The success of the BlackOutSpeakOut campaign in forcing the Harper Conservatives to send a defensive team of 10 Cabinet Ministers across the country is a clear signal that much larger protest campaigns can be even more successful in defending the rights of Canadians.
The fact that more than 500 groups joined the protest and that individuals sent 32,000 emails to MPs is encouraging news for the Campaign to Build One Big Campaign (CBOBC). CBOBC was created in April to promote exactly this kind of campaign. Click here to access our Facebook page.
Groups representing hundreds-of-thousands of people blacked out their websites and social media pages and replaced them with BlackOutSpeakOut messages, along with a link to the website of the organizing group. Organizations are protesting the near-certain passing of Bill C-38, which will lead to environmental destruction and the suppression of free expression.
The success of the project shows the need to bring together thousands of progressive groups, progressive unions, First Nations people, Occupiers, and community activists to take on the Harper government and its corporate supporters in a wide range of areas.
Because of its uniqueness and the large number of groups involved, the protest campaign received extensive coverage in the mainstream media. Normally, progressive groups and networks seldom receive much coverage in the corporate media, which is very pro-Harper.
Remarkably, the campaign demonstrated that the authoritarian-leaning CONS are more vulnerable to public opinion than many people thought. So the CONS have been forced into damage control – something that seldom happens. Harper has sent 10 cabinet ministers across the country during the week to try to counteract the campaign’s criticism of Bill C-38.
The BlackOutSpeakOut campaign is the start of the kind of creative thinking that has to go into building effective campaigns. For too long, too many Canadian groups have felt that campaigning involved sending a protest letter to the PMO or signing a petition.
Campaign organizers were rightly pleased by their success. Bruce Cox, executive director of Greenpeace Canada, said that all the ministers heading out across the country all have their speaking notes. “This is a government that’s responding to the initiative.”
John Fraser, Conservative fisheries minister in 1984-5, said: “The continued survival of B.C. icons like migratory salmon and steelhead are put at risk through this far-reaching omnibus bill. It’s bad policy and it's bad democracy. I'm speaking out today because I'm a Conservative and nobody can pretend to be a real Conservative if they are not a conservationist."
The BlackOutSpeakOut campaign’s greatest successes were that it put the CONS back on their heels, created greater public awareness, and surely gave protesting groups a new sense of confidence.
The BlackOutSpeakOut organizers have not indicated whether they plan to hold further protest activities, but CBOBC believes that the success of this effort shows that a huge, well-organized co-operative campaigning venture consisting of thousands of groups can have even greater success.
Other creative campaigns can be designed to stop some of the terribly destructive things Harper is doing. But big campaigns must be well thought out and have a clear objective if they are to be successful.
For instance, if thousands of groups were to come together to protest income inequality in Canada, instead of having the CONS as the main target, the campaign could single out the Canadian bank with the most outrageous profits and salaries. If anything in Canada is a symbol of greed, it is the banks. Once a bank was selected, the campaign could employ a number of tactics to make their point – such as selecting perhaps 10 branches across the country that would be boycotted and picketed.
Special campaigns can also be designed to take on corporations that exploit the environment and Canadians. In the U.S., Forest Ethics is waging a highly successful campaign to have major American oil users boycott oil that comes from the tar sands. Internationally, Greenpeace is waging a highly successful campaign to stop companies from buying illegal, endangered lumber from several countries.
Enbridge, the giant company behind the Northern Gateway pipeline, could be vulnerable to a series of well orchestrated massive campaigns that could include tactics such as a boycott of certain consumer products, people cancelling their gas contracts, rotating pickets at key facilities, and even a campaign to influence shareholders at the annual meeting.
CBOBC is currently operating a Facebook page and will soon have a website that will encourage organizations to come together to carry out creative and effective campaigns. Groups across the country will be approached to join in a co-operative venture where they can link up with other organizations to have greater success in designing and carrying out their campaigns. For further information email: email@example.com
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