This week’s guest writer is Anna-Marie Janzen, Public Engagement Adviser for Good Soil, a special campaign officially launched by the Canadian Foodgrains Bank today, March 25, 2015, and supported by MCC. Originally from BC and now living in Winnipeg, Anna-Marie is a passionate social justice advocate who sometimes pines for the West Coast.
I had my political awakening when, as a child, I watched Mary Poppins and was introduced to my fore-mothers, the suffragettes. I have been fascinated with political process ever since. I clearly recall my disappointment in 2005 when some of my friends could vote in the BC provincial election, but I could not, as I was not yet 18. I was so excited to vote in subsequent elections that the Elections Canada volunteers always asked if it was my first time to vote.
Participating in the democratic process is not something I have ever taken lightly. While I recognize that our political system is not perfect, I nonetheless consider it a privilege to participate. That I, as a woman, have a voice in the running of my country is a recent privilege, not enjoyed by all people in this world. It hasn’t even been 100 years since Canadian women (and then only European-Canadian women) could vote and were considered “persons” of this country. Canada’s indigenous peoples only got the vote in the 1960s. Therefore, I believe that it is my responsibility to use my voice to better my country and the world, in the names of my suffragette mothers and all those who have been denied this privilege.
Beyond casting a ballot, there are two important ways I like to participate. First, by encouraging my peers to also care about political processes (a very difficult task, trust me). And second, by communicating with elected representatives directly. Throughout my voting life, I have tried to be diligent in communicating with my Member of Parliament, the Prime Minister, and other applicable ministers on issues I care deeply about and areas I feel our government can improve. This has ranged from the crime omnibus bill to climate change mitigation, from the arms trade to increasing our international aid budget.
It is not surprising, then, that I find myself in a job working on exactly these points. I am currently the Public Engagement Adviser for Canadian Foodgrains Bank’s new advocacy campaign, Good Soil, which officially launches today, March 25, 2015. My task is to mobilize Canadians to exercise their political voice. Specifically, I am asking Canadians to communicate with their elected officials on increasing Canada’s aid support for small-scale farmers in developing countries.
Engaging our elected representatives is not only a privilege for us to honour as citizens, it is also a calling we have as Christians. Jesus spent his public ministry advocating for impoverished and marginalized people. He challenged the ruling forces, and called us to love our neighbours. What better way is there to show our love for our neighbours than by doing what we can to ensure that they get the opportunities to live their lives to the fullest extent, free of hunger, poverty and oppression? We can do this, in part, by influencing the policies and priorities set by our own government.
One of the key ways to help improve the lives of people who regularly experience hunger is by increasing Canada’s official development assistance for agricultural in the developing world. When focused on small-scale farmers, investments in agriculture can have a huge impact. Such investments can reduce poverty and hunger, improve health and nutrition, empower women, benefit the environment, and build inclusive economies.
We have elected representatives making decisions for our country, and our voices matter to them. They cannot represent us if we do not express our values and opinions. As Canadian citizens, we have the ability to influence how Canada supports the world’s small-scale farmers. We can use our voices to let our government know that this is what we want for our country and our world.
Ours may not be a perfect political system, but it’s a system we can use to make our world a better place.