September 3, 1894, Labour Day was celebrated for the first time in Canada.
“The Way Home” …
“It’s almost a year now since we started out on our journey into the real Canada — the land beyond the legislatures.”
That’s the first sentence in a report from the National Union of Provincial Government Employees and the Public Service Alliance of Canada.
The land beyond the legislatures has a ring to it, and makes a powerful statement too, don’t you think?
The report continues with a promise: “We wanted to make the journey because it seemed to us something was missing in the great national unity debate: namely, The People.
“And, the more the politicians, pollsters, pundits and professors told us what the country needed, the more we wondered when someone would speak for the real Canada.”
It’s a treatise of wisdom from the real people which, if our leaders paid heed, would make the trail ahead a cakewalk compared to the bumpy road they so often choose.
The invocation opening of the report I’ve used before, though it’s worth repeating, so I repeat the words of Opeteca-Wanawaywin, 1842-1886, of the Cree Nation:
“It would be much easier to fold our hands and not make this fight. To say, ‘I, one man, can do nothing.’
“I grow afraid only when I see people thinking and acting like this.
“We all know the story about the man who sat beside the trail too long and then it grew over and he could never find the trail again.
“We can never forget what has happened; but we cannot go back — nor can we just sit beside the trail.”
This report was dated October 30, 1991. It was signed by the then presidents of the Unions: James Clancy and Daryl Bean. Canadians, well some, were engaged in our national unity debate. Remember when we gathered around the land to talk about how to fix it?
In the Yukon, I think we had the only all inclusive community debate — a Yukon-wide, open-line debate on radio, with Stefan Dion, the current Liberal leader, here as our guest. He was the fix-it minister for the ‘Unity File.’
I don’t remember anything coming of it all, do you?
Anyway, let’s go back to this paper because it has a lot of that rare commodity, common sense.
On page 2, the authors ask a profound question: “How do you fix a country? Their answer:
“It’s a question millions of Canadians are asking themselves. And it’s a question millions are having trouble answering. We could never really figure out why.
“Right from the first the answer seemed obvious to us. Just use democracy.
“Real democracy. Not the once-every-four-years federal election kind. Not the leave-it-up-to-us constitutional experts kind. Not the we’re-only-in-this-for-the-money corporate kind. But the real kind.
“The kind of democracy the Six Nations Confederacy understood … and Crowfoot … and Big Bear.
“The kind of democracy William Lyon Mackenzie understood … and Papineau … and Riel … and Dumont.
“The kind of democracy Nellie McClung understood … and Tommy Douglas.
“And the kind of democracy all the millions of other men and women with strong minds, strong backs and big hearts, who made this country everything that it is today, understood.
“That is: our kind of democracy.
“A democracy that believes in, and puts its faith in, people — in their power, their wisdom, their natural good sense and their fundamental right to rule themselves exactly as they wish. Period.”
The “rest of the answer,” some 60 pages, comes from Canadians across the land. It’s worth many readings and much contemplation, especially on the part of our leaders.
Yes indeed, this column holds the words of others. It’s part of a theory I have: when someone says it better than you, shut up and listen and share it if you can. I’m listening.
A tip of the hat to the authors and to the people we honour on Labour Day. Every one of the 500,000 or more who are the foundation of the national work place. They do the work; others do the talking. When these workers stop to talk, as they did in 1991, it’s worth listening.
Where would we be without them?