“There are so many intelligent, motivated, caring young people out there. I can’t help but feel that their voice deserves to be heard.”
This is what NDP MP Taylor Bachrach told CBC News when asked about Bill C-210, a motion he made to lower the legal voting age from 18 to 16 years old.
Lots of those young people live on VanIsle.
In Port Alberni, a Social Justice 12 class held their own all-candidates forum. They drafted and sent out profiles on everyone running in the last election. In the Comox Valley, the Comox Youth Climate Council sent out questionnaires and put together their top choices for public review.
These young people made their voices heard. And it’s possible their actions influenced the grownups who could vote. Both places saw a remarkable similarity between their student vote results and the results of their actual elections.
Unfortunately, MP Bachrach’s Bill was defeated by a pretty large margin, 246 to 77. Why did so many MPs vote no? What are they afraid of?
Kids generally have more time to educate themselves on politics than the average adult. They often care more intensely, because they have to live with the decisions we make over the long term.
“I believe there are compelling reasons to give young people a seat at the table, particularly at a time when our country is facing such consequential issues. The decisions that the federal government is making and will be making over the coming years are some of the most important ones in our country’s history,” Bachrach told CBC News.
He’s not the only one who thinks so.
A group of 13 young people have filed a lawsuit with the Ontario Superior Court of Justice. They argue that barring Canadians under 18 from voting in federal elections is unconstitutional.
The lawsuit argues that the Canada Elections Act violates two sections of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms: Section 3, which states that “every citizen of Canada” has the right to vote in an election for members of the House of Commons or a legislative assembly; and Section 15, which states that “every individual is equal before and under the law.”
It’s an interesting case, to say the least. But to the teens who’ve filed it, it makes perfect sense.
“We have seen a continued rise in young people’s efforts to be heard—millions marching on issues that have a direct impact on their lives and the world in which they live, yet they still can’t vote,” said the group in a statement.
So Bill C-210 was rejected. But the door may be opening to let young people into voting booths.
Private members’ bills on everything from marijuana decriminalization, greenhouse gas emissions targets, sports betting, and transgender rights to medical assistance in dying have all failed to pass in the last 15 years — but each one was brought back and made law eventually.
It’s pretty clear our kids will keep pushing to make their voices heard. It’s up to us if we’re going to listen.