Lemme Break it Down for You Bill

(House of Commons Mix)

      One day, you* notice that the people seated on one side of the House of Commons can participate in sessions in a way you are not able to. You really don’t think this is fair, and you keep asking the Speaker of the House** to change things so everyone can take part in the same way. The Speaker thinks about it for a little while and then decides that he will let you listen to what the other side of the room is saying, and let you contribute what you want to say, but you can only do so by using a telephone.

You still don’t think this is fair, and you make your views public- because you believe that it is  completely unacceptable that the only way you can read your very important words is by speaking into a telephone. The Speaker reminds you that you can record  your words by audio or video and submit them in that format, but you push back and remind the Speaker that this is still a lesser version of what the other side of the room has- as they are able to participate live, by a video link and in real time.

The Speaker thinks this through a bit more, as there are now others who are pointing out the unfairness in the room.  When pressed a few more times, the Speaker concedes and says clearly, and on the record that ‘the decision has been made’ to let you participate in the same way the other side of the room has always been able to- by the use of video-conferencing. You will now be able to present your important words in real time, thus making you feel as if you are a valued participant in something that is of the utmost importance to you.

And from the onset, this is all you have ever asked for- an equalized playing field.

Weeks go by and the Speaker of the House has not come through on the words he spoke regarding video conferencing implementation. You press further, and use everything in your power, and use other people’s power to try to hold the Speaker accountable to what he previously said, but still the imbalance exists.

Months go by and nothing has changed, so you push harder, and you remind the Speaker of his very important words from many weeks before.  One day, and quite unexpectedly, you receive a letter from one of the agencies that the Speaker works in conjunction with- it appears that the definitive words he spoke have now been redacted- and instead there are weaker, diluted ones in their place: the Speaker has gone from ‘the decision has been made’ in regards to video-implementation to ‘essentially it was only an  idea at the time.’

You are enraged, because you are right back to where you were at the beginning of all of this and the promise of the Speaker to represent anything that is even remotely just and fair is no more - one side of the room still has access to video-conferencing and the other side can still only participate by telephone. The level of disconnect and disregard shown by the Speaker is immeasurable.

Compounding things further, the Speaker has determined that moving forward, and, despite his own previous words, there will no longer be any movement on video conferencing implementation for the people who are sitting on one side of the room.

In fact, he has said that all communications on this matter will cease.

For no justifiable reason, the Speaker of the House has removed the right for people on one side of the room to participate in important matters, in a way that is equal to those who sit on the other side of the room.

Not only that, he completely shut the door to any further communication on this matter.

The people who have had the absolute misfortune of sitting on the lesser side of the room talk amongst themselves and speak to how demeaning it is- after all they’ve been through and all their great losses, that the Speaker continues to try to placate them by telling them how important they and their families are to him, and how their rights are front and foremost in everything he does.

 

Actions, Mr. Speaker, for those people seated on the lesser side of the room, will always speak louder than your hollow and empty words.

 

Canada’s crime victims have literally been left holding a phone and indefinitely put on hold while waiting for their needs and concerns to be answered. And when they do speak up to remind people of those needs, they are stuck back on hold again and forced to listen to the nonsensical noise of Canada’s Public Safety Minister and the Parole Board of Canada repeatedly playing in the background.

How insufferable.

 

 

 

This analogy, of course, does not play out in Canada’s House of Commons, but could you imagine if it did- the screams of unfairness would echo down our hallowed halls of democracy, bounce off the walls of the Reading Room, and likely spill out into the streets.  Ottawa’s Wellington Street would be awash with politicians of every stripe running amok, shouting about how one side has an unfair advantage, and demanding that balance be restored immediately. After all, they would remind everyone, this a fair and just Canada, the very standards on which we pride ourselves on, the same principles that we extol globally.

Parliamentarians would, in the name of all that should be equal, willingly handcuff themselves to the East Block scaffolding to protest, and protest loudly, that they were being treated in such an unfair, reprehensible manner.

My goodness, there could even be a statue or two toppled.

Where this analogy does take place though, is in Prisons from coast to coast. Offenders can participate in virtual real time Parole Board hearings, and have been able to from the onset (the ‘speaker of the house’ made sure of  it) while the Non-offenders in the equation are only able to participate by using a phone.

It is so very important to level this playing field as it is one of only a few times we can participate in the process of justice, by the presentation of  ‘our most important words’ - our Victim Impact Statements, and we need to do it in the strongest way possible to ensure that we do just that: make an impact.

The role of Canada’s crime victims has been diminished to one of a passive observer, and an immediate upgrade to a vital, participatory role is long overdue.  

 

Mr. Speaker, will you hear us now?

 

 

 

  *Canada’s Crime Victims

 **Public Safety Minister Bill Blair

 

-If your interpretation of this is a left, right, one party vs another, you have completely missed the point. Please immediately proceed to the East Block and handcuff yourself to the scaffolding.

 

-Apologies to the Speakers of the House for the casting of Bill Blair in your very important role.

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