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article imageShining a light on Canadian Democracy in Guelph, Ontario Special

By Stephanie Dearing     Mar 3, 2010 in Politics
Guelph - Political pundits and parties appear to think democracy is all about opinion polls and elections. Some Canadians beg to differ, saying democracy is about Canadian participation in politics.
They met in the early evening on Tuesday in front of Guelph's brand new City Hall. A few handfuls of people, numbering at the most 30 participants, they carried signs and flashlights on the eve of the resumption of Canadian Parliament.
What was going on and why were these people braving the below freezing night-time temperature to stand around in the dark?
Valery, looking very much like a business woman in her late 30's responded by saying "I think this is mainly about that people feel parliament is important and government is important -- and it's accountable. When people are elected they have a lot of work to do and its really important that they are able to do that work. Proroguing parliament makes a mockery of of the parliamentary system and the democratic system -- why vote when you're not going to give parliamentarians the chance to do their work? So what we are saying is that they are accountable to the citizens, and we hold them accountable. What they do is important, and they need to be there to do it. I think Harper was thinking people wouldn't notice and he was caught by surprise. This reaffirms that people care about government, they care about democracy. When it comes down to it, most people really aren't apathetic."
Some of the people attending  Shine a Light on Democracy  in downtown Guelph Tuesday March 2  2010.
Some of the people attending "Shine a Light on Democracy" in downtown Guelph Tuesday March 2, 2010.
Valery was asked what she thought about Prime Minister Stephen Harper ignoring the January day of action, organized by Canadians Against Proroguing Parliament. "That doesn't surprize me. I think that sometimes there is an approach of 'if you don't talk about it, then maybe it didn't happen.' Just like the media sometimes doesn't report on things. I don't think Harper wants to give any credit to this, and not focus on it and not give more publicity. Harper is going down one track, and he's not going to be put off track which is very much quintessential Harper. I would have been surprised if he had commented on it, actually."
A view of the people who turned up to  Shine a Light on Democracy.
A view of the people who turned up to "Shine a Light on Democracy."
The group that had gathered was a mix of ages, all adult, and instead of being angry, they were light-hearted. Organizer and Canadians Against Proroguing Parliament (CAPP) Guelph representative, Angela Allt said she was happy with the turn-out. "You have to keep in mind that we only had a week to pull this together," she said.
Organizers introduced themselves and why they had convened the "Shining a Light on Democracy." Shining the light in the dark was symbolism for the darkness the group feels Harper plunged the country into when he prorogued parliament at the end of December 2009.
Describing themselves as "ordinary" people concerned about the erosion of democracy, the group then marched around the block to Norfolk Church, prompting some horn-honking by passing drivers, which then caused the group to cheer.
Once inside in the warmth, author Jerry Prager introduced the crowd to the CAPP Mace, an idea that orgininated with CAPP on Facebook. The Mace was made to resemble the real Mace used in Ottawa. Fashioned out of wood, it was cut into two pieces and each piece travelled across Canada by parcel post, Fed Ex and some driving expeditions meant to symbolize a search for democracy. Those who took responsibiiity for receiving the Mace in their communities photographed it before sending it on its way. Photographs documenting the Western journey of the Mace can be found at Where's Democracy.The two pieces met in Ottawa on March 2, 2010.
Jerry Prager describes the Mace and its journey across Canada to  Shining a Light on Democracy  part...
Jerry Prager describes the Mace and its journey across Canada to "Shining a Light on Democracy" participants in Guelph, March 2nd.
Canadians Against Proroguing Parliament is transforming itself into a non-profit organization that will work to provide education about Canada's parliamentary system, and this movement is known as Canadians Advocating Political Participation.
The people who attended Shining a Light had a discussion about how Canadians can influence what goes on in Ottawa. Over and over again, individuals spoke up saying the Canadian electorate is needed keep the government accountable. Demand answers from government, they said. Don't say there is no point, the more involved people are, the more accountable government has to be, someone said, pointing to France as an example.
Parliament resumed on March 3 with the Speech from the Throne. The Harper government will reveal the budget for 2010-2011 on Thursday.
Stephen Harper prorogued Parliament at the end of December 2009 until March 3rd.
More about Democracy, Guelph, Proroguing parliament, Stephen Harper, Citizen participation
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