Share Button

When I was young, whenever an election was held for chief of the community, candidates would stand facing the crowd. Then the people would line up in front of the person they thought should be the chief. Someone would count the people in front of each person willing to assume the office.

The willingness to do so was with the realization that they would become a servant of the people rather than serving their own desires. While this was an interesting democratic system it was still in its infancy. For one thing, the autocratic Indian Agent was still someone who expected to be kowtowed to by the Native.

The system of openly standing up for your choice was replaced by the secret ballot. In the old days your choice wasn’t held against you. The change wasn’t necessarily a bad thing as your choice might be held against you in today’s Cree world.

The choices that were made by Cree leaders and people have lead to self-governance and a truer version of democracy. But what is democracy?

Quite simply democracy is a system whereby each citizen has the right to elect representatives at each level of government (Cree community, Cree Nation Government, Cree entities, provincial and federal governments). These representatives can make decisions and laws that affect all parts of life.

Therein is the strength and weakness of democracy. As a result, there were various checks and balances created to ensure democracy flourishes. For example, in Canada constitutional protection of freedom of expression is not intended for the majority but rather to be a limit on them.

The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms adds to democracy in its section on Fundamental Freedoms. It says that everyone has the following fundamental freedoms: (a) freedom of conscience and religion; (b) freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication; (c) freedom of peaceful assembly; and (d) freedom of association.

Decisions and laws being considered by any elected representative must take those and other such checks and balances into consideration before taking any action. This ensures that it is not majority rule but that the unpopular, social outcast and politically excluded – those who don’t have the numbers – are not denied the benefits of democracy. Denying equal rights to anyone does have consequences.

The path of democracy is one that holds great promise but can lead to a harsher form of political rule if we are not careful. As a Greek statesman Pericles once said, “Just because you do not take an interest in politics doesn’t mean politics won’t take an interest in you.”

So be sure to vote. We have a vested interest in our democratic representatives, at whatever level.

Share Button

Comments are closed.