The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil
is for good men to do nothing.
~ Edmund Burke ~
JOHN CARTWRIGHT knows the kind of Canada he wants. He knows it’s not anything like the kind the Convoy cult wants. He also knows it will take more than wishing and hoping to get his kind of Canada. That’s why he pushed so hard to bring people together to form the nationwide Community Solidarity Project.
The Community Solidarity Project (CSP) aims to build a strong and solid local presence for positive Canadian values, community by community, as the best way to counter and drown out the “politics of division.” It will use local, community-based organizing to do that.
Time to dig down
“There’s always the question of do you just respond to an event or a crisis and the second it’s gone, you move on?” said Cartwright. “Or are you able to spend the time really digging down, really talking to people and being prepared in case something else happens?”
The CPS website offers ways for people to “dig down.” It offers a handbook for activists to use as a guide to organizing and a messaging toolkit with readymade materials that can be customized for specific audiences and locations.
Marie Dolcetti-Koros, chairperson of the Canadian Federation of Students, said the federation contributed to the creation of a bilingual “toolbox” for the Community Solidarity Project. The toolbox includes poster templates with a space to allow activists to add their own messages like “education for all” to the theme “Together we can achieve.”
Attention and intention
“Our success will require ongoing attention and intention,” says Cartwright, “and people of goodwill coming together and saying: ‘We actually believe in something quite different than what these guys are talking about.’ And hopefully, people that were drawn to the protest will hear from other people in their lives that the convoy was not a good thing to be involved with.”
Diwa Marcelino, the Winnipeg-based national organizer for the Community Solidarity Project, said the initiative seeks to “organize folks on logic and appeal to our common humanity.”
“I spoke to people across the country and they were concerned about the long-term impact of this right-wing populism,” says Cartwright. They also had to admit the convoy message had a struck a nerve.
This initially made many organizations—including unions, and student and faith groups—hesitant about what approach to take to counter it, says Cartwright.
Need for a ‘counter-narrative’
“They said a bunch of their own members were getting drawn into the message of the convoy, to ‘get rid of all this goddamned overreach of the government and don’t be forcing people to take a jab. We’ve had enough of this.’”
All the more reason to “step up and provide courageous leadership,” argued Cartwright, all the more need to create a “counter-narrative.”
The Community Solidarity Project includes leadership from the Canadian Labour Congress, and unions like the Public Service Alliance of Canada and the Canadian Union of Public Employees, as well as interfaith groups and the National Council of Canadian Muslims, along with the Canadian Federation of Students.
“The lesson of the pandemic and our own history as Canadians is that we do way better, not when we tear each other apart, not when the politics of hate and division prevail, but when we do things through public policies and programs—things like health care and the social safety net for the poor and elderly. That’s how we deal with adversity,” said Cartwright.
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