As impressive as it is for a Facebook group to gather over 200,000 Canadians united in opposition to Stephen Harper’s decision to prorogue parliament (especially compared to the 127,000 Canadians who joined the Facebook group against last year’s coalition proposal), a question has to be asked: where do we go from here? Because, as impressive as that number is, it doesn’t take much effort to express one’s opinions on Facebook. Although you have heard some people signing up to Facebook specifically to join this group, for most participants the task was as simple as clicking a link. Democracy requires more than just that.
Which is why some people are paying attention to the rallies planned across Canada this Saturday (the Saturday before parliamentarians would have returned to work, if Stephen Harper hadn’t intervened). A grassroots effort has sprung up and a lot of people have worked very hard to get venues scheduled in dozens of cities across Canada, but how many bodies will show up? Blogger Shireen of Talk Talk Talk worries that there won’t be as many as organizers would like. Previous Facebook activism hasn’t been so successful in generating a large response in the physical world.
If the people who joined the Canadians Against Proroguing Parliament Facebook group want to keep the momentum of their efforts going, they need to make the effort. They have to show up on Saturday. If they don’t, and this protest fizzles, they will only have themselves to blame. There is little I can do about this, except to make the effort myself.
So, I have promised myself that I will be attending Waterloo Region’s rally this Saturday (at Waterloo Public Square at the corner of King Street and Willis Way at 11 a.m.), and not just because I care strongly about the issue of prorogation. I think it’s time that I stand up and march alongside my fellow Canadians because Canadians everywhere need to be reminded that this is how democracy is done. It isn’t enough to sit behind your desk and click on Facebook links. If you want change, you have to make change yourself, through campaigning, through writing letters to your MP, through voting the bastards out when feasible, and even getting up and marching along our public streets and making our voice heard.
There will be people out there, including Conservative supporters and government MPs, who will dismiss our activities as frippery, and our activists as frivolous, but they forget that this is how we’ve won most of our hard fought-for rights in this country, even the right to speak. As valuable as the right to speak is, simply speaking behind the walls of your home isn’t enough. Sometimes, to be heard, we have to speak loud, and in public.
So, I will be attending the local rally against prorogation this Saturday, and I’ll be taking Vivian with me. Will my presence there may a difference? Maybe. Maybe not. But that’s not the important reason why I’m going. I’m going because I think it’s important for Vivian to see what a peaceful demonstration looks like and what it sounds like. I’m going because I think it’s important for Vivian to learn the benefits and responsibilities of living in a democracy. I’m going because I think it’s important that she understand that she has a right to speak and, more importantly, she has a right to speak loudly, and sometimes that right is an obligation if she wants to make change.
I think it’s important to remember that all democracy is exercise, and without exercise, our democracy, like our muscles, will atrophy.
Time to shape up.