Election Day Eve: Making Our Voices Heard

Dear Sherina,

Happy Election Day Eve! Tomorrow millions of Canadians will be hitting the polls to decide who will be the Member of Parliament for their riding, and consequently who our Prime Minister will be. Whether you’re a conservative, new democrat or liberal, it’s important to research the issues and vote for who you think will do their best to represent you.

This election comes at a crucial time in Canadian history. Issues like energy and the environment, taxes, jobs, and national security are hot-button topics that cannot be ignored. Another topic that cannot be ignored is the incredibly low voter turnout among young Canadians. According to Elections Canada, 38.8% of 18-24 years olds showed up to the polls, compared to 75.1% of 65-74 year olds in the last federal election. This is simply inexcusable, especially considering the direct impact that issues like student loan debt and youth unemployment have on our young people.  

While I can’t speak on behalf of all young Canadians, I can say from personal experience that I have heard people complain about the government in conversation, while simultaneously exclaiming that there’s no point in voting, anyways. Seriously?!

We can’t afford to let ourselves fall silent when it comes time to decide who is best suited to lead our country. Research, listen and be an involved citizen. We are blessed to live in a democracy, let’s use it to make sure that we do everything we can to make our country the best version of itself.

Ceanray

Dear Ceanray,

Happy Election Day Eve to you as well! I’m finding it hard to believe that this election – the longest in Canadian history – ends tomorrow. The past months have felt long and at times tiresome.  Between televised debates, attack ads, lawn signs, and every other form of electoral information that is thrown our way, it’s hard to escape talk of politics. However, I’m not sure it’s something that people should aspire to escape from.

I completely agree with you that we cannot be silent when it comes to choosing our country’s leader. It is our democratic right to vote. If people do not exercise that right, they are not in a position to criticize the state of our country.

I find the statistics regarding low voter turnout for young people shocking. Though many of my peers are too young to vote, my social media feeds have been filled with comments about the candidates (and in particular, a “Stephen Harper Goodbye Party” which seems to have gone viral). Teens aren’t just making their voices heard on social media – they’re speaking up in real life, too. Lately at school, I’ve heard, and been apart of, many discussions relating to the election.

Despite the fact that I enjoy talking about politics, I don’t know who I would vote for (if I was of age). I have been fairly informed throughout this election cycle – watching the news, reading newspaper and magazine articles, discussing politics with like minded people – but when I am actually able to vote I will have to pay even more attention to the policies of my local Members of Parliaments, as well as the federal candidates.

Canada is great, and I am grateful to live here, but we do have some issues that need to be resolved. What excites me about the election is not just that I won’t have to see anymore ads of Justin Trudeau walking on an escalator; it is that with the possibility of a new government comes the possibility of change for our country. I hope that positive change results from whatever happens in regards to the election tomorrow night – and if it does not happen from the election, I hope at least something positive comes from the Blue Jays game.

Sherina

On sexual assault: stop blaming the victim

Dear Sherina,

As a student, I’m sure you’re familiar with the need to back up what you’re saying with evidence every time you write a paper. Fact check and then check again! While doing research on domestic violence last year, I came across a statistic I couldn’t ignore. 1 in 4 North American women will be sexually assaulted during their lifetime.

As if that wasn’t horrifying enough, over 80% of sex crime victims are women. And of every 100 incidents of sexual assault, 6 are reported to the police. After reading a 10 page report on such crimes, I felt utterly and completely defeated. How could this be happening in Canada – in my own backyard – and I had absolutely no idea.

I hoped that at the very least, the legal system would assist these victims in getting their perpetrators locked up. Perhaps this was a naive assumption, for less than half of complaints made to police result in criminal charges and, of those charges, only about one in four leads to a guilty verdict.

Furthermore, the blame for the rape is often placed on the victim, rather than the rapist. “Her skirt was too short” or “she shouldn’t have drank so much” are some of the most commonly heard accusations.

Let me be clear; telling the victim it was somehow their fault due to her level of intoxication or the length of her skirt is never okay. You cannot justify such a heinous crime against another human being. Period.

Let the phrase “she was asking for it” never be spoken again.

Ceanray

Dear Ceanray,

First of all: wow. Those are some horrifying statistics. I can’t get over the first one you mentioned; that one in four North American women will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime. I was once told that one in four people will be diagnosed with cancer. If this is true, then the assumption could be made that one is as likely to be sexually assaulted as have cancer.

I can’t wrap my head around this, because cancer is not something that can be prevented in the same way sexual assault can be. The problem is, as you mention, that the way some people are trying to prevent sexual assault is by placing blame on the victim. Instead of telling people not to dress provocatively, we should tell people not to sexually assault others.

Notice that in the last sentence, I didn’t say “instead of telling women not to dress provocatively, we should tell men not to sexually assault women.” Men can be victims of sexual assault too – and in order to put an end to all forms of sexual assault, this fact must be acknowledged.

You are completely correct in saying that it is never the victims fault. No one “asks” to be sexually assaulted, just like no one “asks” to be diagnosed with cancer. Part of not placing blame on the victim includes accepting their version of what happened to them; no matter what gender they are, and no matter what gender they say the person who assaulted them was.

This isn’t really about gender. At the end of the day, we’re all human; and, as you said, “You cannot justify such a heinous crime against another human being.”

Sherina

Fabletters On Canada’s Racism Problem

Dear Ceanray,

In our previous letters, and conversations outside of this blog we frequently discuss issues of inequality in terms of gender inequality and feminism. There is an inequality that we have not discussed in depth, yet one which is making international headlines: racism. Specifically, racism in Winnipeg, Canada. Have you read the article from Maclean’s concerning this?

The article states “The Manitoba capital is deeply divided along ethnic lines. It manifestly does not provide equal opportunity for Aboriginals. And it is quickly becoming known for the subhuman treatment of its First Nations citizens, who suffer daily indignities and appalling violence. Winnipeg is arguably becoming Canada’s most racist city.”

I am curious as to the benefit of the headline “Winnipeg is Canada’s Most Racist City.” The mayor of Winnipeg has vowed to take action, though one would think that he should be taking action on race issues regardless of whether they were national headlines or not.

The facts and statistics presented in that article are hard to argue with, as are the stories of missing and murdered Aboriginal women. One in three people in the prairies believe that “many racial stereotypes are accurate”? It is shocking and scary, but you have to wonder what that statistic would be worldwide.

It is indisputable that Winnipeg has a race problem, but what about the rest of the world? Focusing on the race problem in Winnipeg is good because it means action will be taken there; but when people living in other parts of the world read about Winnipeg being the most racist city, they might dispel the thought that their city may be very racist too.

Not being the most racist city doesn’t mean your city doesn’t have some sort of racial problems. Any case of racism, anywhere in the world, is more than what should be occurring. Seeing as you live in Winnipeg, what are your thoughts on this?

Sherina

Dear Sherina,

The article recently published by Maclean’s magazine you previously mentioned has had Winnipeggers’ tongues wagging. The story of Tina Fontaine mentioned in the article is one that caught my eye long before it made its way into national headlines. She was fifteen when she died – the age I am now. Concerns that should have been dealt with long before her death were simply ignored, and the discovery of her body tossed in the Red River was an accident. She was Aboriginal.

The statistics on missing and murdered aboriginal women in Canada are horrifying – according to the NWAC database only 53% of of murder cases involving aboriginal women and girls have led to charges of homicide. Aboriginal women are also three times as likely to be killed by a stranger as non-Aboriginal women are.

Racism is an issue that affects Canada far beyond Winnipeg’s borders. It would be foolish to ignore evidence that the way Winnipeg treats Aboriginal people who call this city home is appalling. The article was titled “Welcome to Winnipeg, where Canada’s racism problem is at its worst.”

While I agree that the racism problem in Winnipeg needs to be dealt with, I think those who read the article and subsequently thought to themselves “hey, my city might be a little racist – but at least we’re not that bad’ need a wake-up call. Racism is an issue that extends far beyond my city’s borders. The fact that racism continues to exist in Canada and the rest of the world in 2015 is something we should all be actively trying to fix.

Ceanray