A year is a long time. A lot can and has happened. But in looking back at 2011, these are some of the news events that stand out the most for me:
Arab Spring. Demonstrations in Tunisia toppled the regime of Ben Ali and sparked revolutions in Egypt which ousted Hosni Mubarak, fuelled a civil war in Libya which lead to Moammar Gadhafi’s death and spurred civil uprisings in Syria, Bahrain and Yemen. Protests were also launched in Algeria, Iraq and other countries in the Middle East. This movement brought the world’s attention to political and cultural clashes in the Arab world, demonstrated the power of social media and may bring about real and lasting democratic change for millions.
Jack Layton led his party to unprecedented success in the spring federal elections as millions of Canadians turned to him and his party in hope of positive, progressive leadership in Parliament. Yet after achieving the goal of leading Canada’s Official Opposition, Layton lost his life just when his political future had never been brighter. His last letter to Canadians fuelled a nation-wide outpouring of grief and admiration.
Japan’s tsunami and nuclear meltdown. A 9.0-magnitude earthquake off Japan’s northeast coast in March triggered a tsunami which devastated much of the country, killed nearly 20,000 people, and triggered the worst nuclear crisis since Chernobyl. This crisis was significant not only for the devastating toll on human lives, but also because it raised questions about the safety of nuclear energy.
Omnibus Crime Bill. The Conservatives won a majority government in the spring and their absolute, ideological rule of our federal government is only too apparent in the muscling through of the of omnibus crime bill – a ‘tough on crime’ legislative package whose passing required curtailing evidentiary hearings and informed debate, and disregarding both democracy and reason.
Occupy Wall Street Protests. The disparate voices of the 99% came together in a cacophony of frustration, anger and solidarity. What began as a September protest in New York has since become a global movement which remains leaderless and vague, yet persistent in bringing forward the complaints of those who feel betrayed and abused by the rich and the powerful.