When it comes to elections, new Canadian citizens and young Canadian voters share similar challenges. Broadly speaking these two demographics share an unfamiliarity with the Canadian democratic process. Put another way, both are often first time voters.
An event hosted by the Canadian Arab Institute Oct. 1 recognizes this overlap – the theme of the evening is youth.
A panel including representatives from Free The Children, the Toronto and York Region Labour Council, Samara and Apathy is Boring will take questions after discussing topics relating to immigrant youth and how to encourage their civic participation.
To better understand some of the barriers that new Canadians encounter when voting, the Institute of Canadian Citizenship recently released a report entitled Ballots and Belonging.
The study used a national online survey, along with focus groups in seven Canadian cities, to uncover the attitudes of new Canadians when it came to political participation.
Comparing the findings of Ballots and Belongings to the 2011 National Youth Survey conducted by Elections Canada, we see similar attitudes and barriers regarding voting.
[A]pathy is not a main barrier to voting for either new or young Canadian demographics.
For example, Ballots and Belonging found 40 per cent of new Canadians surveyed listed time constraints as a barrier to voting. The 2011 National Youth Survey indicated that 50 per cent of Canadians under 24 did not vote due to being occupied with studies, work or caring for a family member.
Another similar finding by both studies is that apathy is not a main barrier to voting for either new or young Canadian demographics.
Ballots and Belonging found only six per cent of those surveyed did not vote due to lack of interest in politics, while the 2011 National Youth Survey found 12 per cent of young Canadians did not vote due to “not caring about politics”.
Where new Canadian citizens and young Canadians truly overlap is in their recommendations for how to improve the electoral process.
The Broadbent Institute’s Millennial Dialogue Report demonstrates that Canadian millennials are keen to have Internet voting, longer polling hours and more convenient polling stations. These are the very same recommendations given by the participants in Ballots and Belonging.
[I]t is important that young and new Canadians be offered clear and concise information about our election process.
This alignment again shows how new Canadians and young Canadians share attitudes towards our electoral system.
Due to these similarities it is important that young and new Canadians be offered clear and concise information about our election process.
Apathy is Boring continues to share accessible, non-partisan information with both demographics through our website, and we launched a #5MMV campaign to highlight the diversity and power of the more than five million millennial voters eligible to cast a ballot this election.
The Canadian Arab Institute is drawing attention to the issue through its youth forum and yourvoiceCAN campaign.
We encourage readers to engage with these campaigns, share them with their friends and, most importantly, cast a ballot on October 19.
Caro Loutfi is the executive director of Apathy is Boring, working in a non-partisan manner and on a national scale to engage Canadian youth in democracy. She currently sits on the Inspirit Foundation’s board, working to inspire pluralism among young Canadians and has been involved in the volunteer sector for over nine years.