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A Day for Democracy
Wednesday, April 6, 2011 - 12:00
On Wednesday, April 6th 2011, in a number of cities across Canada, organizations that have come together as part of the Voices-Voix Coalition organized a variety of events under the banner A Day for Democracy.
These events had the common purpose of encouraging Canadians to discuss democracy, free speech and transparency in Canada, and more importantly how we can defend these values and traditions, both in the short and long-term.
The spirit of the events was the belief that despite the failures of the current government, and of numerous governments before it, to respect our democratic traditions and the will of the People, we can, if united and active, hold our elected representatives to account.
Campbell River, BC
In Campbell River, at the Fraternal Order of Eagles 3097, a collective body of dedicated civil libertarians, including Marcopolo Ressources Inc. and other local NGOs, held a discussion about how the democratic voices of Canadians are silenced through the Government’s subversion of Acts of Parliament. This group is supportive of improved Whistle-Blowing legislation across Canada, and is committed to continue to challenge all governments who choose to circumvent the Will and Voices of the people through the use of statutory instruments. For example, the Public Service Rearrangement and Transfer of Duties Act (PSRTDA) was intended to protect the Public Interest, and not intended to be abused as a partisan political tool to push through legislation without full parliamentary debate in the House of Commons. This process has gone on for almost two decades through several political administrations, limiting the expectations of Canadians. On this Day for Democracy we will expose the rampant misuse of this prerogative by elected representatives.
In Montreal, icon of Canadian constitutional law, Julius Grey; Suzanne Trépanier, wife of former Rights & Democracy President Rémy Beauregard; Béatrice Vaugrante, Executive Director of Amnistie Internationale Canada francophone; and other representatives of the coalitions Voices-Voix and Pas de démocratie sans voix!, gathered for a discussion about the actions we can take as citizens and civil society to defend democracy, free speech and transparency in Canada, both during the election and long-term. Representatives of the NDP, Green Party and Bloc Québécois were present to share ideas (the Liberal Party indicated they were unavailable, the Conservative Party did not respond to numerous invitations). All parties but the Conservatives had sent the Coalition letters expressing general agreement with the 8 pledges that Voices-Voix has proposed. A good article on the evening's events was reported by Le Devoir, and can be read (in French) here.
In Oakville, over 240 people turned out for an effective and highly charged evening organized by Reclaim Our Democratic Canada. “The development of the subject and idea of democracy by the keynote speaker was impressive, and the subsequent contributions by political candidates were useful in determining where they sit on the democracy scale,” said one Oakville resident. The four Oakville political candidates from all four major parties, as well as representatives of four local community groups, brought their perspectives forward, and dozens of people took their chance to speak at the open mike about the state of democracy in Canada. See a report on RODC's webpage here. And read a detailed article that ran on the front page of the Oakville Beaver here. Hats off to Reclaim our Democratic Canada for putting together an outstanding event!
Over 200 people came out at lunch time to join the Voices-Voix Coalition for a rally and march starting from the Human Rights Monument, which headed a few blocks down to just outside the Prime Minister’s Office. Speakers from Amnesty International Canada, the CCIC, the CWP Advocacy Network and other organizatiions addressed the undermining of democracy and human rights by the government in recent years at the Human Rights Monument; and, at the PMO, what the Voices-Voix Coalition has recommended needs to be done to address these issues (see our 8 pledges). Representatives from the five main federal parties were invited to respond to these issues. The NDP's Paul Dewar gave an eloquent speech.
In Toronto, at the Sandford Fleming Building at the University of Toronto, Amnesty International Canada and representatives of the Voices-Voix legal team helped put together a public discussion on how to restore democracy, free speech and transparency in Canada. Moderator Duff Conacher, Coordinator of DemocracyWatch, and keynote speaker Robert Fox, Executive Director of Oxfam Canada, as well as other participants brought forth ideas about how we as citizens and civil society can defend democracy, free speech, and transparency in Canada – both in the short and in the long-term.
In Vancouver, a number of local organizations hosted an information and election strategy session. The evening featured guest speakers David Eby, Executive Director of the BC Civil Liberties Association, and Gail Davidson, Executive Director of Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada. The publlic participated and discussed ways to pressure the government to respect the right to freedom of opinion and expression, uphold democratic traditions and principles, and allow complete access for Canadians to information regarding public policy decisions.
In Winnipeg, the Day for Democracy was held at the Aboriginal Center. Participants included representatives from the Social Planning Council of Winnipeg (SPC), the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada, the Aboriginal Council of Winnipeg, and Amnesty International. The Green Party of Canada also sent a representative. The threats to our democracy that were most felt by those in attendance included: the continued marginalization of Aboriginal communities; lack of foresight and independence in policies that have been tailored to follow the United States; fear-mongering in political campaigns and continued investments in the tar sands. Consensus on solutions was that: the Harper government is itself a danger to democracy; Canada's institutions, now failing under political interference and mismanagement, are in need of fundamental restructuring and Canada needs a clear foreign policy for its military, if peacekeeping will remain abandoned.
Wolfville, Nova Scotia
In Wolfville, D4D was a day to discuss our democracy & freedoms, to acknowledge those things about Canada that we love, and identify those things that are eroding it. Interested parties came by a local bar to find ways of taking action beyond the words that are filling the air these days. Dozens of open-minded people showed up to gnosh and talk about our plans to return to democracy. The events were organized by the Citizens Assembly for Democracy.