The Voice of Canadians With Breast Cancer

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Advocacy

Contacting Government Relations for Advocacy

Most government officials that you speak to are genuinely interested in hearing what you have to say. People who run for elected office usually do it because they want to make a difference in their communities. They like talking to others and hearing their ideas on how to improve policies and programs. As an elected representative, speaking to constituents and members of their community is also part of their job. 

The staff that develop and run the programs within the government are also interested in hearing about how their programs are working. They are not always able to fix things quickly and easily, but they do listen and will consider the feedback they receive from individuals and organizations.

You can send a letter to your MP, MPP or to a governing body, such as CADTH (Canadian Agency for Drugs and Technologies in Health) or PMPRB (Patented Medicine Prices Review Board) to voice your concerns over a specific policy or program that is impacting you and other breast cancer patients. While you need to identify the problem, solution and a call-to-action as outlined in our “Communicating Your Story” worksheet, you need to go more in-depth with this when contacting someone in government. Doing this ensures that the issue and the solutions that you propose are in fact within the scope of the government.

Below, we outline (downloadable as a Word and PDF document worksheet) how to identify and ensure that your issue is within the scope of the government. If you are unable to answer a lot of these questions, then you might need to find another strategy and avenue for your advocacy.

Problem

What is the actual need for breast cancer patients and how is it not being met by the current policy or program?

Needs Assessment
  • What is the need? 
  • What has external research identified as the need? 
  • Who is affected by the problem? 
  • What is the impact on their lives? 
  • What is the impact on the people around them? 
  • What is the impact on social and economic structures, such as the economy, use of government and non-profit services, etc. 
Environmental Scan
  • Who is the program or policy currently benefiting, and who is being excluded? 
  • What aspects of your life are remaining stable or are improving, and which are not? 
  • What other options and resources, if any, do you have to fill the gap? 

Solution

What needs to happen to reduce or eliminate the gap between what is needed by breast cancer patients, and what is available? Are there existing models, best practices or successes that can be replicated or expanded?

Policy
  • What changes need to be made to the existing policy or program to make it more equitable and responsive to actual need?
Access
  • What are the structural, economic, and social and other barriers that are preventing some people from accessing, or benefitting from a policy or program? 
  • How could changes to administration and delivery make it more responsive to actual need?
Awareness
  • How would strategies to better communicate, or raise the profile, of an existing policy or program make it more effective in reaching those that it needs to reach?

Targets

Who are the people that have the authority and/or jurisdiction that can make changes? Who are the people that can advocate for, or influence others to make changes?

Bureaucratic
  • Who is involved in program planning and administration? Who can be an ally for internal change?
MPs, MPPs and Senators
  • Who are the elected officials representing the individuals that are experiencing the need? 
  • What government committees are involved in program or policy planning and priority setting?
  • Who is already familiar with the issues? 
  • Who needs an introduction to the issues? 
  • Who are the gatekeepers that you need to engage as allies (legislative assistants and other staffers)?

Outcome

What are the tangible, measurable changes that will result from the proposed solutions?

Personal/Individual
  • How will the life of an individual and his or her family improve because of this proposed change? 
Systemic/Institutional
  • How will economic or institutional systems (governmental and non-governmental) improve because of this proposed change? 
  • What opportunities for savings are there?

Strategies

There are various strategies you can use when advocating for an issue if you choose to engage government relations. Depending on your issue, you may decide to employ a single strategy or a combination of strategies to have your issue addressed. Regardless of which strategies you decide to use, the key to successful advocacy is persistence and patience. These strategies include, but are not limited to:

  • Petitions
  • Demonstrations
  • Lobbying and letter writing
Petitions

A petition can be a helpful tool to demonstrate support for a particular issue to influence decision-makers. Petitions are a collection of signatures from people who support change for a given issue. Petitions are particularly useful for straightforward issues - for example seeking to implement a new policy or program. A typical petition includes a brief explanation of the issue, a clear statement of what you are asking for, and a list of signatures supporting the petition. 

It is important to note that provincial and federal governments often have very specific instructions for petition submission, so follow these rules to ensure that your petition will be accepted. 

If you use other strategies and avenues to advocate for your issue, you can ask others to sign your petition as a call-to-action.

Demonstrations

Demonstrations are public events that can help bring widespread exposure to an issue. There are many different types of demonstrations, including marches and rallies. A march involves the advocating group moving from one location to another. The movement of the march can often attract attention from the community, resulting in greater public awareness of the issue. A rally typically takes place in one set location, often of political or symbolic significance. Regardless of the type of demonstration, the intention is the same - to invoke public interest and media attention to your cause. 

Social media can be extremely useful in planning, promoting and documenting a demonstration, as well as for disseminating information to fellow advocates, the media and the general public. If you use other strategies and avenues to advocate for your issue, you can ask others to join your demonstration as a call-to-action.

AnchorLobbying and Letter Writing

Lobbying involves engaging key decision-makers about your concerns. It can be done through writing letters, emails and meeting with elected and appointed representatives. It can be done at the local, municipal, provincial, or federal levels and you can lobby on your own or as part of a larger group. When lobbying a decision-maker, it is critical to keep your messaging brief and concise. You should be able to summarize your issue in a few short statements, propose 1-2 potential solutions to the issue and have a specific ask for the decision-maker. Sharing a relevant personal anecdote can help convey the impact of the issue and forge a connection with the decision-maker. 

If you use other strategies and avenues to advocate for your issue, you can ask others to join a lobbying group as a call-to-action.

You can use these sample letters to government officials, CADTH and PMPRB as examples of what engaging government relations via letter writing looks like.

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