Art Activism In a Small Town With No Public Square

1-DSCN8323-001The tyranny of a prince in an oligarchy is not so dangerous to the public welfare as the apathy of a citizen in a democracy.

~Charles de Montesquieu

This week marks a significant anniversary in the pro-democracy narrative.   On June 4th, 1989, student protesters were massacred in Tiananmen Square by the Chinese militia.  According to the CBC, the official Chinese Government’s retelling of this story in has been rewritten,

…casting the peaceful protesters who stood for democracy as counter-revolutionaries and lionizing the courageous soldiers who risked their lives to control a riot.

As the world remembers this 25th anniversary with vigils, demonstrations and commemorations for the brave souls who stood their ground, I am left to reflect on democracy within a small town in Canada.

 I am left feeling unbelievably blessed to live in a democratic society, but also left to wonder about the state of democracy in a country where only %60 of the population vote, leaving %40 of the population unrepresented.  And that is only the Citizen population–there are many other residents of Canada, such as myself, who have a political opinion, but have no voice as Permanent Residents are not allowed to vote.

  Further, I have to wonder how democracy might look in small Canadian towns, such as Steinbach, where there is no public square, the town is dominantly Christian and where just one year ago 1,200 people gathered to oppose a bill that would guarantee protection to school students who might want to form gay-straight alliance.

Consider the following Freedoms in the Canadian Charter:

Fundamental Freedoms

2. 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

Now consider this:

  • There are only Christian churches in Steinbach.  In fact there are 25 or more in the area.  Not exactly a friendly place to live if you practice any other religion.
  • There is a local news paper, privately owned.  There are also two radio stations, privately owned.  Public community boards are inside privately owned businesses.
  • There is no public square for assembly.

But does it really matter?  If no one would gather in a public square to demonstrate is the public square necessary?  I am left to wonder.  And in the meantime, while I cannot vote, I will use art to make my voice heard this summer.

If you live in steinbach, you may notice a little art poster attached to the nearest thing to a public square I could find in Steinbach.

Happy creating.  Happy art activism.  Happy change one small thought at a time.




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