LETTER: Denman Islander says it’s his constitutional right to complain

Dear editor,

RE: To plump, or not to plump your vote (Oct. 18 editorial)

I must take exception to your closing remark in the editorial above: “Remember, if you choose not to vote, then you have no right to complain about the direction in which your municipality is heading,” because, as a matter of right, every citizen, whether they vote, for whom they vote, or if they’re old enough to vote, may complain about anything that doesn’t incite hatred toward an identifiable group.

The protection of rights, in this case referring to the right to free speech guaranteed in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, extends to every single citizen, hate-speech being a specific restriction of the general right because it is reasonable in a free and democratic society.

The aphorism that one can’t complain about politics if one doesn’t vote refers to an opinion, not to rights. In any case, with about 40 per cent of eligible voters not bothering to vote in sovereign elections (federal and provincial) and over 65 per cent not bothering for municipal elections, we still hear political complaints from a near unanimity of citizens. They do have a right to complain, regardless if they vote, and they do exercise it. Only some citizens disapprove, expressing their opinion being their right (within reason), but, to be sure, any citizen does have the right to complain about policy whether he or she votes or not.

These days the concept of rights seems to be distorted by political dissatisfaction and partisan rivalry. For example, many voters demand proportional representation because they feel they have a right to elect whomever they prefer (notwithstanding the many conditions and contingencies this presumed ‘right’ would depend on); in fact, citizens over a certain age have a right to vote, not to elect their preference (their vote contributes, nevertheless, to electing someone who represents them in parliament).

Conversely, Aboriginal rights are viewed by many as merely demands that can be negotiated, but that’s also opinion: Aboriginal right is enshrined in the Constitution, confirmed and reconfirmed by the courts, and exists regardless anyone’s opinion.

Rights are rights, and I’m exercising mine here, notwithstanding my political partisanship, or whether I voted or not (I actually do vote), simply because I’m a citizen who, like all citizens, is guaranteed this right in our constitution.

Scotty Donaldson,

Denman Island

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