From The Mayor's Desk:
Doug Lawrance, Mayor of Sioux Lookout
Let’s Preserve Our Social Contract
Taking liberties with the Google definition, a social contract is an informal agreement among the members of a society to cooperate for social benefits. That type of informal contract was very necessary centuries ago when we came together and began to agree and develop our forms of government. The informal contract has gradually been filled in with laws, acts, statutes, regulations and other formal mechanisms that govern and guide our behavior within society.
We still maintain an informal social contract with each other. On a more personal level we could call it the honour system, common decency, or just good manners. It is the small kindnesses and accommodations that Canadians are known for – being polite.
But somewhere over the past few decades that common decency has been eroding. Perhaps it started with the television era when people started to stay home more, socializing less. Perhaps when an ‘in your face’ attitude became an acceptable, even admired, way of interaction when things weren’t going our way. Nasty gossip, rumours, hateful talk once was limited to small groups meeting in small settings. While the internet and social media have connected us more than ever, they have also given wings to unfounded rumours, conspiracy theories, misinformation, and hurtful communications. As was said by Jonathan Swift, falsehood flies and the truth limps along behind. The pandemic has been a magnifying glass for both the benefits and the perils of our high-speed communication resources.
The recent protests in Ottawa, Windsor, and elsewhere speak to the breakdown of our social contract. The rules being violated by the individual protestors are generally relatively minor – of the by-law variety, not the criminal code. But when they are broken collectively and in coordination it becomes a more serious issue. When the minority acts in this way to demand a change to the rules agreed to by the majority, it becomes a problem. And when the minority takes advantage of the right to peaceful protest and turns it into action which disrupts the freedom, the rights, the livelihood, and the access to normal day to day living of the majority, it has gone beyond what should be tolerated.
We are not immune to any of this in Sioux Lookout. Although there have been small protests, they have been respectful and polite. Protestors have acted within the realm of our social contract. At the Council table while we have not agreed on all local pandemic measures, Council has discussed the issues allowing dissenting and all views to be stated. Votes have been taken, and as with all matters, the majority view moves forward. We do not always agree with each other, but I believe we are respectful, polite, and we maintain our social contract.
Whether on social media or in person – let’s continue to be polite, let’s continue to be kind. Let’s all continue doing our part to preserve the small things in our social contract that make our town a place where we treat each other with respect, whether we agree on the issues or not.