EPCitizen Q&A: Terri Chu

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Everyday Political Citizen Monday, October 20, 2014 View Count = 2030

EPCitizen Q&A: Terri Chu

Terri Chu was a 2013 Everyday Political Citizen, a project that celebrates people from coast to coast to coast who get a little bit political. Terri is founder and organizer of grassroots not-for-profit Why Should I Care? She’s currently running for Toronto City Council in Ward 20 and her election is coming up on October 27. Samara caught up with Terri on the campaign trail to hear how she got engaged in politics and what everyday political citizenship is all about.

Terri ChuWhat was your first political act? What was the impetus for it?

My first political act was casting my vote!

But seriously speaking, I really got involved with politics in 2008. As an environmentalist and engineer, I felt Canada needed an environmentally progressive policy.  I found a federal platform that was in line with my views on the importance of environment and energy consumption and started canvassing. This gave me a chance to talk to people at their doors and understand some of the issues that were important to them. 

Seventy percent of Canadians don’t believe that politics affects their life every day. And 10% say they’re never affected by political decisions. How do you respond to Canadians who don’t see the value in politics?

I hear this every day. In 2012, when the federal government threatened to close the Experimental Lakes Area, few people outside of the scientific community paid attention. Many people, like you say, thought that it didn’t affect them. Through our Why Should I Care? (WSIC) meeting, I explained that many of our drinking water standards and regulations came out of the work from the ELA. This helped the audience understand why the closure was not in the best interest of the country.

I believe that we need more civics engagement forums where people can come out to discuss, debate and get engaged with politics and policies. This will help them to realize the strength of their collective voice. This will help them to make their opinions count. This will help them to believe in the value of their participation.

Where we put subways, electrical lines, roads etc. are all political decisions. When we remove ourselves from the decision-making process, we discover that others make decisions for us. And when someone else decides for us, the decisions may not be in our best interests. 

Why is it important to recognize everyday political acts?

What are everyday political acts, one may ask. And I would say to them, “Something as simple as eating local can be a political act”. By recognizing the everyday acts that make a difference to the distribution of power and resources in our community, we make politics less abstract. By recognizing everyday political acts, we convey our gratitude to those who inspire, volunteer, and bring everyday issues to the fore. By recognizing everyday political acts, we transfer the power of democracy back in the hands of everyday people.

You were selected as an Everyday Political Citizen in 2013. How did it feel to be recognized publicly for the work you do?

It was a truly humbling experience to be recognized in the EPC contest.  I started WSIC in hopes of inspiring more people to simply learn about the issues and get involved. Knowing that people were paying attention gave me a lot of motivation to keep doing what I do. 

And how has your political life developed or changed in the year since you were selected?

We’ve had a lot more attention paid to our events in the past year. Bell Local reached out to us and produced a half dozen television shows. It was fantastic to have a wider audience for such important topics such as aboriginal justice and youth unemployment.  We are now expanding to a second WSIC chapter in North York and investigating other locations around the city. 

What does the coming month(s) hold for you in terms of political activity and engagement?

I’m taking “Why Should I Care?” up to the next level by showing that I do care. I am running for city council in my local ward (Ward 20).  Talking about the important issues facing us for the last four years has been a great learning experience, but now it is time to take action. 

Will you be nominating someone this year for EPCitizen? Why?

I would like to nominate Wilf Dinnick from Bell Local and now working for Al Jazeera English.  Wilf saw the need to bring something like WSIC to a wider audience and was courageous enough to take that step.  A free press, dedicated to informing citizens, is most fundamental to keep democracy healthy. I want to recognize the work of all journalists and Wilf’s in particular.  Without their voices, ours would be lost. 


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