YOUTH VOICE: Looking beyond as we vote

Future leader will have impact internationally, writes youth columnist Japreet Lehal.

This month, we will have the opportunity to exercise our democratic right to vote and stand up for the policies and values that we believe in.

I encourage all Canadians to cast their ballots.

The government that will lead our country will shape both our domestic and international policies.

There exists a considerable overlap between these two spheres and one is not isolated from the other. International policies impact the domestic political and social landscape, and vice versa.

We need to elect a government that will effectively manage our country, while ensuring Canada plays a role in helping address international human-rights issues, such as the refugee crisis, international development, climate change, and corporate accountability.

A recently leaked memo from the Department of Foreign Affairs reveals how Canada can do much to improve its foreign-policy record, as its contributions in certain areas have decreased over the years. As a country that has traditionally played a prominent role on the world stage, Canada has an opportunity to use its considerable political influence in international affairs for positive change.

Regardless of which party wins on Oct. 19, we need to make sure the government is fulfilling its promises and that it takes action on issues of importance.

One such area is accountability of Canadian corporations in other states. Certainly, many Canadian businesses contribute positively, in both an economic and social sense. However, all corporations, including resource-extraction enterprises, should be held accountable when their actions infringe principles of justice.

Violations of international human-rights law negatively affects the lives of people. It also infringes upon the values of social justice that we as Canadians hold dear.

In many cases, communities that already face issues like poverty face further injustice when their homes and lives are threatened. In many cases, they are unable to successfully turn to the  legal system in their home countries.

The disproportionate power structure between corporations and individuals, and the record of violations, clearly points to the need for some sort of change to the existing system and legal mechanisms. This important issue needs to be dealt with in our legislative system.

In the future, it would be most effective to have an international human rights and business treaty, as has been proposed in the UN. This would create international instruments for effective corporate accountability, and domestic legal instruments in countries around the world so that citizens could pursue legal action.

Until that point, however, people who have suffered a violation of their rights should not be abandoned with no place to turn.

Japreet Lehal, a student at Simon Fraser University, writes monthly for Peace Arch News.