by Katerina Parsons
This year has illuminated in new ways the existing inequalities and injustices of this world. The global COVID-19 pandemic highlighted preexisting health and economic disparities. The murders of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd in the U.S. led to the mobilization of hundreds of thousands of people around the world to proclaim that Black Lives Matter. Droughts, floods, fires and extreme weather made the urgency of climate action even more apparent.
These injustices and crises are not new, and neither are efforts to organize and advocate. Some people, however, are newly convicted to act. Whether you have long known about and experienced injustice, or are becoming aware of various issues for the first time, this post offers ten suggestions for deeper engagement in political advocacy:
1. Register to vote
Register to vote if you are eligible, and vote in national and local elections. If you are not eligible to vote, you can still help others register to vote or volunteer at polling places.
2. Learn who represents you, and who else they represent
Identify your Member of Parliament and visit their website or follow them on social media. In addition, take time to learn who your neighbours are, and in what ways you see their voices represented, or not, by your elected representatives.
3. Start with one issue
If you are overwhelmed by the number of issues, choose just one. Don’t feel as if you are ignoring other issues, because so much of what affects our communities is interconnected. Know that the good work you do in one area can ripple outward.
4. Join existing movements
Resist the urge to start something new, especially if you are only beginning to advocate about a topic or issue. Support good work that is already happening, deferring to those who are most affected.
5. Call or email your elected officials
Many organizations like MCC send out “action alerts” that allow you to personalize an email about an issue and send it to government officials in just a few minutes. These emails or calls can influence policymakers to support the issues that you care about.
6. Set up a meeting with an elected official
In-person or virtual meetings with elected officials and/or their staff are even more influential than emails or phone calls.
7. Attend a town hall or constituency meeting in your riding
As you learn more about your elected officials and become more active in advocacy, you may wish to attend in-person or virtual town hall events, which give you a chance to interact directly with candidates and current elected officials.
8. Continue learning
Think about sustainable ways to continue your learning. Perhaps you can subscribe to a weekly newsletter from an organization you trust or read a new book every year that deepens your understanding. If you are advocating on behalf of others, make sure you are intentional about supporting and learning from those who are directly affected, and are not making assumptions about the needs of others.
Sign up to receive the monthly MCC Ottawa Office newsletter here to stay informed about advocacy action opportunities.
9. Meet regularly with elected officials
Join with a group of people from your church or an organization you support and build regular meetings into your calendar. As staff in these offices come to know and trust you, your input will be even more influential.
10. Live out your advocacy
Advocacy doesn’t stop outside Parliament Hill. For example, how can your church demonstrate the same love for immigrants or refugees in its programming as it does in its advocacy? How does your commitment to stronger Canadian climate policy impact the choices you make at the grocery store?
As we discern what it means to be citizens first of Jesus’ peaceful kingdom, and second, of this earthly country, may each of us find ways to live faithfully, counterculturally and radically for the glory of God and the well-being of our neighbours.
Katerina Parsons is Legislative Associate for International Affairs for MCC’s Washington Office.
Learn more and get involved: Visit our website here to learn more about MCC’s work and browse our advocacy campaigns here to take action today. Additionally, check out our Advocacy Toolkit here for more resources.
This is an adaptation of a blog post published by MCC’s Washington Office, see the original version here.