Views / Opinion

Be proud of Canada's peaceful election and your vote

Thomas Mulcair wasn't going to accuse Justin Trudeau of stealing the votes and Harper wasn’t going to call in military forces to cling to power.

Maybe on election night you weren't celebrating like this Liberal supporters, but you should still be proud of Canada's peaceful election, writes Gilbert Ngabo.

The Canadian Press

Maybe on election night you weren't celebrating like this Liberal supporters, but you should still be proud of Canada's peaceful election, writes Gilbert Ngabo.

I didn’t vote on Monday. I can’t tell you how sad that made me feel.

Forget about all the rhetoric of civic duty, the grudge you hold against this or that leader. Or political party. Or the talk about making your voice count.

All of that stuff matters. But what I was longing for was to participate in a democratic process that is peaceful, in every sense of the word.

As I mingled in a crowd of Liberal MP-elect Marco Mendicino’s supporters, my mind couldn’t stop rambling about what elections mean in different parts of the world.

Take Kenya, 2007. Following the highly contested presidential elections, a dispute over the results erupted. People started attacking each other, and thousands lost their lives in the mayhem.

A Kenyan protestor is detained after he was beaten by riot police following the disputed election results of 2007.

Getty Images

A Kenyan protestor is detained after he was beaten by riot police following the disputed election results of 2007.

See, for some people it doesn’t really matter who wins the most votes. As long as a preferred candidate doesn’t win, the system is flawed. And in extreme instances, that means killings, fleeing and refugee life.

I’ve only voted twice in my life, in the Rwandan presidential elections held in 2003 and 2010. Despite trying to convince myself that my vote actually counted on both occasions, observers from the European Commission, African Union and a gazillion rights organizations reported on serious voting irregularities.

You want to think they’re not right, but still you question the validity of your vote. After all, vote rigging does happen.

Rwandans line up to vote outside Rugunga polling station during the 2010 national elections. Watchdogs later criticized the election for vote-rigging and other irregularities.

Getty Images

Rwandans line up to vote outside Rugunga polling station during the 2010 national elections. Watchdogs later criticized the election for vote-rigging and other irregularities.

Not in Canada, apparently.

I knew all along I wasn’t expecting outgoing NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair to come out and start accusing incoming-prime minister Justin Trudeau of stealing the votes.

I knew Stephen Harper wasn’t going to call in military forces in an attempt to cling to power.

But watching them deliver concession speeches, all smiles, almost brought me to tears. The same three guys who had spent the last 78 days tearing each other down by any and all available means were now all of a sudden extolling each other and the electoral process.

Harper’s words were more poignant. It’s still unreal for me to hear an incumbent and powerful leader admit that the people are never wrong, notwithstanding that they just turfed him out.

So as winners congratulated losers on a well-run campaign, I couldn’t have asked for a more powerful way to show the value of a vote.

And I felt sad that, as a permanent resident, I couldn’t cast a ballot that was peaceful —  in every sense of the word.

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