens” about my own dilemma of wanting to both support the only Liberal Party leadership candidate who is running on a platform of working towards a coalition type government, but still support, without reservation, the work that Elizabeth May and the Green Party are doing, I decided I needed to take action. In this frame of mind I responded with the following message to an email from the Green Party reminding me to vote on the Resolution Ratifications from the last summer’s convention :

Thanks for this email. While I did/do want  vote on the Resolution Ratifications, I’ve decided that for now I need to not be a member of the Green Party and so need to refrain from renewing my Green Party membership and/or renounce it should it happen to still be current. I’m sure you’ll be hearing from other Green Party members as well with this same issue, but for now please know that in spirit I am fully behind the Green Party and I’ll be back to pay my dues. However, I feel very strongly that we need to fix and change some of what is wrong with the democratic process in this country and to do that we need to first get Harper out. To that end I am going to sign up as a Liberal Party Supporter so as to be able to vote for Joyce Murray as leader of the Liberal Party. I’m not entirely sure that Joyce Murray is the best candidate but I am 100% sure that it would be a good idea to have a leader of the Liberal Party who is willing to plan and work towards a coalition government. Just as an aside, I’d like that coalition government to be headed by Elizabeth May as Prime Minister!  But, one step at a time. For now I’ll just read the information on your website and after the Liberal Leadership vote, I’ll be back to join the Green Party once again with more $$ support.

Let’s be clear, I have enormous respect for Elizabeth May. She is an excellent speaker. She is smart. She is committed and passionate. We couldn’t ask for a better representative for Canadians in the House. And, I am under no illusion that her blog post was at all as a result of my email. However, that said, it felt really, really good to have my first act as an Inconvenient Citizen be met with such a positive outcome as to have my political guru, Elizabeth May, write a post that is so in line with my own thinking. I know my letter alone was not responsible for Elizabeth May’s position, but I felt great all the same with the way that the timing worked out. It was a great first step for me as an Inconvenient Citizen.

I received the following response back from the Green Party about the same time that Ms. May’s blog post went up. The email read as follows:

Dear Betty,

No problem at all.

I have cancelled your membership, as per your request.  We’ve set up a reminder for after the Liberal leadership race, so you can come back at your convenience.

Have a good evening.

So I am now a Liberal Supporter. Today I signed up to vote in the Liberal Leadership race and so far I’m planning  to support Joyce Murray. I’ll continue to watch the debates and inform myself as best I can as to how each candidate plans to work together with other political parties. I hope everyone who reads this will also do something “inconvenient” and get involved in the Liberal Leadership Election, irregardless of how you stand on the leadership race and on the need for political cooperation. That’s what democracy is about.

Resources to follow up:

The Green Party website at on the background of the resolutions, like all of their website, is impeccable. It is well organized, articulate and informative.  And just as an aside, did you know that in Margaret Atwood’s 2009 book, The Year of the Flood, the world has a new saint, Saint Elizabeth May?

If you don’t currently belong to any other political party you can sign on as Liberal Party Supporter through the Liberal Party Website Supporter form. You need to have registered by March 3, 2013 to be eligible to cast a ballot. Once you are registered as a supporter, my understanding is that you will be contacted by Matt Certosimo, the National Membership Secretary, with instructions for registertering to vote. You need to have registered before March 14, 2013.

Here’s how the voting works:

And, for those who like all the details here is some background information on the current Liberal leadership election and a list of who’s who on the election ballot.

If you miss any of the Liberal Party Leadership debates, they are being uploaded to YouTube by the Liberal Party. For your convenience I’ve linked the first two below. The next one will be this Saturday, February 16, 2013.

Video of the Vancouver Liberal Party Leadership Debate from January 20, 2013:

Video of the Winnipeg Liberal Party Leadership Debate from February 2, 2013:

 

Being Inconvenient

After more than a year of reading and participating peripherally in activist kinds of events, it seems I’ve begun to find my sea legs in this perfect storm of rising corporate power, dwindling democracy, serious climate change and increasing youth activism. To that end, last week I had coffee with a long-time-ago friend, Jackie, who like me, is approaching retirement age, has grown children no longer living at home, and has recently woken up to the political swirl of smoke and mirrors being directed at us all.

As recently as this past fall Jackie began participating in her first political protests, including the October 22 protest in Victoria against the Enbridge Pipeline. Like me she is trying to make sense of it all. She wants to work to use her time and energy productively and so has taken to calling herself simply ‘An Inconvenient Citizen.’ She is keen to connect with other like-minded individuals, sharing information and encouraging participation in asking the questions that need to be asked of our government officials so that they are being held accountable on issues that matter. For now what is jumping out for Jackie is the need for reforming our electoral process so that our democracy is functioning as it ought to be. Jackie is a smart and voracious researcher so that working alongside her makes sense to me.

This week we’ll meet again and I’m keen to suss out just exactly what it means to also label myself an Inconvenient Citizen.