Threads - Mar 2023 - What is Advocacy?

Manitoba — Mar 2023

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Two people standing for a photo. One holds a bucket and the other holds a fish
Staff members from MCC partner Organization to Develop Our Villages (ODOV) Hat Sinet and Nov Dina, take fish from a net they caught in a fishpond at the farm of ODOV farmer Mok Samun. Over the last two years Samun adopted ODOV's climate change adaptive cyclical model including a drought/flood resilient fishpond that provides water for vegetable gardening and chickens during the dry season.In Khmer tradition, names are written with the surname appearing first, followed by the given name. This format is how names are entered for this photo.
Audio file

Playing time: 14:30

On this episode of Threads, you’ll hear from Leona Lortie and Bekah Sears, both working for MCC's Peace and Justice office, as they discuss climate change, advocacy and peace.

Listen in as our host Kyle Rudge talks to Leona Lortie and Bekah Sears, both working for MCC's Peace and Justice office, as they discuss climate change, advocacy and peace.

Threads, formerly known as Word and Deed, was established in April 2007. It is a 15-minute radio program by KR Words featuring the work of MCC in Manitoba and around the world. Threads broadcasts on CFAM AM 950, CHSM AM 1250 and CHRB AM 1220 at 8:45 am on the first Sunday of the month.

Audio Transcription:

Kyle Rudge (00:02):

It begins with a single thread woven through other thread, and then another and another until we have a single piece of fabric. That fabric is stretched, cut and stitched together with another, just like it. This process is repeated over and over and over until we have a beautiful tapestry that all began with a single thread. Welcome to an MCC Threads, where we look closely at how our stories in Manitoba weave together with the stories of MCC and its partners around the world. Feels like there's a lot more sunshine. Maybe, okay, time change is next week, but you get what I'm saying, that it's reminding us that spring is just around the corner. For me, I feel like we're on that final lap of winter and soon things will start to melt. For me, there's a little hope that this winter is coming to a close.

Leona Lortie (01:16):

Hi, I'm and I'm the Public Engagement and Advocacy Manager for the Peace and Justice office for MCC and I work out of the Winnipeg office.

Bekah Sears (01:28):

Hi, I'm Bekah Sears. I'm the Policy Analyst and Government Relations Specialist here at the Peace and Justice office based in Ottawa.

Kyle Rudge (01:36):

I spoke with Leona and Bekah this month, and hope was definitely at their root motivation and measure of success for their jobs within MCC.

Leona Lortie (01:47):

My title, Public Engagement and Advocacy, really what that entails is advocacy campaigning is the major focus for me in my position for MCC. I work with staff and the provinces and animating advocacy campaigns.

Kyle Rudge (02:05):

Leona as Public Relations, works across Canada helping regional MCC reps shape and inspire conversations about issues as they relate to global peace.

Leona Lortie (02:14):

And the way that Bekah and I work together is really closely on these advocacy campaigns. So I oversee more of the strategy development and direct support for the provinces in public engagement initiatives.

Kyle Rudge (02:29):

Bekah, on the other hand, is focused more on shaping the governmental policies to push for change in issues as they relate to peace.

Bekah Sears (02:35):

In essence, policy analysts and government relations. It's guiding MCC's relationship with the federal government, including the government party and as well as the opposition parties, and bringing the message of MCC's partners and program to the halls of power at parliament. So that's in a nutshell what it is, and it involves a whole lot of things like analyzing what policy is going around, going through the system and based on what we're hearing from our partners, it's beating and speaking with government officials. It's, as Leona said, helping constituents who wanna engage in policy and advocacy to, to engage with their MPs, with MPs that are in charge of different files. It's tracking the political system and ensuring that the best policies are coming forward that would support MCC's operating principles and the work of MCC's partners around the world.

Kyle Rudge (03:40):

All this begs the question, what is advocacy? Why is it important to the peace and justice work of MCC?

Bekah Sears (03:46):

Advocacy is about addressing systems and systems and policies, which sounds a little dry at times, or it sounds a little disconnected maybe to the issues, but its looking at getting at the roots to why things are happening the way they're happening and what can we do about that and how can we change that, how can we address those root causes. And so it's trying to, - it's not replacing the excellent work that MCC already does, it's complimenting it. So it's responding to those in need, but also trying to get at the root of what the problem is and trying to solve that and trying to create a better world and better policies and better systems that that can respond well to, to crises and to long standing challenges like climate change.

Kyle Rudge (04:42):

So right now within MCC’s peace and justice and advocacy team, the international program team and the rest, what are the current priorities?

Leona Lortie (04:51):

When we as an organization looked at, so what should our priorities be for the next strategic plan? One of the things that we heard in those conversations with international program, is that climate change is impacting so many of our programs, our partners, all over the world. And what the ask was, specifically in that process was that, for MCC to address climate change impacts, part of the picture, part of the work that MCC is asked to do by our partners is to do advocacy in Canada and the US.

Kyle Rudge (05:31):

So what does that mean in terms of things like policy?

Bekah Sears (05:34):

Looking for ways that the government is already acting on different things. So climate change is a big significant priority for the current government, and it's something that has been raised and been, in the move in policy circles for a long time. But it's looking at what can, like, how can we do more in this area? So the government currently is addressing issues of mitigation. So the reducing Canada's greenhouse gas emissions is a key component in that. And so Canada is already working on that and our research and through our own research, through our work with coalitions in Canada, through our conversations, we think that Canada can do more on that, not just because Canada can, and not because of the ability, but also because of the responsibility.

Kyle Rudge (06:29):

I get it, climate change, it feels big. It can also feel like kind of a distant thing and peace is a little more straightforward. There's violence and you stop it. But as we dig deeper and ask the question why is there violence, we start to unearth questions like food insecurity and resource scarcity. Then as we dig even deeper than that, we start to discover how climate change is having a huge impact on things like food insecurity and resource scarcity. It's a bit of a chain reaction.

Bekah Sears (07:01):

More and more we're seeing climate change as being linked together with things like conflict in terms of being a cause, or one of the terms is a risk multiplier. So climate change really impacts the social situation in terms of those most vulnerable having access to resources. Climate change also impacts access to water, access to, to food, to good harvests, to good and airable land, to use for farming. And so when these resources are taken away, when they're gone, eliminated by climate change or when they're scarce because of climate change, it also can be a factor in causing conflict between people if there are scarce resources. And so seeing climate change as a risk multiplier in terms of conflict, it brings us to the conversation of addressing climate change in order to also help promote peace and to help promote peaceful communities with access that have peace being a very holistic picture where people have all of their needs met, and there's not scarce resources. They're not needing to feel that they have to defend themselves or defend their resources from others, that everyone has enough. And so looking at that, that peace lens and also climate change, is really difficult. Another kind of angle to that is looking at addressing climate change is difficult in conflict affected states as well. And so conflict affected states are now, that's where most of the world's humanitarian crisis are also in conflict affected states. And it's, it's often because you can't have efforts, it's hard to have development efforts and climate adaptation efforts in these contexts because of the conflict. And so working for peace in order to create opportunities for climate change action.

Kyle Rudge (09:05):

A term that is often spoken within MCC as it pertains to peace and justice is right relationship.

Leona Lortie (09:11):

And what does that look like when we think about climate change impacts and the injustices and the oppression that are part of exacerbating the circumstances that people find themselves in, all over the world in terms of the unfair, unequal impacts felt by communities around the world. So this idea is something that we have come up with in a very collaborative process with speaking with international program staff about what are the best opportunities that we have as an organization to speak into policy development. And that's the direction that we're taking, is to really look at what does it mean to be living into that vision of being in right relationships. So what are just policies? What are just ways of addressing climate change impacts?

Kyle Rudge (10:10):

Whew. Okay. That's some fairly wordy high level stuff. We just kind of dove right into it and I know we like to kind of pace things out a bit better, but it's such a big topic and can be at times controversial. So let's step back a moment. Bekah and Leona, they are clearly passionate about their work, but where did their passion come from? Where did it originate for them? What's their story?

Bekah Sears (10:35):

Yeah, go back to, you know, preteen times. <Laugh> Grew up in a very politically engaged family. And so I remember it was actually Disney afterschool special on Ruby Bridges <laugh>, which is a story of a black girl in New Orleans who became the first girl to go to a white school in the integration process. I mean, this is going way off topic, but that's kind of my roots of this. And I remember that was the time when my faith and kind of my political senses kind of came together and seeing that work for justice. So going, yeah, way back to when I was about 13. So it's been a long journey and it's been evolving and different issues have come up, but it's been pretty consistent in that call for justice.

Leona Lortie (11:29):

Yeah, similar to Becca, I think when I really look at where this comes from, it's really a childhood memory for me. Childhood, teen years memory where just listening to a presentation at church about missionaries that had come home for a home visit and presenting on just poverty in the country that they were serving. I grew up with this, this feeling of why is it this way? Does it really have to be this way?

Kyle Rudge (12:03):

I'm sure we've all felt some push or call to stand up against an injustice from bullies on the playground to homelessness and racism. I'm not sure what it might be for you, but if we pause for a moment and agree that feeling is something we've shared, that desire for our world in a particular moment or a particular issue should be better, how then do we measure success?

Bekah Sears (12:28):

I think it's really hard to measure success in advocacy. We're talking about in our work today about reporting and planning and monitoring and reporting and what is actually a success in advocacy? And I think it's not always gonna be these political big political change moments, and often the change happens really slowly. But I think for me, success is having someone change their mind or think about something differently.

Kyle Rudge (13:02):

And whether my stand or your stand is against something like violence or food insecurity that leads to violence or climate change that contributes to food insecurity, that leads to violence. What can we as Manitobans do to help?

Leona Lortie (13:16):

There's many things that Manitobans can do if you want to get involved with MCC and join others, you know, in our MCC circles, is that we are launching this campaign publicly, digitally around Earth Day this year. So there will be, you know, specific opportunities that just come out of the resources that we're making available for the campaign. So look for the launch of the campaign, I would say. But we already have policy letter writing tools that we have available right now. And maybe Bekah, I'll leave that to you.

Kyle Rudge (13:56):

If you're interested in the work that Leona, Bekah and Marta Bunnett Wiebe, the Peace and Advocacy Coordinator in Manitoba, do here as it pertains to peace, advocacy, justice and things like climate change, you can find out more information at Thank you to Leona and Bekah for taking time during a very busy time of year for them to share how speaking to politicians in Ottawa is an integral part in not only addressing the result of global injustice, but digging up the roots of it. I'm Kyle Rudge, and this is MCC Threads.

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