The specifics of this post relate to Canada, but it may be a similar process for other countries.
I think it is empowering to express yourself on an issue important to you, so writing your political representative is one option.
Whenever we express ourselves, especially nowadays in a time of increasing censorship, it is difficult to measure the risk of consequences–this we have to weigh ourselves. Because of this, however, what we say and how we say it, should reflect what is most important to us. Simplify your statement. Add your main arguments if you want. Don’t assume how the person will respond or that they will agree with you. In my experience, I think you can expect a Member of Parliament to respond–and they may supply you with useful information also.
I think that just expressing ourselves openly can be very empowering. It is an expression of true democracy. It is really unfortunate for me to feel that I am a dissident and expressing dissent but that’s how I see it.
Another term for dissent is non-consent. I feel it is critical for me to express non-consent with various policies, laws, values and messages. That’s why I enjoyed running politically for a small party in the past. To me, that is the main value of running independently or for a party which allows a wide enough expression of views (if any do).
In my opinion, expressing yourself through official channels, publicly, can potentially gum up the works of the agenda. It messes up the image of a smooth sea of compliant minds (made that way through the Propaganda techniques of Edward Bernays) –and rolls a wave or two under the agenda –morally, philosophically, spiritually, psychologically and perhaps legally. Using language creatively in order to engage with reality opens up parts of our own minds and possibly the minds of others.
Politicians (and other types of leaders you might want to communicate with) are taught about democratic political theory in their law and political science classes–maybe even at their lodge meetings. The system claims to be democratic. That’s actually a moral and ethical claim its representatives often make, so expressing your own opinion clearly puts that claim to a test of legitimacy just by doing so. When reading your opinion in a letter or email, the reader might tend to mentally start counting again–various bills they voted for in the past or bills their party has committed them to. Do the numbers still add up after reading your letter? Do they have any idea of what the numbers are on that issue in terms of the population of the country? Have you or anyone else ever been asked your opinion officially on this subject that matters to you?
What if enough people one day suddenly decided to express themselves? What happens when the numbers don’t start to look so compliant? These representatives are human beings–and they like to be seen as correct–and many of them may even start to feel uncomfortable with even one person’s differing opinion being presented to them.
You should be able to use the following links to identify and contact your constituency / electoral district / riding and hence your MP or federal Member of Parliament:
Current Members of Parliament: https://www.ourcommons.ca/Parliamentarians/en/members
- Current Constituencies (Electoral Districts or Ridings): https://www.ourcommons.ca/Parliamentarians/en/constituencies
- Addresses and Phone Numbers: https://www.ourcommons.ca/Parliamentarians/en/members/addresses
- Go here: https://www.ourcommons.ca/Parliamentarians/en/constituencies
- Select your province on the right.
- Click on a constituency that might include your location.
- E.g. Pickering-Uxbridge: https://www.ourcommons.ca/Parliamentarians/en/constituencies/Pickering-Uxbridge(799)
- The profile page, if it’s the right one, lists the Member of Parliament, their email address and local constituency office.
- To confirm this is the correct constituency for you, click on the Elections Canada links to “Profile” and “Map“
- The map page will have a boundaries description at the bottom along with a more detailed pdf map. Check to see if it includes your location.
- The profile page will show you the adjacent constituencies if you picked the wrong one.
- This is not a post about registering to vote, but you can use the postal code search and other information on this page: https://www.elections.ca/Scripts/vis/FindED?L=e&QID=-1&PAGEID=20. If you live on the border between two constituencies or two municipalities, the postal code search might prompt you for your street name and municipality also before giving you a result. Confirm with the map and boundaries information again to make sure. If there are any doubts, contact one of the constituency offices to confirm.
Are letters better than emails? Letters can be sent free without any postage to Members of Parliament. I believe that letters might still be more effective than emails. I think that free political expression is a right in any venue, but I think there has been an effort to corral people into ineffective echo chambers on the Internet. Has the use of the Internet downgraded our opinions and made them less visible? My feeling is to use more paper more often if you can. But do what you can, paper or phone or email.
Some issues are more relevant to the provincial level of government than federal even though there is a lot of overlap. Identifying your provincial representative is a different topic–but it’s the same idea. If you believe, based on your research, that the issue is relevant to your federal MP, then write them anyway and they might very well give you a more accurate picture of which jurisdiction deals with which aspect of the issue.
Even though they may agree with some of what you have to say, I believe they are fixed in their policy stands based on their party commitments. My attitude is that it’s best to talk to them politely and treat them as a human being you are trying to talk to in person. Don’t threaten or make ultimatums with them, etc. but have an expectation that they will read your letter and consider what you have to say. Many of the issues we are being confronted with because of the compliance of politicians are very serious matters at the level of societal subversion. So of course our fears and other personal emotions run high, so we need to keep a lid on the emotions–this is easier to do when expressing ourselves in writing–our emotions can undermine our communication efforts very easily. Keep it very formal and even make it friendly if you want to, but don’t water down your opinion. Keep it as short as possible so that it is more effective (I need to tell myself that).
You don’t need to add a list of reasons for why you hold your position unless they clarify the issue. I don’t believe you need to add any if you don’t want to. Your position is that you do not consent to whatever the government is doing or whatever a particular law is. That is something in itself. Your main point is that you disagree or agree with policy X. If the other person wants a discussion with you, OK, good, but remind them of your main point and that you hold to it even as they try to pick off your reasons one by one. Respond, but don’t let them forget your main point. That is your opinion. Nobody gives you time to debate your reasons when voting for a representative. If you had a vote on a specific issue, and our system doesn’t allow for votes on specific issues, nobody would expect you to present your reasons. We have this basic principle of having a democratic voice as citizens of Canada but we don’t have it in a voting form that is concrete and enforcible on specific issues. But we should express ourselves remembering that many of our rights and freedoms are clearly expressed in the Charter nevertheless.
If the MP responds with counter-points, that’s good, and if you find his points don’t change your mind, don’t be surprised. It’s good that what you said challenged him/her to some degree. He also might have given you some useful information about the issue. Go ahead and respond to his points or ask him for more information on what other officials you can speak to or what other ways exist for you to address this issue such as speaking at parliamentary committee meetings–possibly you should ask this in the initial letter.
Other information from advocacy groups (unrelated, no endorsement implied) on how to address MPs:
- How to Address Government Officials in Canada: http://www.peacemakers.ca/research/Canada/FormsOfAddress.html
- How to Communicate Effectively with Members of Parliament: https://cpa.ca/documents/advocacy_p5.htm
- Write or Email your Member of Parliament: https://ccrweb.ca/en/write-your-member-parliament