I learned how easy advocacy can be and how important it is for citizens to engage in advocating for important issues to government officials.
The topic of advocacy stood out to me because it has given me a glimpse of hope and a renewed belief that change is possible in the world of politics. In my three years of studying political science, often I’ve left class wanting to throw up my hand and say, “Well, we’re all doomed and there is nothing we can do about it.” I know that many of my classmates have likewise felt the same hopelessness as we study the mistakes governments have made and examine the bureaucracy of the government. With all the red tape and different ideologies in politics not only is change slow, but it seems impossible!
"While on this trip I experienced what it meant to advocate and speak to those in positions of political power, I also learned that it’s equally important to listen to those in power."
As a Canadian citizen looking in on the whole government system it looks like a confusing, messy traffic jam which I can’t make heads or tails of. There seems to be millions of committees, sub-committees, offices and councils. As an outsider it’s hard to know where to go to voice your concern or even if your concern will be heard. There seems to be a massive barrier between normal citizens and the government process (or at least that’s what I thought). However, what this trip taught me was that there really is no barrier (Except for the three security checks you have to go through if you want to attend Question Period)! Just by doing a little research anyone can write a letter, call or even book an appointment with your Member of Parliament (MP) to talk about issues that concern you.
During this conference, we were able to meet with four different MPs, all who were interested to hear what we had to say in regards to how Canada should be allocating the money it has dedicated to address environmenal degradation (I guess you could say that I was surprised to find that Canada does operate under a democracy!). While some of the MPs challenged us on the position we were advocating for and other MPs wondered how they could help, I felt that our voice was heard.
And yes, even though our voice was heard change will be slow. But that doesn’t mean that we should throw in the towel and deem the political situation hopeless. Rather, as I’ve come to learn, it is necessary to be patient and persistent when advocating. As citizens we need to be willing to faithfully carry out small acts of advocating for the common good over many years. It is through continuous advocacy over time that we will be able to see the change we desire be implemented in government policy. While small acts like writing a letter, calling or talking in person to an MP might seem like inconsequential acts, these acts do matter. After all, as an African proverb says, “If you think you’re too small to make a difference, you haven’t been in bed with a mosquito.”
While on this trip I experienced what it meant to advocate and speak to those in positions of political power, I also learned that it’s equally important to listen to those in power. Listening is a crucial part of advocacy because we don’t know the limitations or constraints that those in power face. Thus, advocating requires us to not only be patient and persistent, but also to have the humility to listen to those in power.
While I did learn a lot about how changing weather patterns and degraded environments are impacting food security and Canada’s role, one of the key takeaways from this conference is that there is hope! Through the power of advocacy we can work towards a flourishing society. But this all depends on whether or not we as citizens are willing to engage in politics and voice our opinions and concerns to government leaders. I encourage all of us to actively engage with our government, whether that through writing a letter, calling your MP, taking time to learn how our government works, or by learning more about a societal issue that you care about.
As the saying goes, there’s no time like the present to take action!