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A Generation of Advocates

“What do we want? Justice! When do we want it? NOW! What do we want…” I heard, as I walked through the heart of downtown Ottawa. The cries of a nation in uproar and disgust at yet another death of an innocent body; a person who continually had experienced disregard and distrust in a system where they were trodden on, discriminated against, and continually and systemically put at a disadvantage in this society.  

It’s been a long year, and things I wished to see change 6 months ago are still getting only minimal attention. As a young person getting ready to leave behind university’s midterms & paper deadlines, I am at a crossroads of deciding in what area of my field I want to participate in making change in this society. What I have learned is that whatever I do, being dedicated to a long-term goal of gradual change instead of instant change, is a strength, but I didn’t realize how much itexactly this could be a strength until this past month.

There is always more work to do when justice is not just an end goal, but a process

Only a year back, as a society we collectively witnessed a movement re-emerge that continued the cry for justice in a broken system of oppression which many people experience daily. The cries I heard continue to be shouted, as there is always more work to do when justice is not just an end goal, but a process that needs to be created & implemented. In the last month in particular, our society has been turning its collective attention towards the excruciating injustices and violence that have been committed against the people of the Algonquin community, the Stó:lô people, the Inuit communities, and the many other Indigenous communities throughout North America.

To generalize, my generation can tend to lack trust in institutions, something that researchers are highly interested in studying today. For good reason, though; as a young person in this society, I have heard how the stories of police brutality and the hurt that is unaddressed in a lot of church communities can be deeply wounding. It is a hard realization for me to face as an individual, but also as someone operating within institutions like these, since I simultaneously recognize that we need these institutions because through them there are opportunities for change to be made in a way that individual voices are having a hard time accessing. This is why teaching advocacy to the younger generation is a necessity. 

We also have the ability to push forward the issues we care about to the forefront of these representatives’ minds and agendas.

Thus, in the last few weeks, I have been doing a deep dive into learning about this kind of political advocacy, and while doing so I realized two things: first, this type of work has the potential for real change, and second, not enough every-day, young people know enough about it to do this well.  

Among my peers, I have seen the call for justice being readily met by those who are wanting to make a difference, and are taking it upon themselves to do the work of learning and unlearning. As we do this, we need to take advantage of the ways we can utilize our freedoms to advocate on behalf of the injustices we see, and this time on a political level. The institutions that govern us, can become avenues of change for us -but first we have to learn how to work together with our elected officials, and build relationships with them, that will outlast the ups and downs of the changing tides within the political sphere. If we all have the ability to speak to our representatives, like MP’s & officials, we also have the ability to push forward the issues we care about to the forefront of these representatives’ minds and agendas.

In order to begin working towards real change, as gradual as this might be, we have to use these tools of political advocacy that have been given to us. If you are personally looking for a place to learn more about how you can advocate for yourself and for the issues that you deeply care about, I would humbly offer you a few suggestions. I have learned that it’s important to work on becoming educated about how to do political advocacy well by seeking the help of people who have been doing this type of work for a while now. I would recommend Amanda Sussman’s The Art of the Possible: A Handbook for Political Advocacy, or the new online course by the Centre for Public Dialogue, “Faith in Action,” where you can learn how to start advocating to those that represent you, in order to make your voice and the voice of your community heard. Or, you can get in contact with us to start this conversation. Anyone can advocate for the issues that they care about; you just have to start somewhere!

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