The most important resource of a country is its people. To reach their full potential, citizens need an environment where they can grow as young people and mature within a safe, healthy, and secure environment and then be encouraged to participate fully in society.
Canada has been built on a diversity of cultures, religions, and ethnic backgrounds. Our success as a country is based on our ability to not just tolerate, but to accept and celebrate our differences.
This framework is best expressed in the set of values as stated in the Global Green Charter, the essence of which is respect. Respect for one another is detailed in the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights, the subsequent specific Agreements and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. These Agreements recognize the equality and importance of all individuals and the right of free speech, assembly, and the provision of basic needs. It has been said that the greatness of the country is best expressed in how it takes care of its most vulnerable citizens.
Rights also entail taking responsibility as an individual within his or her community and promoting and protecting these rights at the national level, for the abuse of rights anywhere in the world impacts our own security and sense of dignity as human beings.
We have made considerable progress in the past as a country but much remains to be done. The current trend to destroy civil society and spread distrust between one another will make it more and more difficult to live up to our traditional values of peace, the rule of law and the common good, and to be a positive force in the community of nations.
Once we envision the society we want, we clearly see its outlines.
Vibrant communities are places where, as Jane Jacobs described, people know their neighbours, streets are safe and friendly, and volunteering for the public good is common, leading to feelings of affiliation, belonging, and empowerment. Social networks are a key ingredient for community resilience.
Without intending to do so, government policy, by treating such goals as peripheral to economic growth, has allowed feelings of alienation, hostility, and selfishness to crowd out shared values of decades ago.
As Martin Luther King Jr. noted, you cannot legislate morality. Nevertheless, when the human scale of government policy is ignored, when the tax system, employment strategies, and labour policies all mitigate towards less leisure and family time, more time in long commutes, and an increasingly ‘time-stressed’ population, as measured by Statistics Canada, government policy should adjust its goals to re-balance and protect these fundamental pillars of our civilization – family and community.
In the last few years, quality of life, as measured in our ability to get ahead and enjoy more leisure time, has declined for 90% of Canadians. Homelessness, and mental health and drug addiction problems, have increased. The cost of post-secondary education and training has sky-rocketed. The gap between rich and poor in Canada has widened. Women, on average, still earn far less than men. The middle class is struggling. Given the wealth and resources of our country, this is tragic.