Not all petitions have the same impact. We have all received urgent requests to sign various petitions and can wonder if they are doing any good. The sad reality is that too often these petitions are not doing anything other than providing the sponsoring organization with your data for mailing lists. Adding your name to a random petition isn’t effective political action that impacts the current debate within Parliament.
Here at We Need a Law, we will never use petitions for data mining. In fact, it’s generally our policy to share only official government petitions. When you sign an official House of Commons Petition, that goes to the government, and they have to respond. These official petitions do something.
There are two types of House of Commons petitions – paper petitions and official e-petitions.
Paper petitions are the most helpful, as they enable an MP to stand up in the House of Commons and speak about any petition that has 25 signatures. In the case of petitions relating to pro-life bills, this means that a pro-life MP will have the opportunity to speak to the issue, keeping the injustice of abortion consistently in front of our government.
E-petitions send a message to the broader public that Canadians support pro-life legislation. It acts as the final, recorded tally of public opinion on the issue, just as MPs give their recorded vote on a pro-life bill. We have had MPs express their disappointment over the confusion between the official petitions and data mining petitions. It is vital to support these courageous MPs in their work and ensure that the e-petitions are actively promoted while they are up. Sadly, the message conveyed when an official government pro-life petition fails to garner support is that abortion is not an issue that is important to Canadians. Government e-petitions are usually found on the House of Commons website at petitions.ourcommons.ca.
So, next time you are asked to sign a petition, check whether it is an official House of Commons petition or whether it is just put out by an organization looking to collect names without a specified purpose. Keep in mind that you can sign both an e-petition and a paper petition on the same topic. Ask questions if you aren’t sure. Let’s be effective with our political action on behalf of pre-born children!