“In Canada, a vote under flags at half mast”

Tribune. Canadian since the age of 18, here I am called to vote in the midst of a pandemic, with a mask and two meters of distance. I could have met the candidates of my constituency online, pandemic obliges, after registering for a town hall. I did not do it.

This September 20, I will therefore vote in the riding of Notre Dame-de Grâce-Westmount, on the west of the island of Montreal, where I have been living since May. Outgoing Prime Minister Justin Trudeau calls parliamentary elections anticipated, believing to be able to take advantage of the polls that were favorable to it.

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I will walk to Westmount High School, a small mile from my home, where I will drop my ballot in a somewhat rickety cardboard ballot box. I will pass the building of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the national police service which, from coast to coast, has watched over Canadians since 1873. Not anxious to vote (we are in a democracy), I I will taste the sweetness of Quebec’s autumn, so beautiful, they say. And I will look, as I do every day, at the Canadian flag… at half mast, here as on all federal establishments since May 30.

Act in the face of horror

At the beginning of my installation on Dorchester Boulevard, I hardly asked myself any questions in front of this half-naked mast. There are plenty of opportunities to put a flag at half mast. We honor the memory of the missing or we express national sadness. I have known that the flag has been flying half-mast since the recent discovery of children’s graves at the site of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School in British Columbia and at various locations across the country. The flag at half mast, although it was a calculated and political decision by the Prime Minister, holds something poetic to me. In the face of horror, we have to find a way to act, to take action. A flag at half mast strikes the imagination, is a gesture of respect, of humility; it outlines a withdrawal that certain national bluster does not allow. There is in the flag at half mast a movement of submission of the nation to what exceeds it. An affect …

On September 20, I will also walk past the posters of candidate Marc Garneau, a former Canadian astronaut. Accustomed to Trudeau’s cabinet, he has every chance of winning in a constituency where the wealthy population repeatedly elects him, as it does for all representatives of the Liberal Party (center).

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On September 20, near the polling station, on the edge of the park, I will meet my young English-speaking neighbors who preferred Montreal, “human city”, to Toronto. They put a lot of hope in the young candidate Emma Elbourne-Weinstock. She chose the New Democratic Party (NDP, left). She wants to bring her generation out of climate disillusion, facilitate access to housing and fight against violence against women. The other day, my neighbors came to try to convince me to support the NDP, whose leader, Jagmeet Singh, is Sikh and represents for them a fair choice. Canada needs to give voice to all the cultures that make it up. I told them about my young friend Adis Simidzija, a refugee from Bosnia-Herzegovina in 1998, who is also an NPD candidate, in Trois-Rivières: he shares the same struggles and dreams as them.

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