One of your first questions when you heard about RMT/ACT may have been: “Why are we doing this?”. The primary reason is to create a hub for Registered Massage Therapists to show their support for the profession and advocate for changing how our services are taxed. But you may be wondering why an advocacy campaign is necessary.
“Advocacy” can mean many different things to many different people, but in general, advocacy is about taking action. Advocacy is speaking out or acting toward a cause, idea or policy that affects you, the people or the world around you. It is the pursuit of influencing outcomes—including public policy and funding decisions. It is telling your story so that government is compelled to do (or perhaps, not to do) something.
All governments are faced with competing interests and concerns, as well as policy priorities and fiscal challenges. Advocacy can be a powerful tool in driving the change that we hope to see, but it is only those who engage in this process whose messages are heard. In this way, it is simple—if you do not engage, your position will not be heard, and decisions will be made without taking this perspective into consideration.
But governments at all levels are approached about creating or changing laws all the time. In fact, one of the main tasks of the Canadian Massage Therapy Alliance (CMTA) is to advocate for the profession of massage therapy on a host of issues. But it is even more powerful when individuals (read: voters) impacted by any existing or proposed law speak out.
But it isn’t easy. As a citizen looking in on government, it can look like a confusing labyrinth of committees, sub-committees, offices and councils. It’s hard to know who to raise your issue with, or if it will even be heard.
At this point, you may be thinking to yourself: “I’ve never advocated before or I’m not an “advocate”, so where do I even start?” The good news is engaging with government doesn’t have to be complicated and you’ve already joined the RMT/ACT campaign, so you’re part way there.
Advocacy can take many different shapes and there are a number of fairly simple ways that you can take action to help make sure our collective message is heard and to urge government to remove the HST from massage therapy services.
Share your experience. Telling your story on how this issue impacts you, the people you know, and your patients can be a powerful tool when looking to influence government decisions. This makes the issue real and can truly bring an issue or cause to life. Many of you have already shared your RMT story and we’re using them to help build momentum for our campaign. If you have a story to tell (or maybe another one) we want to hear it!
Share the cause. “Strength in numbers” isn’t just a cliché—without people who are willing to get behind our cause, we cannot move the needle forward. Sharing the action you’re taking on your social media can help bring greater awareness to the RMT/ACT campaign and influence your friends, family and colleagues to join. It can also be a channel for communicating directly with elected members or others who are in a position to influence change. Social media is a powerful engine today and politicians too are watching what is trending on key platforms.
Connect with elected representatives. The most visible form of advocacy is by writing, e-mailing, phoning or meeting with you MPs about the issue you are advocating for. This is the most direct form of advocacy, but not one (understandably) that everyone feels comfortable with. Over the course of our campaign, RMT/ACT will share tips and resources to help our advocates take action in this, and other ways.
There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to advocacy. Not all tactics look the same and not all advocates need to advocate in the same way. The important factor is that we are all motivated to work, collectively, toward the same goal.
This will take dedication and patience. Change is a slow-moving machine and advocacy doesn’t typically result in immediate successes. However, we believe that our patients deserve better and that the massage therapy profession should be treated as the health care service that it is and hope that, like us, that unrest motivates you too to act until the change we seek is realized.
Nothing significant can be achieved without the support of others. Together, we can fight for fairness for massage therapy services and patients.