I don’t know who voted in the rest of Canada, but in Calgary a couple of clowns cast their ballots. Honest. It started as a bit of a joke, but clowning can be serious business, especially as it relates to children. During the run-up to the election, I listened for a debate on child poverty, on water and school conditions in Aboriginal communities. It was like listening for the sound of a snowflake.
At the all-candidates’ meeting I attended (all candidates, but one), I did manage to raise the issue of child poverty, but generally, it was apparently of little concern. And that concerns me. In 1989, all parties agreed to end child poverty by the year 2000. Eleven years past deadline and we’re nowhere. UNICEF Canada says that one in 10 Canadian children, and one in four First Nations children still live in poverty.
So when I heard that Saucy McCuddle and Chuddie McFuddle were casting ballots, I knew they’d be voting for candidates they believe will honour children. Children, for example, like the students in Attawapiskat, on James Bay, who have been waiting a decade for a new elementary school.
Saucy McCuddle and Chuddie McFuddle laugh a lot. In their other lives, Fif Fernandes and life partner Hamish Boyd are actors, founders of Laughing Peace and Laughter Yoga Canada. The day before the election I watched their celebration of World Laughter Day: 50 or 60 people laughing in a park. That neighbourhood will never be the same again!
In another persona, Fif works as a therapeutic clown at the Alberta Children’s Hospital. Illness is no laughing matter; yet, kids, parents, and staff attest to the healing that laughter can bring.
A child once whispered to Fif’s clown persona, “People don’t care about you when you’re poor. It’s kinda embarrassing.”
Hamish says, “Most of my life, I’ve not been political, but this time I was moved and motivated to do something different. I am realizing that key issues are being swept under the carpet and ignored. I wonder how the political landscape would change if children were given the right to vote?”
“Kids share fears and secrets with clowns and puppets,” says Fif. “Not having enough to eat or not knowing where you will sleep are huge fears. It’s crucial to give voice to children and teens. Canada is one of 192 countries that signed the UN Declaration on the Rights of the Child. Article 4 states, ‘You have a right to special care and protection and to good food, housing and medical services.’ As a voting adult, I must be accountable and bring light to the situation in whatever way I can.”
Throughout time, and around the world, clowns have played a particular role. They call our attention to folly, help us restore balance, entertain, minister, educate and heal us. Clowns can also remind us that the powerful, after all, are just human.
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