Democracy Talks Dispatches: A political welcome package

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Tuesday, April 02, 2013 View Count = 1347

Democracy Talks Dispatches: A political welcome package

Democracy Talks is a community-based discussion series that brings people together to discuss politics and share ideas for improving civic and political engagement in Canada. Lately, we’ve been chatting with groups of youth and new Canadians about their experiences with politics. Over the next few weeks, we’ll introduce you to some of these Democracy Talks participants, and their big ideas for transforming Canada’s political culture.

Introducing….Lowie Anglo

Age: 29
Occupation: Student at Brock University
A bit of backstory: Lowie moved to Canada from the Philippines eight years ago. He describes himself as someone who has always been interested in politics.
Where we met: In Hamilton, at a Democracy Talk run in partnership with the Institute for Canadian Citizenship
Lowie’s big idea: Political welcome packages



In our Democracy Talks sessions we invite participants to consider the most important attributes of a healthy democracy. Lowie spoke out on the importance of inclusiveness. He told us a huge barrier to participation is that newcomers to Canada aren’t offered easy opportunities to learn how the political system works here. 

         People who are immigrating here…we don’t have any idea what the
         political  system [is]…For example [in] the Philippines our political system is the
         same as the U.S….here [it] is entirely different.

The only formal introduction that new Canadians get to Canadian politics is in the “Discover Canada” guide. Lowie wasn’t the only one to tell us that the political information there is minimal at best. One ICC member we spoke to in Brampton said, 

        … After I became a citizen somebody said ‘well you can become a member of a  
        political party’, which was an interesting thing to me because this book [Discover
        Canada] only mentions that you should vote.  It does not mention that hey, if you
        want to, you can become a member of a political party.

For Lowie, figuring out the Canadian system meant buckling down with academic journals and newspapers and teaching himself how to participate. But, as we heard in our conversations, not everyone has the background knowledge, time, or language skills to do that kind of research.

So, what’s Lowie's big idea?

Make it easier for newcomers to learn about and engage in our political system by building civics education into the settlement process.

        For new Canadians, I would say yes - have courses or information sessions that
        they have to go through before receiving their citizenship, just to have basic
        knowledge of how the Canadian political system works. If courses are not          
        feasible, a workshop or information session prior to the citizenship ceremony    
        could be an alternative.

        If [a new Canadian] can be educated through a seminar or something like that,
        for new citizens, s/he can be more proactive and active in the political system here
        in Canada.”

In other words, to help new Canadians get involved in politics, make resources available so they know how.

On Thursday we'll follow up on Lowie's concerns and take a look at the Discover Canada guide to understand better how Canadian political culture is being presented to newcomers.

Samara is always looking for new partners. If you, or a community group you work with is interested in hosting a Democracy Talks workshop contact
fiona.oconnor [@] samaracanada.com


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