The Right to Vote - Part Two | UNICEF Canada: For Every Child Skip to main content

To read The Right to Vote - Part One from youth litigant Khadijat, click here.

Catherine He, 16, Ontario

Why is it important to you that people under 18 are allowed to vote in Canada?

Today's youth are at risk. Today's youth are facing a worsening climate crisis with essentially no sustainable solutions on the horizon. Today's youth are discriminated against for having melanin. Today's youth are taunted for having slanted eyes. Today's youth are tired of years of nothing but the same mistakes in the world. Today's youth are disillusioned.

Today's youth are also tomorrow's adults.

How do we pave a path for youth that are tired of hearing the same old excuses? How do we defend the next generation from crumbling under disillusionment, from feeling like their voice will never be heard by the people who have the power to change? The answer is quite simple: we give them the capacity to utilize their voice. We provide them with a say in policy-making by allowing them the right to vote.

What issues do you think youth need to have their voices heard on? Will voting help them be heard?

Youth have fresh perspectives and large stakes in various important issues in the modern age. As an Asian girl who has been a victim of racial and gender discrimination, I am disappointed at the superficiality of the response to the inequality crisis. Performative activism seems to be what everyone wants to engage in these days. I am tired of seeing millions proclaim that Black Lives Matter only to continue their racist policies the next day. I am tired of seeing the government that supposedly stands with Asian-Canadians engage in the same racist practices after the heat of anti-Asian attacks has died down. I am tired of seeing leadership identify themselves as woke just by releasing a statement about how they stand against women’s harassment in the workplace. It breaks my heart every single day I see another missing and murdered Indigenous woman reported on the news. Racial justice and gender equality are two issues that youth are incredibly educated on and care about. Yet, there are close to zero effective policies combatting these two types of discrimination. We must amplify youth voices to stop beating around the bush and achieve inevitable change as soon as possible. By adding young people that have been previously silenced into voters’ list, political parties are compelled to recognize their concerns. Parties would then devise plans to tackle these issues because they are now vying for the youth vote.

What’s a misconception that people have about why we shouldn’t lower the voting age, and why do you think it’s wrong?

Many people think youth should not vote because they are uninformed and not mature enough. However, this is contradictory because there are no regulations on which adults can vote other than being a citizen of Canada. No law prohibits adult citizens who did not read each party's platforms from casting a vote. So why is this statement enforced so harshly upon the shoulders of young people? Voter turnout is never 100%; only the people who care enough about voting and country leadership go to the polls. If this is the case for adults, there is no doubt the same would apply to youth. There is no need to worry about ignorance and immaturity. If individuals don't have enough understanding to cast a vote, they will not show up. In contrast, the people who have done their research and have come to a mature conclusion can voice their opinion.

Youth may be young, but we're old enough to understand. We're old enough to see the world through our own eyes. Therefore, we are most definitely old enough to voice our personal opinions to create meaningful change.

What would you say to young people about why lowering the voting age should matter to them?

I would ask young people one question: what is something that irks you? Is it the way you wake up to early morning smog instead of fog outside your window? Is it the way you watch your minority friends get assaulted only to have the perpetrator get off scot-free? Or is it something else entirely? Whatever that annoyance may be, one commonality of everyone’s issues is that they are improvable. Pollution can decrease if policymakers care enough about it. Discrimination can be lessened if policymakers care enough about it.

The fact of the matter is right now, politicians don’t care enough. They don’t care about the issues that youth believe are important because we don’t have a say in anything. We cannot elect candidates, and therefore we cannot change how things are run in the country. We must remember that in forty or fifty years’ time, the only things left of the present will be policies and, well, us. Politicians and policymakers will be long gone; they won’t have to live through the mess they created. Instead, we will be the ones to clean it up. If we want to prevent irreversible mistakes, we must force shifts now, before it’s too late. So, if there is anything in your life that is irritating and you wish you could change, then lowering the voting age should matter to you.

Last Thoughts

Our world is in trouble. From the global pandemic, to a decline in democracy, to war, to human rights violations, and many other issues, there is tragedy and hardship. Still, there is also a massive opportunity for positive change. It is high time to start listening to what everyone has to say about our future, not just the adults who won’t even be there. We need to lower Canada’s voting age to include the nation’s future change-makers as we blaze a path to create a sustainable tomorrow.


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