Two weekends ago, along with two other YCI representatives, I was fortunate enough attend a Youth Symposium in Halifax. The event, sponsored by Democracy 250 and Apathy is Boring, gathered 100 youth from across the Canada to discuss youth engagement, health and environment and networking opportunities for youth organizations. But most importantly, we were brought together, along with the Governor General, to discuss a growing trend—Canadian youth’s apathy towards our democratic electoral process. In the last Canadian election, over 1.2 million youth under the age of 25 chose not to vote.
The results of not voting, for youth, are systemic. Not only do we not contribute to the electoral process, politicians in turn disregard youth as a constituency worth addressing when drafting policies. What’s the point in taking the voice of youth into account when they’re not going to vote? Why would politicians bother to vie for the attention of a constituency that won’t earn them votes? During our dialogue, Danny pointed out that youth policy should play into in all party platforms—and it would, if only we voted. Politicians would be vying for our attention, for our votes and fighting for our causes.
When I say that 1.2 million youth chose not to vote, I use the word “chose” quite deliberately. I don’t know how often I’ve heard my peers mention their desire to vote—if only it wasn’t for the research required beforehand. (Too much like work, I suppose.) It all boils down to taking this very basic right for granted. For many Canadian citizens though, being able to mark an X on a ballot is very far from a “basic” right.
Take for instance the GG, who spoke to the youth assembled about the violence in Haiti, all for democracy. “Do you need to go through that to understand what democracy is about?” she asked us, after telling her story of the massacres she witnessed. “I don’t think so. It takes a lot of vigilance and it takes a lot of will to build a democratic society.”
Even for myself, an active voter, hearing the Governor General’s stories of suffering reminded me that the power to vote is a right that I take for granted. In the words of the Governor General “dialogue is about making yourself heard.”
I hope that in this next federal election my peers will make themselves heard. (Even if that means going out to spoil your ballot!) And because I know that sometimes it’s difficult to wade through all the election information, here’s some resources to help get you started:
-Jessica Lockhart, Office Manager