Loose Cannon: Students keep the fires burning...
Friday, July 2, 20100 Comments
Guelph has a reputation for stirring the pot that puts larger urban centres to shame.
This article was written for the Ontarion's New Student Guide.
It's true what they say – the Royal City has heart.
From being declared “Canada’s most caring city” by Maclean’s Magazine, to serving as an incubator for activism of all stripes, Guelph has a reputation for stirring the pot that puts larger urban centres to shame.
If you doubt it, take a look at last weekend's G20 summit in Toronto, where local activists managed to make a pretty big splash (or a pretty big mess, depending on your viewpoint) during an already protest-filled event.
So how does this seemingly quiet town of 100,000 people, nestled between the megacity of Toronto and the rapidly growing tri-cities area, manage to cultivate so much energy?
I think Guelph is so passionate because it’s actually made up of two cities, occupying opposite ends of the ideological spectrum.
Think about it: Guelph is home to the 11th Field Artillery Regiment, whose members have served multiple tours in Afghanistan.
It’s also a centre of the anti-war movement, which claims Afghans would be best served by bringing those troops home.
Forests and farmlands make Guelph a beautiful place to live. But our growing population and the demand for jobs make these lands targets for development.
Guelphites are proud of supporting their local community, yet as the city sprawls outward, working-class people (many of whom drive to the GTA to work) are being cut off from the things that make Guelph unique.
Guelph has cowboy bars and hippie hangouts; affluent households and not-so affluent ones. Students new to the city live next door to lifelong residents. It is a city conflicted by its different parts. And wherever there’s conflict, passions run high.
The University of Guelph is no exception. Students who come here represent a spectrum of political, cultural and social movements. They bring the kind energy and idealism that only youth can maintain. A little bit of boat rocking is not only inevitable, but vital for democracy to function.
Guelph will be your home for the foreseeable future, so it’s your job to keep the proverbial fires burning. If you’re unsure how to get involved in civic engagement and activism, remember the three V’s:
-Volunteer. In 2008, Maclean’s magazine claimed that upwards of 69.7 per cent of Guelph residents volunteered, the highest rate of any city in Canada. With that kind of involvement, it’s little wonder Guelphites care so much about what happens in their city.
Volunteers form the backbone of many social service organizations in Guelph, from the Food Bank to the Guelph Civic League. Why not take a break from studies and make a difference in your community?
-Be Vocal. U of G students are passionate about protest and activism. Whether you’re interested in the environment, human rights, animal rights, education, LGBT issues, Aboriginal issues or any other topic of consequence, you’ll find a group on campus that flies your colours.
But activism isn’t just about showing up for a single rally. Rather, it’s about maintaining an ongoing dialogue. Students need to stay up-to-date about events in the community and hold their leaders accountable every day, whether they sit on the Central Student Association Board, the University Senate or City Council.
-Vote (or better yet, run). Guelph, like all municipalities in the province, will hold elections the fourth Monday in October. Under the Municipal Elections Act, students 18 or older who are living away from home are eligible to vote both in their place of temporary residence and their place of permanent residence.
Guelph’s municipal election will determine the make-up of local government for the next four years, including the mayor and city council. The learning curve might be a bit steep, but it’s vitally important that new students learn about local issues and choose the kinds of leaders that will represent their interests.
On that note, CSA will also be holding by-elections in the fall to fill seats on its Board of Directors. If you want to make a difference in the campus community, consider becoming a student leader.
There are countless opportunities to become involved in local politics. Whatever action you decide to pursue, don’t forget to give it heart – Guelph’s reputation depends on it.
Greg Beneteau is Editor-in-Chief of thecannon. Loose Cannon publishes every Thursday in The Ontarion Student Newspaper at the University of Guelph.
The opinions posted on thecannon.ca reflect those of their author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Central Student Association and the Guelph Campus Co-op. We encourage all students to submit opinion pieces, including ones that run contrary to the opinion piece in question.