Opinion: Our teaching moment

The last Chilliwack school district byelection taught our students a lot about how we value democracy. And it wasn't pretty.

Chilliwack voters could be forgiven if they feel a little fatigued at the prospect of another election.

Coming off one of the longest federal campaigns in Canadian history, and after facing municipal and provincial elections just last year, a return to the polls next month is probably low on most people’s priority list.

And yet the timing of the vote does not make it any less important.

On Dec. 12, Chilliwack voters will decide who fills the post left vacant by the recent death of long-time school trustee Martha Wiens.

Those hoping to fill the seat have until 4 p.m. Friday to declare their intentions.

However, the field is already becoming crowded.

Three have made their intentions known to The Progress. Others are apparently in the wings.

Some names are familiar – individuals who have sought the office before, but without success.

Other are new to the race, offering the promise of fresh ideas and a new perspective.

Hopefully their efforts will earn a better reception than the last school trustee byelection.

In that event, only 1,453 voters bothered to cast a ballot – a turnout of barely two per cent.

That number should be an embarrassment to anyone who values democracy.

For many of us, voting is something we take for granted; often seen as a chore instead than a privilege.

And yet, only 96 years ago women in this country were denied that basic right.

It wasn’t until 1948 that changes were made to the Elections Act that prevented people from being excluded from voting in federal elections because of their race.

And it took until 1960 for aboriginal peoples of Canada to earn the unrestricted right to vote in federal elections.

School trustees have an important role to play in shaping our educational environment.

But not all learning takes place in school.

This byelection is our teaching moment. It’s our chance to show Chilliwack students that we value democracy and appreciate the sacrifices that have been made to create and protect a right that others are still dying for.

Or we can show them that we don’t care.

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