Our Voices Can, Do, and Will
In this post-election glow, we are giving tribute to members of the Canadian Arab community, who have been truly inspirational in their dedicated engagement with, and exercising of their civic rights. This tribute is inspired by the Tunisian National Dialogue Quartet who recently won the Nobel Peace prize for their instrumental role in Tunisia’s successful transition into democracy.
Since the beginning, we at the Canadian Arab Institute have been driven by our commitment to a vision: that of our Canadian Arab community growing to its full potential, as empowered and engaged citizens who are indispensable to our society. We have seen what our communities can accomplish and the infinite possibilities they are capable of. We see it all the time, and most recently, saw it in the 2015 Canadian federal election.
This year, Canada witnessed the highest voter turnout since 1993. More than 68% of eligible voters cast a ballot in this federal election, which is 11.5% more than in the 2011 election. Canada has been witnessing a steady, concerning decline in voter turnout since 1988.
This year, Canadian civil society experienced a shifting tide, with people cheering on their peers to vote and exercise their civic right to shape their society. Part of that wave was the Canadian Arab community, whom we saw come out in record numbers. Twenty-two Canadians of Arab descent ran for parliament in this election, and eight won seats! We are so excited to congratulate all of our new Members of Parliament, the other candidates who ran, and their steadfast, hard-working teams. We also saw youth take a stand, as demonstrated by Caro Loutfi, breaking voter records, challenging perceptions and shaping their future. These are some of the reasons why we have been putting so much effort towards catalyzing this potential and bubbling activity.
This is also why, in anticipation of the recent election, we embarked on a mission to engage Canadian Arabs everywhere to practice their civic duty and vote. And thus our Your Voice campaign was launched,
As an organization with a commitment to education and community development, we relished this unique opportunity to engage with our fellow Canadian Arabs on why civic engagement is part of our collective identities and future. We circulated Arab Faces of Canada on all our social media outlets, which features Canadian Arab citizens’ definition of democracy and what Canada means to them. Travelling across campuses and organizations, we met people from all walks of life – community leaders, academics, professionals and activists from many faiths and with roots from various parts of the Arab world. Regardless of their religion, race, ethnicity, sex or sexual orientation, old or new Canadians, curious, involved, and dancing in between: they came out, voted, and made their voices heard.
We are inspired by each other, as peers, mentors, and family. In having this experience, we realized that this is our moment to highlight all the individual, collaborative, and collective efforts of the community. Throughout the 78 days, Canadian Arabs proved that their deep participation with Canadian politics plays a pivotal role in the overall Canadian political landscape. We are a critical part of the public discourse, and that is why it is crucial we participate in it, across all the social, economic, political, cultural and civic spheres.
The Canadian Arab Institute is concerned with exactly that – facilitating a new, inclusive conversation. The Canadian Arab community is the second fastest-growing immigrant population in Canada, but also one whose voice isn’t heard often and clearly enough. We know that the Canadian Arab community wants to meet the challenges and gifts of living in such beautiful, multicultural society. That’s why it is so important to identify the barriers people face and find ways to help members of the community overcome them.
That is precisely why we pursued the Your Voice campaign, which played a crucial role in educating the community by heightening awareness of the importance of their democratic participation. We hosted educational webinars, released the Visual Info Bite series in English and Arabic, and used all our social media platforms to keep our audiences informed on the latest political news.
We are blessed with a gift of living with multiple cultures intertwined within us, and are inspired by the way we live and work together in continually innovative ways. Our histories may be distinct, but our values, ambitions and futures, stand together.
We see the results, and we are excited. The Canadian Arab community is not only becoming more visible, but active and empowered. We have an impact on the overall success of Canadian society, and it’s important that we celebrate our achievements.