In the times ahead, our country will be required to make decisions of enormous and lasting consequence. The Samara Centre for Democracy has an opportunity to influence the important debates that will help determine Canada’s democratic future. As its new Executive Director, it’s an opportunity I’m determined that we seize.
At this moment, we have a reaffirming of Indigenous resilience. While the legacy of residential schools has captured long-overdue public attention, it is important to recognize that generations of Indigenous communities have articulated how to address the injustices they continue to endure. One comprehensive example is the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 94 Calls to Action.*
Emerging from this pandemic requires a reckoning – with who we are and who we want to be. This will manifest in many specific approaches. There will be programs and policies that reboot the economy, ensure opportunity is widely shared, and enable a safe return to work and school. This reckoning will also require careful consideration of broader, more fundamental questions about the disparities in our society.
Change is palpable. And that change – its character and its reach – will be a product of democratic process. Decisions that matter will be made, which means that we must work harder than ever to ensure that our discourse is widened, active, and engaged.
But we all know that some groups have a harder time participating than others. They can be discouraged by an ugly and at times abusive environment. People turn away when they don’t feel safe and with that comes the risk of losing their views and voices entirely. Democracies that involve diverse identities lead to better outcomes – they ensure a greater number of voices are heard, that an increased percentage of perspectives are shared, and a validation of approaches are taken. We all have a role to play in shaping an enriched public discourse.
Here, the Samara Centre will be seeking to make a tangible difference. In the near future, we will be sharing new work that aims to reduce the toxicity of online political culture. Our intention is to not only improve the quality of conversation but to also increase accountability among political actors. This will help the public feel more inclined to take part, contributing their own ideas, reflecting on the thoughts of others, and fortifying the foundations of decisions ultimately adopted. This initiative is just one among a number that I aim to champion in the weeks and months ahead, touching on a variety of topics while maintaining a focus on strengthening the space we create for political discussion.
In previous roles during my career, I have seen how a practical emphasis on equity, collaboration, and engagement can create change for the better. I have been fortunate to witness how such efforts can build the kind of influence that unleashes progress. That is what I intend to advance at the Samara Centre and what I hope you will join me in supporting.
Sabreena Delhon Executive Director The Samara Centre for Democracy
*If you or someone you know needs help, please call the Indian Residential School Crisis Line which has been set up to provide support for survivors and those affected: 1-866-925-4419.