Canadians Moving From Being Politically Disengaged to Engaged

by Joe Durocher

Politically disengaged Canadians may seem disinterested, apathetic or uninformed, but they are actually politically aware, but believe the system doesn’t work for them

No study, no matter how nuanced or far reaching, can fully explain all the complex factors that determine how we relate to our political system but it is a troubling situation.

Canada’s political system has separated the Canadian public into insiders who have the capacity and energy to fight and remain engaged in the system, and outsiders who simply walk away out of frustration or disappointment.

In a survey done a few years ago by Samara said they found that both engaged and disengaged Canadians were found to have a negative view of politics, and used words including “boring,” “greedy” or “untrustworthy” when describing Canadian politics. Similarly, politicians received the same treatment.

At the same time, Samara found participants still liked democracy and the rights and freedoms that come with it.

“Even disengaged participants, who admitted they did not regularly exercise their rights, described democracy in terms of freedom of expression and their right to vote,” the study found.

The problem is, those concepts remain abstract and Samara found that disengaged Canadians see no place for themselves within the political system.

“The disengaged never spoke of the political system as if it belonged to them,” says the study. “They never felt that they had any power to influence or control what happens inside the political system. Instead, they viewed themselves as passive observers of politics — not by choice, but simply by virtue of their place as outsiders.”

For the disengaged, politics is not a priority and not worth the energy when there are other personal matters to deal with. It’s rendered effectively irrelevant.

While some of those who were disengaged became that way after a bad experience — for example, attempting to affect change locally and finding little progress by contacting politicians — the study found others who were “taught the futility of engagement before they even had a chance to engage.” That was particularly true among less-educated youth.

That feeling, says the study, was reinforced by messaging that failed to speak to them. As a result, they expect little from their government.

As for the solution, it’s complex, the study said.

The study admits a solution will “not likely come in the form of a silver bullet.” However, it points to the media, Parliament and political parties as all having a role to play in reinvigorating the system, based on the findings.

“There is a silver lining to our research,” says Heather Bastedo, research and project director at Samara. “Disengagement is reversible given the right conditions, and Canadians told us they are not asking for much. They simply want to feel heard, they want their problems to matter and they want promises kept — they want to feel represented.”

The good news is that over the past several months we at 4MY Canada believe those right conditions are now here, as we have begun to see a shift in the culture and mentality of Canadians in their desire to become engaged in the political system.

A good example of this is the grassroots efforts of regular Canadian citizens to see the movie Unplanned released in Canadian movie theatres. After being recently released in the United States and played on over 2000 screens, and doing quite well at the box office, earning about $18 million USD, it came to many Canadian’s surprise that Canadian movie distributors had basically censored the movie from screening in theatres across the entire country.

The two largest distributors in Canada cited “content” as the issue, “not lack of demand,” said the film’s writer/producer/director, Chuck Konzelman.

This kind of censorship in Canada, which usually boasts of being a democracy that takes pride in freedom of speech pushed people into action. 4MY Canada’s director/founder, Faytene Grasseschi, along with other pro-life supporters facilitated a nation wide ” Canada Wants Unplanned” online campaign encouraging people to let Cineplex Entertainment know they would be boycotting their local theatre until Unplanned was brought to the theatre chain. Cineplex owns 80 per cent of the theatres in Canada.

Within two days of the boycott launch, co-director Cary Solomon said they were in touch with a third party to initiate a deal with Cineplex. The boycott had over 10,000 signatures. as well as a petition that garnished more then 200,000 signatures. As of today the movie opens up in selected cities and theatres across Canada July 12th, 2019 because people decided to get engaged in an issue.

We are also seeing many other grassroot initiatives happening all across the country in the political sphere as well as other areas of our culture, across all ages and races to see positive change happen across Canada. Let’s join together to be the change we want to see.

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