Cathy Crowe

Tools for Advocacy:

Making a Difference in Our World

Anglican Outreach Networking Conference

 

Keynote

Cathy Crowe

October 2, 2004

 Toronto

  

 

 

Cathy Crowe, Street Nurse, Atkinson Economic Justice Fellow

 c/o Sherbourne Health Centre

365 Bloor St. East, Toronto, ON, M4W 3L4

416-324-5069 ccrowe@sherbourne.on.ca

 

Good Morning. I am really very honoured and happy to be here at a conference with the words advocacy and outreach in the title. One of the reasons has to do with a speech I once wrote but never gave called ďWhy is advocacy a dirty word and why is activism even dirtier?Ē

 

I had to write it because of a three distinct events that happened a few years ago that I can now share. These became important lessons for me.

 

Some of you will know Iíve been doing this work a long time and you can imagine Iíve seen a lot of bad things and Iíve had a lot of hard days. However, you may be surprised to learn that June 15, 2000 was definitely the hardest day I have ever had to work. It was the day of the so called Queenís Park riot and it was necessary that I work as hard as possible to try to message that what happened that day was about homelessness, poverty, hunger and desperation in our province. That was difficult because suddenly activists became targets and propaganda was spread about them.  This was my first hard lesson.

 

The second. The day that I was told that Adam Vaughan from CITY TV was not allowed to enter my worksite Ė even to wait for me to do an interview off site caused me serious concern. Then there was the day that I was forced to do a media interview in the dark in a CBC reporterís parked car on a side street, instead of in my office, on a very innocuous subject. These were the days that I knew I was in serious trouble as a nurse in this province if I was to remain truthful as a nurse advocate.

 

And thirdly, I realized I was not alone. Systemic silencing became the norm. Muzzled were some of our finest workers and agencies. This occurred immediately after Mike Harris was elected. And it was reinforced by our increased reliance on charitable donations and fundraising instead of holding governments accountable. And it was worsened by divisions in the left when we were incapacitated by the attack on social services and weakened as our workers reacted with fatigue, depression, illness, and vicarious trauma in response to the workload they were expected to uphold, and to the trauma they were expected to be in the midst of and stay silent about.

 

This is why Iím happy to be here today, because you have chosen to talk about advocacy.

 

Never has it been more necessary to embrace advocacy

 

Never has it been more necessary to embrace advocacy and never has it been more critical to develop new and creative ways to do the advocacy. Although there are obviously sympathetic politicians, bureaucrats and decision makers, they work in a milieu that is shifting towards privatization, maximum profit, costs versus life, and heavily influenced by polls. People who are poor are increasingly marginalized and stigmatized.  That translates into prejudice, hate crimes, and hate legislation such as Councillor Doug Holydayís motion for a zero tolerance policy for people sleeping at Toronto City Hall in Nathan Phillips Square and for the development of a homeless registry. Itís time we stopped victimizing the victims.

 

So what is advocacy?

 

Advocacy is promoting, fighting for and defending the welfare of others and it is based on caring and on the values of social justice and human rights. I know thatís why you are each here today.

 

Bishop Colin Johnson recently expressed a wish for renewed Anglican passion and energy to tackle child poverty, to provide resources that nurture children, to eradicate HIV/AIDS, to house the homeless and even suggested a special SYNOD on that which I would particularly welcome. He is right to call for this. There will be more bang for the buck with your advocacy because of who you are Ė Anglicans! I donít know how else to say it.

 

Now Iím supposed to be inspirational.

 

I was asked to share with you some of the things Iíve learned about advocacy. So here we go.

Iím going to talk about strategies that Iíve come to realize are, for me, the bricks and mortar of a campaign or movement.

 

Itís a bit of a shopping list. Iím hoping youíll use your imagination to extend the potential of these 11 strategies.

 

1.  The starting point. Locate the work as close as you can to the people affected and involve them.

 

 

2.  Make the problem visible. Witness the truth, show it and tell it despite the obstacles.

 

3.  Develop a sound and simple solution. The powers that be try to make these issues so complex. But really itís about housing the homeless, taking care of our children, making sure people have enough money to live on.

4.  Message and the media.  In most cases the media are essential to getting the message out and influencing public and political opinion.

5.  Developing allies and coalitions Ė that is always useful.

 

6.    Provide logistical support. This is always important because individual groups have limited resources.

7.  Think outside of the box.  This is where creativity comes into play.

8.  Working within legal systems for policy change.  Sometimes you can waste a lot of time in the legal process but sometimes it is worth it.
 

 

9.  Research which must work to influence public policy. It canít just sit on a shelf. It must have a pulse.

        For instance, a document called Death on the streets of Canada did just that. This report by Professor David Hulchanski went to the United Nations and put the problem of homelessness in Canada in plain view.
 

        And there is TB or not TB Ė the results of a public inquiry by the Tuberculosis Action Group (or as we call it TBAG) also put that problem in plain view.
 

        And, the monthly addition of names of homeless deaths for the Homeless memorial at the Church of the Holy Trinity is both powerful and tragic.

10.  Popular panels and public forums. These types of events allow an issue to be teased out, they allow public involvement and are a basic component of community organizing.
 

11. Supporting targeted campaigns. Focused and time specific campaigns on an issue are very rewarding because they are often successful.
 

 

Now Iíve given you some of the tools Iíve come to learn over the years and now Iíd like to give you some concrete ways that you can make a difference.

These are some of the ways you can help:

 

In closing, Iím grateful to be here speaking with you. I believe you have the potential and the power to make great inroads in this province, at this time, on the issues that you will be addressing in your workshops.  I look forward to seeing the power of your prayers and your political influence in truly making a difference in our world.

 

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