Meghan and Harry’s recent tell-all interview proves that the balance of power is delicate—especially when placed in the wrong hands
By Peter Vlaar, Ontario Legal Counsel
I’ve been thinking a lot about power lately. Specifically, power imbalances.
We are confronted with power imbalances every day in the world around us and in our own lived experiences. But which ones are good and which ones are bad?
Power imbalances exist between children and parents, governments and citizens, and employers and employees, to name a few. As a society, we consider some power imbalances acceptable but others unacceptable.
We see the power imbalance between a parent and their child as acceptable because it is necessary for the good of the child. A child doesn’t know what’s best for them, so the parent must direct them toward the correct decision.
We also accept power imbalances between government and citizens by nature of social contract—that is, we give up a certain degree of autonomy and freedom in exchange for safety, security, and stability. We elect a centralized body of representatives to wield a lot of power in making decisions on our behalf, for our benefit.
For these arrangements to work, there needs to be trust and an understanding that the one holding the power is doing so in the best interest of the less powerful party. To quote a saying popularized in the Spider-Man movies, “With great power comes great responsibility.”
Appropriate use of power can easily turn into inappropriate use without checks and balances. When power is used with no regard for others, there are often serious consequences.
This was recently highlighted for me as I watched the Meghan Markle and Prince Harry interview by Oprah Winfrey. Both Meghan and Harry are people of significant wealth, privilege, and power—he is a prince, and she is a duchess. How much better can life get?
Meghan and Harry revealed that despite all their wealth, privilege, titles, and connections, they felt powerless. They were miserable because they were the subjects of an abuse of power.
There was an inherent power imbalance between “The Firm” and the duo, and the Royal Family did not seem to have any concern for their personal wellbeing. Despite their privilege and status, Meghan and Harry were powerless because there was no way for them to keep the powers that be in check and hold them to account.
It’s only now, after having left the Royal Family a year earlier, that they are able to balance out the power through a tell-all interview with the “Queen of all Media,” Oprah Winfrey.
One of the most, if not the most, common abuses of power is by employers against employees. That doesn’t mean there aren’t many examples of great employers using their power appropriately and respecting the dignity of their workers. But unfortunately, there are thousands of workers across the country who live through daily experiences that leave them feeling powerless and even depressed.
Like Meghan and Harry, these workers feel as if there is no avenue available for them to tip the scales of power in their favour. Unlike Meghan and Harry, these workers don’t have access to Oprah Winfrey’s soapbox to call out the abuses of power.
This is where unions perform an important function. CLAC is a union that cares deeply about the dignity of workers and can serve as a check on the abuse of power wielded by employers. By the power of association and the support of the law, CLAC can tip the scales back into equilibrium between the employer and employees.
After all, you don’t have to be royalty to have a voice.