VOWs Lobby: International Women’s Day in Ottawa
by Lyn Adamson, co-chair Canadian Voice of Women for Peace
LOBBY REPORT – March 6 – 8th, 2016 –
Ottawa: Judith Wouk, Toby Brooks, Marion Kerans, Diane McIntyre Debbie Grisdale,
Toronto: Janis Alton, Lyn Adamson, Jean Lee, Alana Sarapnickas
Nova Scotia: Sandra Greenberg, Sarah Morgan
BC: Hannah Hadikin
I found it very exciting and very positive to be part of our two lobby days March 7th and 8th. I really enjoyed going to Ottawa with a group of informed and dedicated peace activists for dialogue with our members of Parliament. And for me it was the first time coordinating the training for our Voice of Women for Peace agenda.
We met in Ottawa on March 6th to prepare for lobbying, at Diane McIntyre’s home. We had about 5 hours to prepare. This included presentations by Beth Woroniuk on Resolution 1325 and the role of women in peacebuilding and by Debbie Grisdale on nuclear disarmament. We also connected with Joe Davidson (a friend of Lyn’s) on the Arms Trade Treaty, and with Tamara Lorincz on the military budget. Janis and Lyn had also prepared materials for circulation among our lobby contingent, on VOW and on climate change. We also developed materials to leave with the MPs we were to meet with. We discussed the purpose of lobbying, the tone that we wanted to have, and the roles we would play, from timekeeper to notetaker, and who would present the chosen issues at each of the meetings. We had copies of bios for the MPs we were to meet with, and we arranged a meeting time the next morning.
Our group included VOW members from Nova Scotia and BC as well as Ontario. Some of us travelled from Toronto and some live in Ottawa. There were 12 of us, and we attended 9 meetings with MPs, including 2 with party leaders (Tom Mulcair and Elizabeth May) in groups from 4 – 10 at a time. We also attended 3 additional meetings, all on Tuesday March 8th. We started the day with an International Womens’ Day Breakfast on Parliament Hill, hosted by NDP Status of Women critic Sheila Malcolmson. A highlight was hearing speaker Cindy Blacklock, an advocate for the rights of indigenous children for programs and services they need. On the same day we also attended a lunch meeting with the Canadian Peace Initiative, Paul Maillet (board member). Later the same day we attended a meeting with the Nobel Women’s Initiative. In addition to learning about each other’s work we talked about possibly undertaking an initiative together in 2017.
On our first day we met with Randall Garrison, Elizabeth May and Omar Alghabra. On the second day we met with Sheila Malcolmson, Helene Laverdiere, John McKay and Janis’ MP Sven Spengemann, as well as meeting with Hannah’s MP Richard Cannings and an impromptu meeting with NDP leader Tom Mulcair. Altogether we met with 5 NDP MP’s, 3 Liberal MPs, and Green Party leader Elizabeth MP.
And just this week Janis, Lyn, and Ainuna, a Toronto VOW member, met with Lyn’s MP Carolyn Bennett, who had been unable to meet with us in Ottawa, bringing our total of MP meetings to 10, 4 with Liberals.
We are thankful to Ottawa VOW members for diligent preparation – Judith Wouk, Toby Brooks, and Marion Kerans, and our host Diane McIntyre and to those delegates who joined the prep calls and helped us with materials. Tamara’s handout on military spending was very helpful. A special thank you as well to VOW members who travelled a long distance to attend. It was really helpful to have the membership from across the country represented.
A thank you card was sent to VOW board member Sandra Boisvert who helped us in the beginning with creating a list of MPs that we could ask to meet with, based on their roles in Parliament. Our lobby preparation group met once weekly for several weeks to coordinate our preparation.
Now we are in the follow up phase – keeping in touch with MPs who seem willing to undertake an action on behalf of these concerns, for example to join Parliamentarians for Nuclear Disarmament.
I hope that VOW will consider undertaking this lobby initiative again. While it was particularly important to do this early in the mandate of the new Liberal government, it’s always important to keep the pressure on. It would be useful to now do a debrief meeting to share our learnings and to continue our follow up contacts with these offices.