With Saturday as the 150th anniversary of Canada, there have been, are, and will be many events celebrating this anniversary. One constant over the past 150 years has been our preoccupation with the United States of America. Part of the reason Canada exists is the fear at the time of being swallowed up by the U. S.. Ever since we have debated policies to protect us from them and policies to stay in their good books. At times we have pursued policies saying that, whatever the U. S. may want, this is what we believe is the right thing to do. The entry into World War II was one example of this. The most recent example is our declared intent to decriminalize marijuana and our support of women’s health programs around the world.
The election of Donald Trump blesses us with the possibility of finding the will to more often lead in making decisions and creating policies that are for the betterment of human kind and that are for all people. It is up to us, the people, to encourage, persuade and pressure our government leaders to make those kinds of decisions, instead of being complacent with patting our selves on the back for what we imagine are like or are doing. We have the opportunity to model holistic decision-making which takes a long-term view.
For example, there are about 50,000 to 100,000 people who are homeless at any given time, less than 1 for every 200 Canadians. These include people with mental illness, people who feel like the lefftovers of family breakups, transient workers unable to put down deposits or afford most accommodation, people with addictions, and people that can be described as wanderers. Some are singles; some are couples; and some are families. They have widely different needs from a safe place to sleep and keep their property to people needing a variety of support services. Cities, provinces, and the federal government could partner with homeless people, NGOs and private businesses to provide most of the needed housing within 3 years, but they would need to rationalize bylaws, housing codes and expectations to achieve that. We have the technology to provide micro- and mini-homes for people who need a minimal amount of space (just visit Ikea to get an idea of what is possible or look at container homes and mini-houses). Programs to provide this housing would boost employment, make many people safer, reduce costs to the health care and justice system, and make this a better country in which to live. What is needed is humility first (arrogance revealed by, “I/We have always done it this way, and I/we do not need to change”; “These are our rules and we like it this way.”) followed by respect for all partners and imagination.
I have never used illegal drugs and have no interest in using them — I like my brain the way it is — but I see no sense in our current drug laws. People buy alcohol in many places including grocery stores in some provinces; smokers buy tobacco products in a variety of places; even though these two products are among the leading causes of death and disease as well as a variety of social problems. What is so hard about providing regulated places to sell other recreational drugs? Why the ignorance or hypocrisy of opponents to legalizing these drugs such as, “The plans to keep … from young people is inadequate.” More Canadian youth in a survey taken about 10 years ago had tried marijuana than had tried tobacco. The demand that legalization be more successful than prohibition in keeping drugs away from youth shows ignorance, baseless fear, or greed (thousands of people currently profit from the illegal trade).
25 million Canadians managed to provide a place for over 100,000 Vietnamese refugees. 40 million Canadians are challenged to provide a place for over 25,000 Syrian and other refugees.
In so many ways, Canada can do so much better than it is. What we need is the willingness to be as smart as serpents and as innocent as doves, to shift from can we do this to how should we do this. Canada is a pretty good country. Other countries have shown us we can do better, so let’s do it.