COLUMN: Work to keep the spirit of Canada Day

Government leaders must address the nation's challenging issues.

As we celebrate the 148th Canada Day, let’s all come together to recognize the beauty of our country, celebrate its successes, and appreciate the greatness of the nation that we live in.

Canada is known for its multicultural spirit and its support for peace and human rights. Every Canada Day, we should highlight these principles and enjoy the parties and events. We should also look back on the year that has passed since the previous celebration and see if our political leadership and governments are continuing to respect these values.

The government most recently brought into force a certain section of Bill C-24 which I believe puts Canadian citizenship at risk and is flawed from both a substantive and procedural law aspect.

Lawyers, non-governmental groups, civil liberty advocates and Canadians from different walks of life have raised serious concerns about these changes to the Citizenship Act. Canadians want a safe and secure Canada, but they also want to maintain their rights and the constitution.

In fact, the recent changes that were brought in with Bill C-24 will permit a minister to take away someone’s citizenship. This threatens the legal rights that an individual should have and puts the fate of a person’s citizenship in the hands of a politician.

In addition to this problem, there are many other legal and moral issues with the law, which have not been addressed or rectified. Such changes to our laws pose a threat to what we celebrate on Canada Day – ideas of justice, fairness and equality before the law.

Canada Day is a day to rejoice in our achievements as a nation. It should also be a time to think about how our country can improve even further, such as by combatting poverty, maintaining our fundamental rights and addressing other issues affecting our society.

Because as the fireworks light up the sky on Canada Day, there are thousands of Canadians facing homelessness and millions other living in poverty. According to the report, The State of Homelessness in Canada 2014, 35,000 Canadians are homeless on a given night and 235,000 Canadians experience homelessness in a year.

Thousands of Canadians will not be able to enjoy the festivities of Canada Day because of their economic situation. Instead, they will struggle to find shelter and not have access to the basic needs that all of humanity has a right to.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 25 (1) states: “Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services.” An inadequate government response, at the provincial and federal level, has allowed homelessness and poverty to persist in our country.

I wish everyone a very enjoyable Canada Day with your friends, family, and neighbours. I hope that our government leaders will address the issues we face so each and every Canadian can enjoy Canada Day and the true spirit of Canada Day can live on.

Japreet Lehal is a student at Simon Fraser University. He writes regularly for The Leader.

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