Plato was among the first people to define democracy. The concept has been promoted as the ideal system of government of any state. In fact, many states are currently trying to practice democratic ideals in order to appease the world powers and the population, in general. However, there are some loopholes that can be noted in discussions of democracy. These loopholes can, sometimes, arise due to the assumptions that democracies need to be perfect in order to serve their purpose. Additionally, questions about democracy can be raised now and then, simply because democracy is an elusive concept (Hayek, 2000). This essay picks out four key issues that arise from reading the text by Laoucan-Massimo and Canoe titled, “Missing and Murdered: What it will take for Indigenous Women to Feel Safe”. The questions are related to the notion of democracy, thereby showing some of the questions that have been raised about democracy.
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Plato defined democracy as a government of the people, by the people, and for the people (Schumpeter, 2000). In so saying, Plato revealed that democratic systems should have the interest of all people in the nation at heart. It is the people in the state who choose the leaders who form the government. The chosen few should ensure that the rights of those who put them in power are respected. The article selected highlights the issue of inequality in a democracy. Laboucan-Massimo and Canoe (2015) explain that there are approximately 1,200 indigenous women who are murdered in Canada, yet Canada boasts of being a democratic country.
Drawing from the definition of democracy, the native women who were killed did not experience the benefits of democracy. A democratic country is supposed to provide safety and personal protection to all its citizens. The indigenous women in Canada are citizens, yet they do not feel safe. Laboucan-Massimo and Canoe (2015) explain that the situation is so bad that the Aboriginal women in the country fear for their lives. It suffices to mention that the authors use their personal experiences and attitudes to enrich the article, while at the same time developing the question of democracy and equality further.
For example, Canoe explains that she is always in fear and feels unsafe in her country. Laboucan-Massimo, on the other hand, says that she is at times more concerned about the losses she has experienced as a result of being identified as an indigenous woman than she is concerned about her basic needs. The personal experiences urge the reader to think about the situation the women are in and the role of democracy in both eliminating and enhancing their current situation.
Another issue that comes out clearly in the article is the relationship between transparency and democracy. Hayek (2000) indicates that transparency is a critical component of democracy. The deaths of the 1,200 women were cold cases, and Laboucan-Massimo (2015) revealed that her sister was one of the victims. Hayek (2000) argues that democracy encourages transparency. In turn, the public can know what the leaders are doing to solve their problems. The unresolved murders raise a lot of concern, as it appears that the government is incompetent and cannot protect its citizens.
In addition, Laboucan-Massimo complained that her family’s questions to the police about the death of her sister fell on deaf ears. They were dismissed as unimportant, and the issue was categorized as a cold case. The dismissal of the questions raised by the family made them angry; the entire family blamed the police department and the government for failing to offer closure. Similarly, they also blamed the police for not protecting their sister. The police are part of the government, and a democratic government has to protect its people (Friedman, 2000).
If this was the case, then why could they not protect the 1,200 women who were murdered, let alone Laboucan-Massimo’s sister, simply because they were indigenous? What lengths does the democratic government go when it comes to personal security of its citizens? This question echoes the problems that democratic governments face on whether citizens should be allowed to carry weapons to defend themselves or not. The US allows its citizens to bear arms, but numerous other countries do not. In so saying, the US is considered one of the most democratic countries in the world.
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In the same breath, the article raises the question of the reach of the democratic government. Does the democratic government value some people more than others? What is used to measure the worth of a citizen? Laboucan-Massimo, Canoe, and other indigenous women feel left out and abandoned by the government. They explain that the government, through the Prime Minister, has neglected the indigenous women by stating that attacks on them are not sociological in nature, but they are just criminal. The two Aboriginal women go further and say that indigenous women have realized that they are being mistreated.
They also know that Canada has failed them. This argument brings out two aspects of democracy. The first issue revolves around the minority and the majority within the democratic system. In this particular case, the minority is the indigenous women, who feel abandoned because their cases are being considered unimportant. The second aspect of the argument is that the native women believe that they deserve special treatment. As per the arguments given in the article, it would appear that the first aspect is the most common among the women, while the second aspect is the most common in the Canadian government. In the same line of thought, the women insist that a national inquiry is mandatory to solve the problems the Aboriginal women face. They explain that it is the duty of the government to oversee the investigations; failure to do so would show favoritism.
However, there is no one guideline on the reach of the government in terms of personal security. This was the main reason the Canadian government was comfortable claiming that the attacks on the 1,200 women were criminal in nature; the women were victims of crime and not victims of stigmatization and favoritism in the entire societal system.
Another important point to note is the role of free speech in a democratic system. Schumpeter (2000) explains that free speech is the ability to air one’s mind, without the fear of any repercussions, as long as the words do not threaten or endanger the lives of others or affect the stability of the state. Laboucan-Massimo and Canoe (2015) employ the provisions in the freedom of speech concept to write the article. They not only tell their story, but they also give ways in which the government has failed them. Additionally, they provide suggestions on what needs to be done to correct the injustice they, and others, have gone through. Schumpeter (2000) reveals that freedom of speech is mandatory in every democratic system.
However, how much authority do people need in order to state strongly that they have the ultimate freedom of speech? Can one argue that Laboucan-Massimo and Canoe have the freedom of speech because they have called out to the Canadian government? Many scholars argue over the advantages and disadvantages of free speech, with some claiming that there is nothing like free speech. In other words, situations always limit speech. For example, the two indigenous women mention only one name of a government representative in the whole article. Does this mean that it is only the Prime Minister who can comment on and responsible for the welfare of the indigenous women? Does free speech entail speaking out opinions or facts?
In conclusion, the article echoes four significant aspects of democracy. The first aspect is the issue of democracy and equality/inequality. Additionally, the reader is provoked to ask about the relationship between transparency and democracy. In the same breath, the article echoes the question of whether the democratic government has a particular level of reach for personal security. In this sense, personal safety is the security of the individual citizens, but not the security of the whole country. Lastly, the concept of free speech and democracy is raised in the article. The two authors have given personal experiences to help the reader understand their arguments.
Hayek, F. A. (2000). The political order of a free people. In R. J. Terchek & T. C. Conte (Eds.), Theories of democracy: A reader (pp. 92-111). Lanham, MA: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc. Web.
Schumpeter, J. A. (2000). Capitalism, socialism, and democracy. In R. J. Terchek & T. C. Conte (Eds.), Theories of democracy: A reader (pp. 143-153). Lanham, MA: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc. Web.
Friedman, M. (2000). The role of government in a free society. In R. J. Terchek & T. C. Conte (Eds.), Theories of democracy: A reader (pp. 131-140). Lanham, MA: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc. Web.
Laboucan-Massimo, M., & Canoe, C. B. (2015). Missing and murdered: What it will take for indigenous women to feel safe. CBC News. Web.