HERRIOT: Choosing leaders, building bridges

HERRIOT: Choosing leaders, building bridges

Postby Oscar » Sun Jan 14, 2018 9:05 am

Choosing leaders, building bridges

[ http://leaderpost.com/opinion/columnist ... ng-bridges ]

We must think about the kind of leaders we need in Saskatchewan today.

Trevor Herriot Published on: January 12, 2018 | Last Updated: January 12, 2018 6:00 AM CST

Saskatchewan is choosing new political leaders. How we do that could make the difference between stagnating in the past and embracing real change.

If you are cozy where you sit, you will probably look for someone to pad your seat and repeat your favourite fairy tales about your rights and virtues. If you are worried about your future or your children’s, on the other hand, you may be ready to hear stories from a different kind of leader. Stories about a new society — one worth believing in — and a plan to get there.

As we think about the leaders we need in the province today, though, we may want to pause first and look backward.

Over the past 300 years in the lands that Canada eventually deemed to be Saskatchewan, visionary leaders have guided people through every transformation where conflict around trade, culture, and land rights arose. Regardless of whether the colonial lens of history called them winners or losers, these ancestral chiefs and modern political leaders gave families whatever hope and justice they could muster — in the governance of First Nations and Metis communities from fur trade days through the signing of treaties, through the long decades of oppression and discrimination to the era of reconciliation, Treaty Land Entitlement, and Idle No More.

And in settler politics too — from the early formation of agricultural co-operatives, to the rise of the political movement that produced the Saskatchewan Arts Board, universal health care, a dozen Crown Corporations, the Occupational Health Act and the Saskatchewan Bill of Rights Act, Canada’s first general law prohibiting discrimination.

Social movement of this kind always tracks toward greater equality, by widening the embrace of well-being and justice. Every generation needs leaders who carry that embrace in their hearts and wake up each day to walk the path toward those changes, no matter how many decades it might take.

The moral arc of the universe is long, but it bends towards justice,’ Martin Luther King said. Take a serious look at the people vying for leadership among the NDP and Saskatchewan Party today, and ask yourself who among them bears the potential to return Saskatchewan to that moral arc in the age of climate change and reconciliation.

We need political leaders with a sustained sense of direction and a vision of how to create, step by step, the necessary economic and social changes on a scale much longer than the four-year electoral cycle. And we need leaders who will inspire the next generation and shift the political conversation in this province away from wealth protection towards well-being and equality for many years to come.

That kind of compass work requires listening to young voices, to the Indigenous, settler, and newcomer people who are embracing the challenges of climate change, social inequity and de-colonization with heart and game-changing social skills few of us over 50 can fathom.

All Saskatchewan people, young and old, alive and yet to come, share an interest in the renewal of our society. Socio-economic research has demonstrated repeatedly that greater equality is the key to economic sustainability and leads to improved quality of life for all.

But we hesitate because every step away from injustice, social inequity and colonization toward something better presents itself as a gap, sometimes as a chasm we must jump across. Most people are not ready to do that. Instead we wait for a leader who seems to be building the right kind of bridge.

Saskatchewan people, in the weeks to come, will either choose leaders who can build that bridge by engaging the public in a politics of justice, or they will opt to cling to the familiar shore slowly crumbling beneath them.

Our great-grandchildren will not look back to these times and thank us for voting to stay the course, ignoring the global cry for action on climate change and racial justice, but they may well celebrate us if we choose leaders who walk forward with their eyes on equality and health in our communities and in the land.

~ ~

Trevor Herriot is the author of "Islands of Grass" and "Towards a Prairie Atonement".
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