No vigilance. No democracy.

A letter went out to the Parole Board of Canada’s office in Abbotsford, British Columbia in the spring of last year with a comment on a recent decision the board made. We weren’t critical of its work but rather offered an opinion on an issue raised around the efficacy of programs available in our federal prison system.

The regional manager replied by email, apologizing for not using regular post as he preferred to make an immediate response. The board was thankful for the input, asked if the letter could be shared with stakeholders, and fundamentally supported what we had to say.

As well, this parole board member noted how much he agreed with the footer on our letterhead…….No vigilance. No democracy.

Barack Obama’s farewell address from Chicago on Tuesday evening, January 10th, could easily be described with the same words. He made a call for participation by every person as a safeguard against the dangers of apathy and indifference. is forced to match the scope of its activity with the limits of available resources, just as its forerunners did over the years. This leaves a lot of ‘rocks to turn over’, and more, contends with restraints even in those areas where it concentrates what assets it has.

There is no hope of stirring a mass involvement towards the greater good, or persuading most that the individual is a relevant power to overwhelm the darker forces that “work their wily ways”, as Churchill alliterated. We can argue that willfully stepping over the rocks underfoot marks a path towards such a degree of corruption that the democratic institutions we take for granted are compromised. This is like climate change. It’s not something we should be anticipating. This is with us now.

Spend a half day in a courtroom. Any courtroom. Show up for a municipal council meeting just once. Live in a city that is a government centre? Check out the legislature’s public gallery. Total this at five or six hours a year. The point? Your presence is warily welcomed but the scrutiny not so much. That should be warning enough.

No vigilance. No democracy. They’re more than just words.


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