Big Plans for Democracy at the Lonsdale Campus

Instructor Michael Markwick wants Capilano to become a leader in democratic communication

Jayde Atchison // Staff Writer
Sarah Haglund // Illustrator

The results of the 2019 Canadian federal election were enough for many to question what democracy truly means. Through climate strikes, protests and voting, youth are demonstrating not only that they want their voices heard but that their voices matter.

Michael Markwick, a Communications instructor at Capilano University, is developing the Insititute for Democratic Communication: Reconciliation, Human Rights and Inclusion within the Northshore. Through his use of the Unified Grant, there will be an event held at the CapU Lonsdale campus on Feb. 20th of next year—International Day for Social Justice—to encourage community members to voice their concerns and discuss serious issues such as reconciliation and human rights.

The Unified Grant is an internal research grant awarded to Markwick through Capilano University. The $5000 grant will be used in work alongside community partners, such as Vantage Point as well as hiring a research assistant. Markwick and Vantage Point—a nonprofit that helps other nonprofits develop internal governance practices—has asserted that CapU needs to be the leader in democratic communication. They are specifically concerned with how they can help people claim their place to participate in public conversations about difficult issues. The funds from the grant will go towards making this a reality.

Markwick began planning and applying for the grant in July, but he first had the idea in 2010 while writing his doctoral thesis on democratic communication. His passion for the topic shows when he recalls his interactions with Vantage Point and British Columbia’s Lieutenant Governor, Janet Austin. “I want us to have a conversation like we have never had at the university before at our Lonsdale campus—really show that this university can be a driver in a global conversation about democracy, build a case to the president of the university to say here is what the community wants us to do. And then from there as a concept, we build out a business plan.”

There is enough funding to hire on are search assistant (RA) to help the heads of the grant with making connections with community leaders across the North Shore, the province and even globally. “Government shouldn’t go in and do stuff with the community that they themselves can do. So how do we propose to do it in the right way?” Markwick asked. “The right way means from the very beginning it’s going to be dialogical and meaningfully engage people who have a concern and have something to contribute.”

Those involved with hiring the RA are looking for someone with excellent interpersonal skills, as they will be interacting with diverse groups of people ranging from those at a neighbourhood house to the Lieutenant Governor’s office. They are searching for someone who is able to be respectful and kind to all contacts. Markwick said that not only will the RA be paid, but they will be involved in a significant democratic event where they will develop an incredible contact list and network. Markwick encourages students to look out for the job posting on the career hub. “Democratic communication can’t be a silo—it has to be something that brings people together.”

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