Random Thoughts

In Response to Malala’s Day

Malala’s speech was very inspiring. I was amazed that at such a young age that she was able to advocate for education, while being able to describe the challenges we need to overcome to reach such a goal: a need for peace, political stability, gender equality, and religious tolerance. Moreover, she was able to touch the hearts of many people around the world, from the political leaders of the world to the simple families watching her on television at home.

Malala also reminded me of the huge privilege I had to obtain an education, and of the responsibility that will entail from it.

What I’ve Learnt in the Only History Class I’ve Attended in University – A (Delayed) Tribute to Canada Day.

In the winter semester of my 4th and final year of university, I decided to enroll in a class titled “History of Canadian Politics.” I’ve only attended one lecture, because another class I really wanted to take opened up.

I initially wanted to enrol in the History of Canadian Politics because I’ve realized that I know very little about Canadian politics. Realizing that, as a citizen of Canada, I have a right and responsibility to vote and elect for my country’s leaders, I realized that it was important to make informed selections during the election process (i.e. ennie-mennie-minie-moe doesn’t quite cut it). I thought learning about the history of Canadian politics would give me a better insight on how and why we have the political system we do today. That and the professor seemed relatively well liked among the students.

During the first lecture, we learnt about the origin of Canada and the British North America (BNA) Act. Canada became a country through the BNA Act of 1867. Canada was composed of its four provinces at that time: Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick. There were many reasons for uniting these four provinces. Prior to 1867, although all four provinces were under British rule, they did were separate and independent. By combining the economies of these provinces into one, they would have a greater purchasing power and stronger influence on the global economy. Secondly,  uniting would help foster trade between these provinces (especially if a national railway would be built). Thirdly, after the war of 1812, the provinces feared an attack from the United States and wished to unite their militaries together to hopefully fend off the Americans should this happen. And finally, by uniting, the four provinces hoped to have greater influence in global politics.

There were also many individuals against the idea of confederation. Each province was naturally after its own self interests as well. New Brunswick and Nova Scotia have very small population sizes compared to Ontario and Quebec. Because of that, these two provinces feared that by joining the confederation their political influence would diminish. Quebec maintained an unique culture that distinguished it from the other provinces, and most of its’ citizens spoke French instead of English. The citizens and politicians of Quebec did not wish to forfeit this by joining in the confederation either. Eventually, confederation did happen, and Canada was formed. Ways were found to accommodate for the reasons against confederation (the Maritime provinces were given greater power in the Senate, laws were placed to help Quebec keep much of its own heritage).

But interestingly enough, the BNA act was quite ambiguous, and left many things open for interpretation. Canada has an unique set of powers given to the provinces, but also had other special jurisdictions that are given to the federal government.  And this balance has led to much debate and political discourse on whether Canada was meant to be a nation that was founded on the basis of giving its provinces the most control, or that it was meant to have a strong central government. For example, proponents of the former theory argue that the provinces have major jurisdiction over many important matters: such as healthcare and education. However, those in favour of a central government argue that the provinces have certain limitations, such as when the education system intervenes unjustly upon somebody’s religious practices, then the federal government has the right to step in and fix this issue; suggesting the Fathers of Confederation were clearly favouring the need for central government.

For me, the question of whether Canada was meant to give more power to the federal or provincial governments isn’t an interesting one. I think the foundation of Canada was based on the principles that it was historically set upon; trying to find a balance between provincial and national interests. The Fathers of Confederation were individuals who gathered together, trying to find what unites them as a nation while compromising or accommodating for each other’s self-interests. Canada could never be ran as a central government without giving any of the powers to the provinces, nor could Canada give all its power to the provinces without maintaining some control on the federal level. And that is what I think a community is; finding what unites us together while looking for ways to co-exist and allowing us to maintain our individuality.

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