Political Literacy Campaign: Getting Involved in Politics
Understanding contentious politics:
Political activity that involves extra activity such as petitions, protests, riots, violence, civil war and revolution. Since we are referring to Canada, certain things such as war and revolution are not applicable, therefore our focus is on what citizens can do with the power they have.
Why is this important: the term contentious politics refers to the idea that the call to action that people want to see from the government. This is why we protest, lobby, and create policy change. Our previous courses laid out the different aspects of what each government is responsible for. Using that knowledge, the next step is form your own opinions about what you care about and how it affects your story as a person living in Canada
Our previous course laid out the stories of three different women, and how politics personally affected them. They wanted to see change for the better because it had direct impacts on their family and lifestyle. In the same way, contentious politics allows us to focus on what we find important, and go forward in choosing to create change.
Politics allow for citizens to come together free from state coercion to debate things. Oftentimes, many groups can be frozen out of the system in democracies, especially minorities. For instance, indigenous in settler states have their own treaties and way of living with laws, however they can be informally marginalized. Indigenous contentious politics can occur in extensively democratic countries since they are not properly recognized by the state.
How can you get involved:
- Letter to MP’s- Members of parliament work for the government and in turn for the people. This means they are always open to communication from their citizens. Any politician always has a website with all their contact information. You can email, call their office, post a letter or find them on social media to say whatever you need to say. This is one way of creating close relationships with the people of our government. Tell them everything, tell them your stories, what you want to see change, the ideas you have. Do not view them as daunting scary people who are much higher than you.
- Town council meetings- There are certain town council meetings that are open to the public. Most of these events are displayed in the local newspaper or websites. The schedules can be found with a quick google search. If you want to have a first glance at how a meeting works, and what might be discussed, it is a good opportunity to get close to an issue you care about by sitting in on a town meeting.
- Protests: Protests are an incredible way to show your passion for an issue you believe in. Peacefully protesting allows you to stand with others who share the same concerns. It brings communities together, requires minimal effort, and can have adverse impacts on legal change. Recently there were strings of protests throughout the GTA to stop the colonization of the Palestinian peoples. Protesting is a constitutional right and something any individual can do, even if the story or the issue may not impact you directly, strength and pressure lies in numbers.
Protests that have worked: These are just a few examples of protests that brought about change.
- The March for Our Lives: After a school shooting on the 14th of February, protests of 1.2-2 million across the United States occurred leading to state legislature change to raise the age for gun laws and solidifying certain factors in owning a firearm.
- Protests in Minneapolis after the death of George Floyd resulted in Minneapolis banning chokeholds and neck restraints by police
- Vancouver protests against building on the pipeline
- The Women’s march after the inauguration of Trump
4. Technology: television and the internet have spurred ways for protests to reach a large and global audience. Social media posts and platforms now provide opportunity to join groups, sign petitions, create content and research about the topics you care about
Politics and You:
Throughout this course you may have asked why? Why me? Why any of us? What is politics and the legal system and why would it affect any of us reading? When you choose to take the stance of “not being into politics” you choose to let the status quo thrive, and not engage in change of any kind. Our status quo does not work, if it did, we would have far less racism, sexism, and violence of any kind towards groups in Canada. OUr status quo thrives off of ideologies that are not equal in nature and do not aid all groups, it thrives off of inequality and discrimination. Sometimes politics seems so daunting and impossible that it actually convinces you that it is too irrelevant and inaccessible for some people. It might confuse you or throw so many terms at you that you give up navigating how it works and leave it to the “experts”. Or it convinces you that neutrality actually does mean staying neutral and choosing to opt out of opinions is only that. Both these things are false. Our political system NEEDS different perspective, it NEEDS women and women of color who make it their goal to change these barriers, and it NEEDS to be a simple and accessible concept for everyone. This is why all the information given here is a necessity to those reading. Why should you care about politics? Because politics affects everything you do as a Canadian citizen, in far more detail than our course even laid out. Choosing to not be involved in it, means you choose to not help our society be better and help maybe even your own family and friends.
Tell your story, make politics personal to you. You’ve learned the basics from this course, now you can research and form your opinions on what YOU find important and why. What aspect of politics tells your story and what change do you want to see? These questions should be in our minds whenever we see injustice or whenever we see a disparity in the system and only then can we achieve long term prosperous change.