Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The Direction of Our Moral Compass

"A nation's greatness is measured by how it treats its weakest members." –Mahatma Ghandi

Its crime rate is ten-fold higher than the rest of the country. Its citizens suffer more alcoholism, child abuse, suicide, sexual abuse, depression, and serious crime than any people on earth. Thirty-two thousand people occupy the largest territory in Canada. But Nunavut is not just the largest and most northerly part of Canada. If our moral compass points north, Nunavut is True North, and it reveals the extent to which we honour the commitments of a Just Society.

The Globe and Mail is running an excellent series called “The Trials of Nunavut.” I hope everyone I know will take the time to read this series of articles, videos, and slide presentations. It is a beautifully composed but heartbreaking series discussing the deep social problems facing the people of this most northern land.

I cannot think of a set of remedies for the deep and open wounds in this suffering land. I cannot even devise a meaningful hypothesis to account for the origins of the crime, pain, violence, and social ill that have gripped the territory. I suspect the nature and extent of the problems require the skills and expertise of far more people than have so far been allocated to any serious consideration of solutions.

My father campaigned for Hubert Humphrey. In my youth in Minnesota, I understood him to represent that which is good in all of us. When the Liberals form a government in Canada, the Throne Speech often quotes this founder of Minnesota’s Democrat Farmer-Labor (DFL) Party. Humphrey said, “The moral test of government is how that government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; and those who are in the shadows of life, the sick, the needy and the handicapped.”

The feeling among leaders of Nunavut’s government that scant attention and resources are being given to this northern land finds deep resonance in my thoughts. I don’t know how we might find solutions. But I do know this: The depth of our concern about Nunavut, and the extent to which we honour that concern with our actions and through our political leadership, is a test of our character as human beings. I am going to be listening carefully over the next four weeks to discern the major candidates' thoughts and proposals for addressing the needs of Nunavut. What I would really like to see is some honest expression of compassion from anyone in the four major parties. When we find compassion in our hearts, we will inevitably find solutions. And when we find solutions, we will have reoriented our compass to True North.

April 5, 2011

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