Talking Politics: Freedoms of Speech in Canada and Around the World

Well here we are, federal election day in Canada. This has—as the media constantly reminds us—been the longest-running election campaign in Canadian history. It’s important to be informed, but it's exhausting to try to navigate the constant barrage of mixed messages over nearly three months.

What I find impressive about this process, though, is how people are able to speak their minds and disagree with the government. A Stop Harper campaign on Facebook. Op-eds in the papers. Free speech on Twitter. 

We are so lucky.

I’m reminded of last year’s Umbrella Revolution in Hong Kong. Here, citizens were protesting against the Chinese government’s control over Hong Kong’s electoral system. I was there at the time, and one night stumbled upon the barricades of a demonstration. Since we were there for work and were with teenagers, we moved out before many more people could gather.

protest barricades in downtown Hong Kong, 2014

protest barricades in downtown Hong Kong, 2014

In 2013, I was in Istanbul during Turkey’s own demonstrations. What began as a sit-in to protest against the redevelopment of a city park turned into something much bigger: anti-government protests due to a lack of freedom of speech and freedom of the press. My local friend made me steer clear of the protests for my safety, but out one Saturday night in the Taksim area, we couldn't escape it. We were inside a bar a block away from the main street, but we could feel the riot police's tear gas so much that our eyes were watering. 

The election I witnessed in South Korea in late 2007 was smooth—at least on the streets if not in the parliament buildings. I have never been present for an election in an African country, but I appreciate the importance of political stability after spending a year in Ghana. CNN argues that Ghana’s freedom of the press is key to its successful government transitions, as it improves accountability and transparency in elections. Its next presidential election will take place in 2016.

I don’t know what will happen tonight, but at least we’ve had our say.