So seeing how #DenounceHarper happened to, uh, cause a bit of a commotion on Canada Day
(Short version: We trended all day long and landed at #1 for about 4 hours and change above #HappyCanadaDay, apparently - if I believe the folks telling me this, and if the Twitter numbers don't, in fact, turn out to be bunk - the longest top trend in Canadian Twitter history. Oh, and we hit #8 on the World Rankings. So, yeah, there's that.)
I figured I'd try and use some of that energy to get some citizen action together.
Born out of my frustration with the seemingly endless stream of secrets, lies and corruption coming out of our Government, #DenounceHarper was my frustrated rallying cry that something must be done.
And if I learned one thing on this July 1st it's this:
I am not alone.
There are a great deal of us who are angry and frustrated and want to hold Stephen Harper and his Harper Government accountable.
And so that's what #DenounceHarper, thanks to you and your inspiration, has evolved into.
The hashtag itself will become a living chronicle of our Government's corruption, used to help educate and share with one another stories that help us stay on top of what our Government is up to.
And I will be doing my best to take my anger, my frustration and channel it into citizen activism.
(As Neil Gaiman so wisely said: Make Good Art - though I'm not entirely sure that it qualifies).
This first event was also inspired by my conversation with Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page - who asked that we take the time to learn how our Government is supposed to work so that when something's not working properly we'll know what's broken instead of just assuming the whole thing is scrap.
Furthermore, as I pointed out in The (Necessary) Rise Of The Digital Protest, I think the future of Digital protesting is going to be less about protesting someone/something directly as much as it will be about educating ourselves to become better protesters.
The more we know the facts, the better we understand our powers (and limitations) as citizens, the more effective we'll be and the more power we'll wield when it does come time for us to hit the streets or engage our elected representatives.
Thus the first step on a new course of citizen empowerment:
And, today, we're going to start right at the basics:
"Yeah, I'm a citizen, so what?"
The first thing any citizen should do is get to know The Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Because, as it turns out, rhese whole 'Rights and Freedoms' things are surprisingly useful (so it's kind of good to know what they are - and what their limitations are).
Clocking in at around 8 pages or so, it's worth the time to get to know it (it's not that complex).
Even more interesting, if you'd like to get a nice (free), fancy version of the charter to hang up on your wall, all you have to do is email firstname.lastname@example.org with your snail mail address and ask for a copy. They'll send you one in a few days.
By right, you're allowed to get one... so why not get one?
Okay, moving on and breaking it down:
SOS Canada has a great breakdown of what's expected of you as a citizen and what powers you hold -- and it's pretty easy to understand, so that's a bonus. Do yourself a favour and bookmark this one and read it in its entirety. Some of it will apply to you, some of it won't, but it's all good information.
From the website:
All Canadians enjoy the following rights:
- Equality rights: equal treatment before and under the low, and equal protection and benefit of the law without discrimination
- Democratic rights: such as the right to participate in political activities, to vote and to be elected to political office
- Legal rights: such as the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty, the right to retain a lawyer and to be informed of that right, and the right to an interpreter in court proceedings
- Mobility rights: such as the right to enter and leave Canada, and to move to and take up residence in any province
- Language rights: generally, the right to use either the English or French language in communications with Canada's federal government and some of Canada's provincial governments
- Minority language education rights: in general, French and English minorities in every province and territory have the right to be educated in their own language
All Canadians also enjoy fundamental freedoms of religion, thought, expression, peaceful assembly, and association.
What are the responsibilities of a citizen?
Canadians also share common responsibilities. Canadians should:
- understand and obey Canadian laws
- participate in Canada's democratic political system
- vote in elections
- allow other Canadians to enjoy their rights and freedoms
- appreciate and help to preserve Canada's multicultural heritage
All Canadians are encouraged to become informed about political activities, and to help better their communities and the country.
Canadian citizenship also implies the following responsibilities:
- to obey Canada's laws;
- to vote in the federal, provincial and municipal elections;
- to discourage discrimination and injustice;
- to respect the rights of others;
- to respect public and private property; and
- to support Canada's ideals in building the country we all share.
Of course, all of this is great on paper - and we'll be getting into the nuts and bolts of 'obeying the law' later in the week - but it's good to be fully aware of what's expected of us if we're going to interact with our Government, especially if we're going to hold elected officials accountable to us.
Lastly here's a great bit of reading material that helps to explain our system of Government and your place within it, written by The Honourable Eugene A. Forsey
How Canadians Govern Themselves
Takes great pains to explain our system of Government and how best we can take part in it. It speaks to us not in a haughty 'this is how you should act' tone, but explains our nation, it's beginnings and it's underpinnings briskly and well.
Please take the time to read it in full, it's one of the most approachable and easily-digested writings on Canadian Democracy that I've ever read.
And that's Day #1 of Citizen Week. Please follow the Hashtag on Twitter for more articles and posts as we find them and share them - or, if you've found some great stories on citizen empowerment that you'd like to share, please, by all means, join in.