WORKING WITH GOVERNMENT
Government makes the big decisions while influencing many of the small ones. In the words of former Senator Eugene Forsey, "We cannot work or eat or drink; we cannot buy or sell or own anything; we cannot go to a ball game or a hockey game or watch TV without feeling the effects of government."
As Canadians living in a democracy, we elect officials at the municipal, provincial, and federal level to whom we entrust the leadership of our communities. These officials are responsible to the public, just as the public is responsible for communicating their views to their officials. Our views have the potential to influence policy--plans
of action developed to guide decision-making. Communicating with government
ensures that your issue is considered and understood.
There are a number of ways for you to contact government officials to let them know that archives matter to you:
Write a letter
Government officials pay attention to their mail--prominent legislators estimate that 10 letters from constituents represent the concerns of up to 10,000 citizens. Policymakers understand that the individual who takes the time to write may be communicating on behalf of thousands of others. Your voice is important. Take a few minutes to put your thoughts in writing. (See the Toolbox section for letter templates).
- Be informed. Research current policies on heritage and archives; keep an eye out for new government initiatives. The more you know, the more credibility you give to your arguments, and the more you identify yourself as a resource the government can call on for more information.
- Be brief. Keep letters to no more than one page.
- Be specific. Letters are most effective when focused on a particular issue.
- Be polite. Follow formal letter formats as much as possible; avoid a confrontational style. Use a word processor when possible, but be sure to sign the letter by hand.
- Be yourself. Let the person you're writing know how you've been involved with archives. (For example: "As an archivist, I believe…", "As a historian…", or "As a student…"). Reveal the individual behind your arguments and write what you know: how the issue addressed affects you and your community. Write on your personal stationary or on your organizational letterhead.
- Request a response. Ask for the politician or policymaker to reply with his or her position on the issue you've addressed.
- Call first. While letters are generally the most effective way to send a message, fax and email may also be used. Call the office of the official beforehand to ask how he or she prefers to be contacted.
Make a call
While less predictable (it may be difficult to speak directly with the individual you're looking for), a phone call can be an excellent approach to your advocacy efforts.
- As with letter writing, be informed, be brief, be specific, be polite, and be yourself.
- Don't let voice mail disappoint you. Be sure to leave a message, briefly stating who you are, what you wish to discuss, why you wish to discuss it with this individual in particular, and how you can be reached.
Set up a meeting
Meeting with your Member of Parliament or his or her staff is the most direct way to make an impression. A personal connection is a powerful tool for influence.
- Think locally. Members of Parliament have two addresses, a parliamentary address and a constituency address. Contact your MP through the constituency office.
- Be respectful, but don't be intimidated. Identify yourself as a constituent-it's your MP's duty to represent you.
- Be flexible. If a meeting with the MP can't be scheduled, ask if a staff member would be willing to meet to address your concerns.
- Be prepared. Research your issue and your MP's history - what issues has he or she supported in the past? Bring background information to leave with the MP. Be able to present yourself and your issue in 90 seconds; be ready to elaborate according to the MP's questions and time constraints.
- Say thanks. After the meeting, be sure to send a thank-you note to reinforce the relationship and reiterate the issue discussed.
Have you made contact with Government? The Canadian Council of Archives wants to hear about it! Send a copy of your letter or a report of your meeting to:
The Canadian Council of Archives
130 Albert Street
Ottawa, Ontario K1P 5G4
Telephone: (613) 565-1222
Fax: (613) 565-5445