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Recovering backpacker, Cornwallite at heart, political enthusiast, catalyst, writer, husband, father, community volunteer, unabashedly proud Canadian. Every hyperlink connects to something related directly or thematically to that which is highlighted.

Friday 26 July 2013

Two Tiered Justice and Cognitive Dissonance in Canada

Warmington could be referring to the fact that City Councillors are getting slapped on the wrist for DUIs while everyone else suffers real consequences.  Or he could be referring to the fact that Toronto's Mayor Ford has made a mockery of the high office of the mayoralty.  He could even be referring to the hypocrisy of our Prime Minister, speaking out of one side of his mouth about the need for accountability at the highest levels among his opponents, but still clinging to the story that he knew nothing and has no responsibility over robocalls, the Senate scandal, etc, etc.

But no.

No, with this line Warmington is referring to Idle No More protesters, blocking a train.  I would agree with Warmington that they are breaking laws - laws which are meant to protect and defend them, but are failing to do so.  The Federal government has declared that it's too bad if Aboriginal women keep going missing or are murdered without justice - they've thrown some money at the problem and that's all they have to do.  It's too bad if Aboriginal youth are denied the starting-point opportunities of other Canadians - again, the law isn't about creating an even playing field, right? 

Add to that young people who pay big bucks for skills but can't find work, Somali-Canadian mothers with dead sons and no justice, civil rights groups and individuals that have been declared Enemies of the State and suffered consequences for that branding, etc., etc.

We have a very skewered sense of justice in this country.  The political right, ironically enough, wants individuals to fall in line and work within a system that is asymmetrically designed.  So what if you're marginalized? the message goes; work harder, it's up to you to overcome your own social-created plight.  If you can't, it means you haven't tried hard enough to overcome your ethnicity, your gender, your sexuality, your name or your postal code.  If you push back against social and legal injustice in a way that inconveniences the system (and the wealthy/influential who run it), you deserve punishment.  It's Dickensian.

The political left, the socialists, are the reverse - they want a system that enables individuals, providing but not empowering.  For these supposed socialists, it's the structural flaws of society that are at fault, and individuals are made to suffer.  However, strong societies are made up of strong individuals; when we don't empower individuals, we doom society to decay.

Canada is not a "1st world country" - there has always been pockets of extreme poverty dotted across the landscape, ranging from small rural communities without service access to massive urban slums and of course, out-of-sight, out-of-mind Aboriginal reserves.

There has never been social justice for all in this country.  People are weighed as individuals based on societal experiences and prejudices over which they have no control.  A disproportionate number of those from groups who have been marginalized throughout history are facing the sword, not the scales.   We have never had an even playing field.  People like Warmington who must surely be ignorant through personal experience or choice about these inequalities see justice as the thing that his class has and others are trying to take from them.  People like every Idle No More protester I have spoken to see justice as a thing that exists above them, out of reach. 

The more people with access and affluence choose to turn a blind eye to the two-tiered nature of justice we already have, the closer we slide into dystopian territory.

It's an uncomfortable reality we deal with; it's uncomfortable to think about.  It's far easier to find new ways to blame others than to accept that maybe our approach and own narrow view is part of the problem. 

We've seen a decrease in crime in this country - that has made us complacent.  It'd be a great tragedy if our own inability to think and act proactively leads us to a reversal of that trend.

Which leads us to that other piece of dissonance we are facing as a society; as we return to a mentality where bosses feel it's their job to threaten their workers into doing their job, leading to greater marginalization at the bottom, we have grassroots organizations steadily increasing the severity of their pressure on government. 

It's a cycle we have seen before and seem doomed to repeat.

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