Social Justice – What does it mean?
How do we best describe as Guelphites, Ontarians and Canadians, exactly what social justice means? Those working to improve and enhance it for us might agree that the phrase “social justice” could more simply be re-stated as: “In Canada we look after one another.”
Today’s elders and previous generations of our society worked and fought hard to enshrine this great idea through the creation of legislation and a whole series of public institutions designed to keep as many of us as possible from falling through the cracks. We all know what they are. Essentially what Canada did was to take basic human values and entrench them into law; essential human values like fairness, respect for person and community, stewardship of the land, nurturing of cultural integrity and the preservation of dignity. These values remain not only part of the meaning of social justice but also, we believe, the signature definition of what it is to be Canadian. Most of us grew up feeling safer and more secure because these uplifting values were there acting as guideposts for our nation’s growth. Today they continue to draw millions to our shores who, believing in their own human potential, want nothing more than safe haven to fulfill it.
But do we still understand and appreciate these great intrinsic values now? Our news sources never seem to tire of tales of economic doom and gloom. Many citizens feel they are under attack from all sides. The question we should now all be asking must be this: “As Canadians move forward together, will the continuation and advancement of social justice be determined solely by what we are told we can afford?” We hope not. Instead, with imagination and determination we must find ways not only to continue but to enhance our role as a compassionate, caring, fairer society, simply because as Canadians, no matter what… “That’s just who we are!”
Democracy – A Way to Social Justice
And what better way to secure the core value of “looking after one another” than by protecting our democratic process. Democracy is a complex and powerful thing but it can also be fragile. For it to work properly and continue to benefit us all, the process absolutely requires that we all remain aware of and engaged in the issues of the day. Perhaps we have come to depend too much on leadership and not enough on ourselves. We are an educated people. Thus, both during election campaigns and just as importantly between them, we need to stay informed about what all the political parties are saying. Plus whenever possible, we must find, encourage and support good people to run for office. Just like everything in life, politics and good governance are about having exactly that: good people on your side. Withdrawing from the process of selecting them, for whatever reason, is not helpful.
Today’s advances in social media have made it much easier to let our governments and politicians know, at all levels, what we expect of them but we need to remind ourselves that comments on social media do not constitute a ballot or a vote. Please, we all need to become or remain involved in the democracy we have. If we forget to use it we could, just possibly, lose it.