Do you ever feel like you’re living in an alternate universe?
If so, you can probably sympathize with Vancouver Councillor Colleen Hardwick, who describes a recent city council meeting as feeling like “bizarro world.”
Hardwick is a rookie councillor who isn’t afraid to display her contrary side in public.
Regardless of your feelings on issues like government reconciliation efforts with Canada’s Indigenous people, public transportation, earthquake preparedness, or any of the other issues Hardwick is willing to stand alone on, it’s hard not to credit her for being willing to speak her mind in the face of intense political pressure to conform.
The Vancouver Sun recently profiled Hardwick, who acknowledged feeling out of step with the rest of council. The Sun noted in her first six months since being elected she has been willing to “challenge what she sees as faulty prevailing ‘narratives.’”
In an interview, she told The Sun her vote against accepting a staff report on First Nations reconciliation had nothing to do with opposing reconciliation, but with the factuality of a staff report being submitted and with what she considered an inappropriate role for a municipality in matters more suited to provincial or federal governments. “Are we a local government? Or are we a values-based organization?” she asked.
Needless to say, many don’t agree with her views. Maybe you’re among them. But the fact remains it takes integrity to challenge a prevailing narrative supported by the consensus of one’s colleagues.
Another Canadian profile in courage recently came from Justice Grant Huscroft, of the Ontario Court of Appeal, which was ruling on the constitutionality of Ottawa’s carbon tax. While the court said Ottawa had the right to impose a broad carbon scheme in the face of a national “climate emergency,” Huscroff dissented.
Huscroft is described as a traditionalist judge who “really restricts himself to the original words of the constitution and their original meanings” rather than reading in laws that haven't been passed by Parliament.
Again, whether you support a carbon tax or not, whether you believe the federal government has the constitutional authority to introduce it or not, it’s refreshing to see a judge say there are constitutional limits to what a government is permitted to do.
Hardwick and Huscroft are willing to offer unpopular opinions in a society that makes it more difficult every day to go against the grain of popular opinion. It used to be that the squeaky wheel got the grease. Today the squeaky wheel can commandeer the whole wagon thanks to guerrilla activism, political correctness, public shaming, and social media attacks.
How to respond in a world where the old traditions and rules have been turned on their head? A return to civics would a good start, and Archbishop Miller is urging local Catholics to give that some thought.
The archbishop recently wrote a letter to pastors in the Archdiocese of Vancouver to inform them about civic affairs committees that have begun to spring up in local parishes. We profiled one a few months ago, and other parishes and Christian churches are expressing interest in starting their own committees.
The object of a civic affairs committee, stressed the archbishop, is not to engage in political propaganda but to “educate the faithful and mobilize them to take part in public affairs.”
The Christian faith was once “a bedrock of Canadian society and public life,” the archbishop notes. “Those days are gone,” and the Catholic Church finds it increasingly difficult to get a hearing in the public square.
“It is vital that Christians do not retreat from the public forum. Now it is more important than ever that we engage with and, it is to be hoped, influence the direction of Canadian society.”
Civic affairs committees must be strictly non-partisan and may not advocate for one political party over others, he said, but he urged pastors to let their parish leaders know about the committees. “Should you find parishioners approaching you with questions about how to participate in public discourse, a civic affairs committee may be the answer.”
A recent Pew Research poll found more Canadians favour an increased role for religion in the country than oppose it, 37 per cent versus 29 per cent. One in five have no preference either way.
Clearly Canada is poised to let the Christian faith have a voice in public life again.
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