GUEST COMMENT: Voting tests the worthiness of our citizenship

A country can be likened to a club, a sports team, a family, or a school. When things go well everyone cheers with pride. When things go bad, or a member of our “national club” steps out of line everyone shares in the shame.

Yet, Canada is seen as a jewel amongst the world’s nations. Thousands of people in other countries toil to come to Canada to work or study. Others take more drastic measures relying on smugglers or other creative means to reach our shores.

Could it be that these folk see something in Canada that we who were born here take for granted and accept as a birthright?

Few Canadians who are alive today would know or remember that until 1947, Canada was a nation without citizens. “Canadians” were British subjects living in Canada. Depending upon their country of origin or if they were of aboriginal ancestry, some did not even enjoy that status.

Yet, Canada was the first Commonwealth country to create its own citizenship separate from Great Britain.

In a democratic country like Canada, the right to vote is the priceless gift of citizenship. In the last general election, only 58.5 per cent of eligible voters cast their ballots. It was the lowest turnout since Confederation. That compared to 64.1 per cent in November 2000, 60.9 per cent in June 2004, and 64.7 per cent in January 2006. The largest turnout was in April 1963, when 79.2 per cent of eligible voters went to the polls.

Only Canadian citizens may vote. It generally takes five to six years for an immigrant to become eligible to become a Canadian citizen. After gaining permanent resident status, meeting the resident requirement, learning the language, passing the Canadian citizenship exam, new Canadians are eventually invited to appear before a citizenship judge to take the Oath of Citizenship … “ I swear (or affirm) That I will be faithful, and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth 2, Queen of Canada, her heirs, and cuccessors. And that I will faithfully observe the laws of Canada and fulfill my duties as a Canadian citizen.”

The only thing that changes for a new Canadian upon becoming a citizen is that they may vote, run for office, serve on a jury, be issued a passport, and be eligible for occupations requiring citizenship. Whether we are born or adopted members of the Canadian family, it is clear that very little is asked of us in return for all that we receive.

Our way of government does not compel everyone to vote, but democracy may fall into disrepute if those who enjoy its rights and privileges fail to exercise them. Could it be that a low voter turnout weakens the ability of those we elect to govern?

Being a member of a club, family, school, and being a citizen of a nation necessarily comes with duties and responsibilities. Duty and responsibility are quite different one from the other. Responsibilities are usually laid out as terms of reference or job description. Duty, on the other hand, is doing the right thing – even if it is an optional duty — like voting.

Good citizenship includes membership.  As citizens we are not only individuals, we are members of the Canadian family. Being a good citizen is more than just being on the tax rolls. Citizens do not just watch the parade and then comment on how much better the show might be. Above all, the citizen is not a hanger-on. That is what makes voting so very important.

Voting means that individually, we support our governing institutions regardless of what name or party we place our “X” next to. Voting demonstrates that we have set apart some time and put forth an effort to help make our government, the Government of Canada better, because we have voted. The greater the turnout of voters adds greater legitimacy to the elected government and its platform.

Canada exists in terms of each citizen of Canada. Every person’s contribution benefits the nation. Voting day is not Olympic hockey night, the Grey or the Stanley Cup, but on May 2, Canada can be united in the simple act of casting a ballot.

Every Canadian has the opportunity to test the worthiness of his citizenship; and if May 2 is not convenient, there are advance polls on April 22, 23 and 25. There is even free transportation if required.

Gerald Pash is a retired lieutenant of the Canadian Forces Reserves and is a longtime civilian spokesperson for CFB Esquimalt public affairs. He is also a former radio broadcaster.

editor@vicnews.com

Just Posted

Elaine Kirwin in her Expedia Cruises office talks about the future of travel. (Don Denton/Black Press Media)
Sidney travel agency charts course through pandemic

Owner of Expedia Cruises in Sidney expects smooth sailing ahead once travel restrictions lift

Oak Bay Rotary Club member Lorna Curtis takes over as District Governor of Rotary District 5020 on July 1. (Courtesy Lorna Curtis)
Former Oak Bay recreation director goes international with Rotary

Lorna Curtis takes over as district governor on July 1

Co-creatorsAdrianna Hatton and Malcolm McKenzie stand next to the little free library revealed Sunday at 9710 First St. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)
Literary crowd helps opens little free library in Sidney

Located at 9710 First St., the book sharing box features original art and reclaimed wood

Deep Cove Elementary School principal Shelley Hardcastle (right) and vice-principal Mary Kaercher help to restock Reay Creek with fish – in this case, coho fry – after a recent bleach spill killed hundreds of fish. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)
North Saanich’s Deep Cove Elementary School helps to restock Sidney’s Reay Creek

Restocking followed bleach spill that killed hundreds of fish in creek

At an outdoor drive-in convocation ceremony, Mount Royal University bestows an honorary Doctor of Laws on Blackfoot Elder and residential school survivor Clarence Wolfleg in Calgary on Tuesday, June 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
‘You didn’t get the best of me’: Residential school survivor gets honorary doctorate

Clarence Wolfleg receives honorary doctorate from Mount Royal University, the highest honour the school gives out

The Great Ogopogo Bathtub Race has been held in Summerland as a fundraising event. Do you know which Canadian city introduced this sport? (Black Press file photo)
QUIZ: A summer’s day at the water

How much do you know about boats, lakes and water?

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod laughs while playing with Lucky the puppy outside their Chilliwack home on Thursday, June 10, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: B.C. family finds ‘perfect’ puppy with limb difference for 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy has special bond with Lucky the puppy who was also born with limb difference

A million-dollar ticket was sold to an individual in Vernon from the Lotto Max draw Friday, June 11, 2021. (Photo courtesy of BCLC)
Lottery ticket worth $1 million sold in Vernon

One lucky individual holds one of 20 tickets worth $1 million from Friday’s Lotto Max draw

“65 years, I’ve carried the stories in my mind and live it every day,” says Jack Kruger. (Athena Bonneau)
‘Maybe this time they will listen’: Survivor shares stories from B.C. residential school

Jack Kruger, living in Syilx territory, wasn’t surprised by news of 215 children’s remains found on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School

A logging truck carries its load down the Elaho Valley near in Squamish, B.C. in this file photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chuck Stoody
Squamish Nation calls for old-growth logging moratorium in its territory

The nation says 44% of old-growth forests in its 6,900-square kilometre territory are protected while the rest remain at risk

Flowers and cards are left at a makeshift memorial at a monument outside the former Kamloops Indian Residential School to honour the 215 children whose remains are believed to have been discovered buried near the city in Kamloops, B.C., on Monday, May 31, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
‘Pick a Sunday:’ Indigenous leaders ask Catholics to stay home, push for apology

Indigenous leaders are calling on Catholics to stand in solidarity with residential school survivors by not attending church services

“They will never be forgotten, every child matters,” says Sioux Valley Chief Jennifer Bone in a video statement June 1. (Screen grab)
104 ‘potential graves’ detected at site of former residential school in Manitoba

Sioux Valley Dakota Nation working to identify, repatriate students buried near former Brandon residential school

Most Read