Enhancing democracy one step at a time

“Democracy, finally,rests on a higher power than Parliament. It rests on an informed and cultivatedand alert public opinion…”
Dr. Eric Eustace Williams, Speech,First day of Trinidad and Tobago‘sindependence from Great Britain., August 31, 1962

At DogwoodInitiative we believe that the only lasting way to achieve a just, equitableand sustainable society is through an engaged and informed citizenry. 

Protecting thecommons and creating healthy prosperous communities is hard work. It will takehundreds, thousands, perhaps millions of people working together at the localand global scale to reverse the dog-eat-dog direction of our world.

As a small (butfierce) non-profit with limited resources, Dogwood Initiative works by bringingdiverse people together and catalyzing action. Much of our work is behind thescenes, helping individuals and groups harness and direct their power. 

This work pays offin unexpected ways. Recently two of our efforts came to fruition.

  1. Last week the BC government announced that it was reversing changes it had made in 2004 and was once again going to require BC registered companies to disclose their shareholders to the public.

  2. Last month, using some information accessed with our help, Bruce Wallace, from Vancouver Island Public Interest Research Group (VIPIRG) released a major new study that found that BC’s welfare system is discouraging, delaying and denying assistance to many of the people most in need of help.

At Dogwood initiative, we plant the seeds,but we can’t predict how they will grow.

Improving Transparency

We discovered theamendments to the BC Company Act thatprevented people from identifying who were the owners of companies operating inBC. This makes it more difficult for British Columbians to effectively engage infinancial markets to protect their interests, something we have been training FirstNation and community activists to do.

No one seemed tobeing opposing this change or publicizing how it would insolate companies frompressure. So, expecting little response, we wrote a letter to the governmentrequesting this change be reversed and we wrote about it periodically inBulletins on our website.

Muckrakingjournalist, Russ Francis, a columnist for Vancouver‘s Georgia Strait and Victoria‘s Monday Magazine, began a one person crusade on the issue,condemning the government repeatedly for their anti-transparency initiative.

And the government caved.Go figure!!!

ExposingInequalities

Wallace’s report, DeniedAssistance: Closing the Front Door onWelfare in BC is the first in-depth assessment of the new welfaresystem, drawing on data obtained through Freedom of Information requests andextensive interviews with people who have applied for welfare, front-linecommunity advocates and Ministry workers.

Dogwood Initiative’sinvolvement came about through the workshops we teach for activists on how to accessgovernment information, one of the least used activist tools. In addition toteaching an annual course at VIPIRGS’ Researchingfor Change workshop series, we helped Mr. Wallace stickhandle government attemptsto deny him access to important records.

The report was published by Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.

While the governmentis unlikely to reverse course as quickly on welfare, Wallace plans to keepchipping away at the government’s propaganda. He has other studies in the worksand other Freedom of Information Requestsin the hopper. Through his efforts, the human face of the devastating welfarecuts is being told.

Dogwood Initiative isproud of these two recent successes. They illustrate that sometimes it is the littlethings that have an impact.

Please consider supporting our work to keep government and industry accountable to the people.

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