Michelle Mungall (second from left) on her tour of the Ukraine last month.

Ukraine, Jumbo and democracy

Over the holiday season, many of us reflect upon the things for which we are grateful.

Over the holiday season, many of us reflect upon the things for which we are grateful. A loving family, a warm home, food on the table are all things I am fortunate to have. A community that shares its benefits and wealth is something for which we can all be grateful. Finally, something that needs all of us, yet we often take for granted, deserves grateful reflection too. Democracy.

Over the years, I have written several articles about my views and experiences with democracy. The power of each individual to have say in his or her government has inspired millions of people over millennia. Democracy is constantly evolving based on the will of the people, and has done more for equality than any feudal poor law or “benevolent” dictator. Yet reading all the textbooks will never have as much impact in understanding democracy as seeing it develop.

This past October, I had the opportunity to do just that when I observed the Ukrainian parliamentary election. Ukraine’s experience with democracy is young, only 20-years-old. In that time, the country has struggled with its Soviet past that left a legacy of corruption and dictatorial tendencies.

Despite the Orange Revolution in 2004 that saw positive democratic progress, the country has moved backwards. Now the leader of that revolution and the opposition parties sits in jail on political grounds while electoral fraud is common.

Nonetheless, there is hope. The Ukrainian people understand democracy and are working to make it happen. In rural villages, I saw communities who survived Stalin gulags come together to mount a transparent election process. They were proud of their achievements and grateful for the opportunity.

Coming home, I have a better understanding of our democratic system and what it takes to retain it. I am grateful that I am not threatened with jail simply because I am presently a member of the opposition. I am grateful that our system continues to evolve, and I have a better understanding of what can erode it.

This being the case, it is timely to mention that the Jumbo municipality is a step backward for our democracy. The Union of BC Municipalities knows it, First Nations know it, and you know it. If democratic decisions require a public to hold government accountable, then a democratic government cannot exist where there is no public. The purpose for this ghost town municipality is shady at best and works to erode our democracy.

However, as I started this column, I am grateful for our community and for our democracy. Like the Ukrainian people, I know that we will work for bettering our democracy, thus hindering chances of its erosion. Democracy needs all of us, and although sometimes it isn’t at the forefronts of our minds, I know all of us immensely appreciate it.

 

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