By Rebekah Sears, policy analyst for the Ottawa Office. For the Ottawa Office’ s Federal Election Resource, click here.
As I was drafting this post, the global refugee/forced migration crisis – an issue very close to my heart – FINALLY captured the full attention of media outlets around the world. It also finally made its way into the Canadian federal election campaign. It’s incredible how one heart-breaking story can capture the attention of so many people, even though a full year ago the UNHCR reported that the scale of people forcefully displaced around the world had reached numbers not seen since the Second World War – 60 million people.
Amidst the sadness and overwhelming nature of this crisis, my hope is that this global crisis and other issues like it remain at the forefront of the Canadian federal election campaign: creating energy, enthusiasm and excitement – driving substantial policy debates, discussions and plans, leading right up to Election Day.
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I remember the 1995 Quebec Referendum all so clearly. My brother and I were sitting in the family room, eyes glued to the TV, watching the Yes/ No votes swing between 51/49 and 49/51, respectively. My parents were watching with us, my Dad pacing back and forth across the room, saying to himself over and over again: “This is a social studies teacher’s dream… It’s a social studies teacher’s dream!”
It was getting late; way past my bedtime! I remember begging to stay up just a little longer, but to no avail. I would just have to wait until morning to learn the outcome. Besides, it was not until the wee hours of the morning when the official results were finally declared: 51% No, 49% Yes. The federalist vote had won!
Many of us remember the moments when our various interests and passions were first ignited. The Quebec Referendum was such an occasion for me. It ignited a passion for politics (in case you didn’t catch that already!): the process, the debates, the policies and definitely the elections.
My adolescent and teen years were full of election moments: explaining the First-Past-the-Post system to my classmates; accompanying my parents to the polling stations; my Dad quizzing us constantly on local candidates and party platforms in the car or around the dinner table; attending any and all local candidate debates; watching leadership debates on TV; meeting various MPs on a school trip to Ottawa; and finally casting a ballot for the first time!
There’s no doubt my own love for politics has strong roots in the excitement around elections and the political process in general. But for me, beyond the exhilaration of watching the election results roll in, are the ideas, issues and policies behind each candidate and party. These various key ideas and prospective policies are the building blocks (at least in theory!) that will define the mandates of the new Parliament. Election campaigns provide an opportunity to get directly involved in the shaping of the policies that will govern us!
For Christians, elections are also a time to consider the political implications for our faith. They are times to discern, with humility, how Jesus’ call to love our neighbours may be reflected in the public good.
My love for politics developed alongside my faith from a young age. For me, the intersection of faith and politics took the form of a passion and desire for justice, peace and human dignity, firmly rooted in the teachings of Christ and Scripture as a whole. I believe that it is the responsibility of both government and our society in general tobe champions of peace, justice and human dignity for all.
These principles can be reflected in any number of global and national issues. In the MCC Ottawa Office’s Canadian election resource, we speak to concerns raised by MCC program and partners in Canada and around the world and the potential role of government. Some of these include: responding to the global forced migration and refugee crisis, promoting peacebuilding in areas of conflict, supporting small scale farmers around the world, walking alongside Canada’s Indigenous peoples, and many more.
Each of us is impacted in our way by these and other key issues. For me, the global refugee/forced migration crisis is one of those themes always weighing heavily on my heart, striking to the very core. For me it symbolizes one of the fundamental places where my own faith and love for politics meet – in the deep yearning to protect human dignity, to reach out in love to our neighbours, and to build a sustainable peace for all.
What are the issues that speak to you? What ignites your political and/or faith passion?
At election time, as parties and candidates reveal their plans and promises on many key issues, we invite you to scrutinize, ask questions, join movements, get involved in your communities, speak to your neighbours and candidates, and ultimately show up at the ballot box. You won’t want to miss it!