With the next Canadian federal election set to take place in the fall, I decided that the best way to engage in active citizenship and to have an impact in my community was to volunteer for a federal party. I decided to send my information to one of the three main political parties. I filled out the online application and as soon as I clicked “send” copious amount of emails were sent to me asking for monetary donations. And this bothered me.
Although I have two political science degrees, I was upset with what occurred. I know that parties, and politicians, would love to get every penny they could out of us for their own benefit, but I thought I had been clear with my intent when I signed up through the volunteer page. What bothered me the most was that in one of the first emails they sent to me, they asked me to share my personal opinions with them, however, in the very next line they asked me to make a donation. I found out very quickly that my opinion was going to cost me.
I did not send them money. If my opinion mattered, then it would matter with or without monetary support. The series of emails that kept coming to me for the last two weeks, simply exacerbated my already cynical view of the political process and diminished my appreciation for the electoral process and politics itself. I concluded that the politicians are themselves to blame for poor electoral turnout.
Although I would never abstain my vote—considering that Bill C-24 together with Bill C-51 have now made me a second-class citizen, the right to vote is something I can no longer take for granted—but this ordeal has made me very resentful to a party I had voted for in previous elections. If my mood can so easily sour towards politics, which I had actively pursued in my academic studies, or to a party I had voted for on numerous occasions, then I really have to ask who is at fault.
My opinion is that politicians have made politics a dirty word because of their self-interest and the nepotism that surrounds their operation. Moreover, I feel that they have taken the voter for granted for far too long. Politics is more than the wielding of power or statecraft, it’s about active citizenship. And when people no longer feel that active citizenship is attainable, the parties will have no one to turn to, no one to elect them and no one to fund them.
This whole ordeal taught me something quite profound: the root of political disinterest is the duality of disregard in the voter and in leadership. I, the voter, neglected to see the importance of voting until recently when my immigrant status was smeared in the House and Senate. And the leadership of this country neglected to recognize the importance of citizenship in keeping society intact. So, when I volunteered for the party, I expected to be included in citizenship. What I received were pleas for support that would never garner mutual support. I was expected to care enough to allocate monetary resources to a party that couldn’t find a means to include me in the citizenship process.
However, since political engagement is more important than its leaders, I will continue searching for a party willing to be a platform for active citizenship. I will separate the party from its leaders and keep my idealism alive. This whole experience has disappointed me, but it has also inspired me. At the first meeting with adversity, whether it’s simply trying to engage in politics or something smaller and more personal, we should never let others diminish our hope.
We cannot give up our ideals simply because others do not share them with us. This would sacrifice any hope for a better future and let small-minded people flourish at the top, which should be reserved for visionaries and people who believe in big change. But in recalling the words of Gandhi, we also have to be the change we want to see in the world. I want to live in a world where everyone engages within their society, where people keep trying, pursuing their goals regardless of any opposition they face, and where positivity wins out over negativity and cynicism.