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Canada: West End Dial-In shows citizens how to contact their member of Parliament

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“Hi, can we help you find your MP?”

Hot-pink decorations, homemade cookies and direct democracy greeted walk-ins to 1161 Dundas St. W. on Sunday, as two young Torontonians organized the West End Dial-In, an event aiming to connect everyday citizens with the political process.

The dial-in was planned in less than a week by Marlowe Granados, 25, and Ariella Starkman, 24, who said they were moved by the U.S. travel ban to do something in their local community..

“We’re in a time politically where we don’t have the privilege to be complacent anymore,” Starkman said. “But I don’t want this to be a day where we tell people what to call their MPs about.

“People can come in with their own motivations, we simply have information that can help them find their MPs and some talking points they can (read from) should they want to take immediate action.”

The pop-up gallery space featured tables lined with literature on how the travel ban affects Canadians, a Handbook for the Days Ahead with tips from the Canadian Civil Liberties Association and, most importantly, provided a community space for everyday people to make a call or write an email.
“People sometimes find the political process hard to access,” Granados said, adding that many people forget they’ve always had the power to call their MPs about the issues that matter to them.

But cold-calling politicians can be intimidating for some, she said. The language can be difficult; government websites are hard to navigate and many people just might not know where to start.
“If people are not yet politically active, we want them to feel like they can be and give them an easy entry point,” Starkman said. “It’s super important to be in a community and to use your voice, power and privilege. We feel lucky to have these resources to reach out to people, so it’s important for us to use and share them.”

It was 25-year-old Basia Wyszynski’s first time calling her member of Parliament on Sunday.

The daughter of a Polish immigrant said she felt compelled to come and pick up the phone because of her own family history and because “everything that’s happening right now is crazy.”

“I think if enough people call, (MP’s) will consider talking to Justin Trudeau about immigration policy,” she said. “I think (calling) was a good first step for me and it will lead me to being more involved.”

And now that she has a number to call, she said she plans to use it.

“I think it’s just through the small actions of people every day that positive change happens,” she said, “and that includes me.”

Organizers say they’d be willing to help set up more dial-ins if there’s ongoing interest and are happy to share their resources if you contact them through Facebook.

Cross posted from The Star: https://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2017/02/05/west-end-dial-in-shows-citiz...