Canada is Free and Freedom is Its Nationality

Sir Wilfrid Laurier

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Event Blogging the Wilberforce Weekend: Principles of Effective Participation in Advocacy Campaigns

Please Note: This is a summary of the events and speeches in my own words for educational, information, and entertainment purposes only. It is not the speakers' exact words and should not be taken as such. It also may contain errors due to the nature of the medium. I am not responsible for any of them, use at your own risk and consult the official videos and/or audio record if you want to verify or quote anything.

Preston Manning has been in Parliament and founded two political parties that became official opposition. He published a book called "Think Big". He is CEO of The Manning Centre for Building Democracy and is involved with the Fraser Centre. He also speaks on many different issues. He and his wife have 5 children and 10 grandchildren.

Preston Manning takes the mike.

Wilberforce's anti-slavery movement was a campaign to right a great social evil. One of the most successful advocacy efforts in British history, it stretched over 50 years.

There were many heroes who were motivated to this work by their faith

Sharpe the legal mind
Clarkson the organizer
Moore was into education
John Newton the 6:20 Amazing Grace
Stevens lawyer and strategist
Clapham Group which provided spiritual support
The Parliamentarians especially William Wilberforce

Most were young, evangelical Christians from the Wesley/Whitfield revival.

This is coming from a religious perspective but these lessons can be good for people of other faith convictions.

Our agenda for this lecture is to extract principles and lessons from the movie Amazing Grace.

The Great Guideline "Be wise as serpents and gracious as doves" Matt. 10:16

This applies whatever your faith conviction. During the first year of Jesus's ministry He was the only public figure, His disciples just followed and listened. After a year He sent out His disciples to do work on their own but before He sent them out He gave them a talk which included this verse.

The serpent is the image of the devil and the dove is the image of the Holy Spirit, in other words this is saying be smart as the enemy but gracious as God.

Don't be vicious as snakes and dumb as pigeons.

Jesus was once asked about paying taxes to Caesar. This was a loaded question because whatever His answer He would be seen as either a traitor to the Jews or to the Romans. Strategy point one: He didn't answer right away. Sometimes shutting up is the best response. He asks for a coin. Then He asks who's picture is on the coin. His answer is "Give unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's and unto God the things that are God's" This was a quick sound bite and was very shrewd.

A Gracious Resolution

Slavery was a taboo subject in the house of Lords. Some moral crusaders would have rushed into there cursing the trade and everyone involved in it. Pitt said that this would make sure the subject was never raised again for 20 years.

This was the resolution. "That this House at it's earliest convenience, give consideration to the circumstances surrounding the slave trade."

This was very mild and gracious. Pitt was very good at the serpentry part.

William Wilberforce was gracious. "I mean not to accuse anyone but to take the shame upon myself in common indeed with the whole Parliament of Great Britain .... We are all guilty."
Many in the House of Lords were benefitting from the trade if not actual slave owners

Stephen came up with the idea to divide the slave traders by bringing forward an anti-French bill that included anti-slavery issues.

What can we learn from our past mistakes in handling of moral issues like abortion. We went for all or nothing in the abortion debate.

Two-Fold Test: Is it wise? Is it gracious?

Two-track approach

The suppression of the slave trade by legal means
The reformation of manners by social actions and service. Factory conditions, cruelty to animals, etc.

People believed his legal approach because he showed his care in other practical ways.

Seize the High Moral Ground

Begin the initiate by identifying and empathizing with the suffering that you seek to alleviate. People want to start with first moral principles or the legal issues. That is a mistake. Don't start there with the public.

A saying is "We don't care how much you know until we know how much you care."

When the people feel that you care they will listen to your principles and laws. In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus got his authority from being in the community for 30 years and being able to identify with them.

In the case of the current bill before Parliament, there were six speakers who spoke after the bill was presented. Only one started by addressing suffering and that was the other Bloc member.

The anti-slavery activists used a case where 130 slaves were thrown overboard in a storm. They used blood encrusted chains and ex-slaves with brands. The abolitionists started by using compassion, then moved to principles.
The public is motivated by fear in their support of euthanasia. They are afraid of dying more than death, there is a fear of abuse, fear of loosing control, fear of pain. We need to identify with the fear and sympathize. Then we can get the moral credibility to speak.

Building a Coalition

William Wilberforce "bringing together who are likeminded and who may at some time or other combine ...for the public good" is a principle "of first rate importance."

We need to bring together people who agree on a few issues even if they disagree on a whole bunch of other things. What is the common ground of people who oppose euthanasia? Clever opponents will try to blow coalitions apart. They throw thins in the middle to create division. With the abolitionist there were lines between Quakers and people like Fox.

You need to figure out how you can defend your coalition from attack. Be preemptive, anticipate division and figure out how to deal with it ahead of time.

Support the campaigner with spiritual resources.

There will be discouragements. Opponents of William Wilberforce gave his supporters tickets to an opera and so they lost an important vote. The French revolution hurt them badly because the abolitionists were identified with it. Wilberforce was depressed and ill. Clarkson opted out for over a decade.

Personal spiritual resources, Wilberforce had "The Great Change". He would have said you need a personal inner change before you can ask others to change

Counsel of Godly pastors like John Newton

Fellowship of a support/accountability group. The Clapham group was called a sect but we would have called it a support group. They probably kept Wilberforce in the game when things got tough. This is key to long term success.

Side note: A copy of the talk with PowerPoint Slides will be available.

Be clear on objective/strategy. Distinguish between immediate objectives and your ultimate objective. Don't go for all or nothing

Utilize the tools of democracy, almost all of which were invented or used during this campaign
Boycott, pamphlet, petition, public meeting. Today there is social networking.

Shift the discussion/decision to the most favourable arena. Wilberforce wanted to shift the power from the House of Lords where they would never win to the House of Commons.
Today we need to shift from the Supreme Court to Parliament

Meticulous research and preparation, prepare your case and for your campaign meticulously and thoroughly.

There are a few people at each end on any issue and about 60% floating around in the middle

Use existing law (e.g. the Charter) someone got a judge to declare slavery illegal using existing law before Parliament passed it's bill.

Learn to use the Charter. Our opponents use the charter but we should and we can. This Bill is actually unconstitutional because it legislates medical practice which is a provincial matter.

Address the Myths that sustain the status quo, like pain is unmanageable.

Stick to your key messages.

Speak with one voice. Figure out who is the most credible spokesperson. (not politicians) and get the messages coming from those people.

Watch your language, invent new language if you must.

Be Prepared for Setbacks


Question 1 By phrasing this as a Christian thing you have marginalized people like the questioner and also marginalized the issue in Canada. You say that the anti-slavery was Christian but there is actually another side. This should be phrased as a social not religious issue

Answer 1 I thought I made it clear at the beginning. This campaign is instructive and has a faith dimension, but the lessons from this are relevant whether you are coming from a faith background or not.

Q1 Suggests cut back on Christian content in slides

A1 Good advice.

Q2 There is a difference between Wilberforce and our situation because euthanasia is illegal but slavery was legal. So it is really the opposite situation.

A2 Good point but to get Parliament to do what you want, whether to change or keep a law, is the same. It is unfortunately easier to rally people against things than for things. This is a challenge when trying to get support for things like palliative care.

Q3 We need to change from negative to positive debate, enhancing support and allying fear.

A3 That will be a challenge for small groups, to frame the debate in a positive way.

Q4 Our opponents have their own religion and use a Wilberforce campaign. In New Hampshire we had success because we said euthanasia supports elder abuse. This is a public safety issue which appeals across the board.
Q5 Fletcher, who is disabled, wrote a National Post article about why he is sitting out of the debate. He supports euthanasia but thinks that is unacceptable until we offer more alternatives to euthanasia.

A5 Fletcher is an example of a credible spokesperson because he has been in that situation. In his book he talks of his fear of going to hospital lest someone think he is not worthy of life.

Q6 This speaker has a disability and has to deal with this issue. In the disability movement we reject the word "suffering" because it is dehumanizing. I get nervous with using the word suffering, when we do so we create pitiable people. We have been before the Supreme Court many times. We think that should be a single issue, short term coalition. Don't drag in abortion and so forth.

A6 This addresses two things, campaign strategy like long term or short term, narrow or broad as well as finding a good spokesperson.

Q7 About identifying with suffering. He has close family with disabilities. He can silence opponents because of that but it shuts down the debate and brings it back to just the issue of choice.

A7 Opponents use suffering so we need to either identify too or change the battleground

Q8 Works with people with Down Syndrome. We are facing a generation coming up who will never know someone with Down Syndrome because of prenatal diagnosis. We support fair and balanced information. We encourage people with Down Syndrome to talk about their marginalizing experiences and their vulnerability within the medical system.

Q9 In answer to the first questioner. This is going to be lead mostly by people of faith, most are Christian but not all. We should create a multi-faith coalition. I am Catholic but my greatest support in same-sex marriage opposition was from Muslims. We want non-believers in our coalition. However whether we like it or not it will be guided by people of faith, which is more than just Christians.

Q10 Questioner 4 feel marginalized by this. She is not a practicing religious person but is a leader in her area.

A10 We need different perspectives. Faith based arguments work best for some people, secular arguments for others. We don't need division.

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