****Trigger warning: Mentions of abuse, murder, colonialism, and rape.
I feel there’s a misconception in some parts of society that having power and social status must also mean you’re a person of integrity and morals. And that it means you’re somehow better and superior if you have more power and social status than others.
People often treat those with more power and social status than them with more respect compared to those with less power and social status. Eg it’s considered normal to ignore homeless people, but who would ever ignore Justin Trudeau if he wanted to talk to you?
The more power that someone has the more ability they have to influence your life. So it sort of makes sense that people wouldn’t want to make anyone with the power to influence their life upset or angry.
But, I don’t really agree with the idea that powerful people with high status can’t do anything wrong. There are lots of real life examples where people treat powerful people as if they’re paragons of morality and goodness, no matter what they do. Eg Some fans believe that their favourite celebrity is incapable of doing anything wrong or worthy of criticism.
But, despite this belief that power equals morality and superiority, there’s lots of cases where people with power have misused and abused their power. Having power and high social status doesn’t necessarily mean you’re a good person with integrity and honour.
I’ll be writing about how some institutions, organisations and people have abused their power.
Police and Military
The police force in Canada has the power to arrest you and charge you with crimes. They are expected to uphold and enforce the law. But, there’s been lots of cases where members of the police abuse their power.
I’m not saying that all police officers abuse their power. But, the idea that police officers are kind and good people who always strive to uphold the law and help others is not always accurate in my opinion. Maybe being honourable protectors of peace is what the police force is supposed to be on paper, but the reality can be very different. In the past it’s been proven that the police force engaged in illegal activities such as Starlight Tours, where they would drive Indigenous men out to the outskirts of cities in freezing weather and leave them to freeze to death.
The same goes for the Canadian Armed Forces, where they are portrayed as honourable protectors of peace with the reality sometimes being different from their public portrayal. I used to serve in the military and when I first joined I had this idea in my head that all soldiers would be like modern day knights, kind and honourable. I can say there are lots of kind and good and honourable people in the forces. There were lots of soldiers I met who were good people with integrity and truly fit the mould that I had in my head that Canadian soldiers were modern day knights of honour.
But, I’d be lying too if I said that all Canadian soldiers are like that. Putting on a military uniform doesn’t automatically make someone a good person, (and it doesn’t automatically make them a bad person either.)
There’s lots of stories in the news about abuse and discrimination in the military. While the Canadian Armed Forces has done plenty of good (they helped battle the BC wildfires, they engage in peacekeeping activities around the world, they transported ambulances to the Pikangikum First Nation, they help stop illegal fishing, and much more —- more information on the operations they do to support the world and Canada can be found here ), I think it’s also important to never forget or dismiss the wrong things that Canadian soldiers have done.
In the past Canadian soldiers tortured and murdered Shidane Arone, a Somalian teenager. And Courtney Dunne was sixteen years old when she was raped by fellow soldiers. There was also the Oka Crisis, where a Canadian soldier stabbed a fourteen year old girl Waneek Horn-Miller in the chest with a bayonet. These crimes can’t be forgotten or dismissed, because to me it means that the crimes are more likely to be repeated in the future and it would be a disservice to the victims who were harmed.
In my opinion, police and the military are publicly presented as very honourable people who serve and protect Canada and that they always do the right thing with the power they are given. In lots of cases, there are police officers and soldiers who are in real life what they are supposed to be on paper. They serve the community and only use their power to stop crimes or to protect people and peace. They became police officers and soldiers not out of a desire for power, but because they just want to help the community.
I’m not discounting the good things that the police and Canadian military do for the community. And after all, without police who will protect the community from crimes? Who would we call for help when we need it? They do lots of good for the community.
And it was Canadian soldiers who helped protect Canada and its allies during the World Wars, and they had to make lots of sacrifices in order to do so. Canadian soldiers liberated the Netherlands during World War 2 and have done uncountable good things for the world and for other people.
But, the idea that soldiers and police officers are good and honourable people is not always true and I think it’s really important to hold them accountable when they abuse their power to do terrible things. That way abuse of power is less likely to be repeated. And I also think it’s important to know that just because someone is a police officer or a soldier doesn’t necessarily mean they’re automatically a perfect person above reproach.
The British Empire
Today, many peoples still suffer and are undergoing the negative impacts of colonialism caused by the British Empire. The Canadian government (once considered a dominion of the British Empire) had the power to force Indigenous peoples onto reserves and to kidnap their children, and they used that power to do so. Indigenous peoples were powerless to stop their own colonisation. They were forced onto reserves, had their children stolen and abused, and were unable to practise their culture and religions and to speak their languages.
And all around the world the British Empire also treated other countries and nations really terribly. Some incredibly terrible and harmful things they did was forcing African people into slavery, waging the Opium Wars in China,and exploiting India’s resources even as Indian people were starving due to famines.
Just because the British Empire had the power to colonise other countries and treat them terribly doesn’t mean it was right of them to do so. An argument I’ve often heard trying to excuse the negative impacts that British Colonialism has had goes like: “But the people they colonised were already treating each other badly.” But, in my opinion that argument doesn’t give a free pass for all the negative impacts that British colonialism caused.
Another sentiment I’ve heard is: “I’m not responsible for the harms caused by my ancestors or nation.” I agree with that, but I think it’s almost important to acknowledge the harms caused so that those harms aren’t repeated again. And to know that just because an institution has the power to do wrong things and not have to face consequences, doesn’t mean they should be using that power. And no organisation or institution should be immune from facing consequences when they abuse their power to harm others.
Just because some people or institutions have lots of power doesn’t automatically mean that they will always do the right and good things. And their power doesn’t justify immoral or evil things they’ve done.
I think it’s important to scrutinise those who are in power and to hold them accountable when they abuse their power. No one should be immune from consequences when they do terrible things. And having power doesn’t automatically mean you deserve that power or that you’re a good person.
What good is power if you’re using your power to do terrible things to other people? To me, power means nothing if you lack integrity.
Deena is a currently majoring in English. She is excited to be a blog writer since shes hopes to spread more awareness on topics she is passionate about and to also hopefully spotlight women who are doing amazing things in the local community.