An Elections Canada sign that leaders voters to a polling station. (Black Press file photo)

An Elections Canada sign that leaders voters to a polling station. (Black Press file photo)

Montreal latest Canadian city to consider granting voting rights to non-citizens

Montreal can ‘show leadership’ on this issue and rekindle the debate in the country, report reads

Montreal officials are looking into extending voting rights to more than 100,000 non-citizens in order to better integrate immigrants and encourage more racialized people to participate in municipal politics.

The idea isn’t new: for years, Canadian cities such as Toronto, Vancouver and Saint John, N.B., have debated or proposed giving the vote to permanent residents — but none have succeeded in convincing provincial or federal governments to modify citizenship and voting laws.

Montreal can “show leadership” on this issue and rekindle the debate in the country, according to an April 19 report by the city’s committee on social development and diversity.

“Granting voting rights to permanent residents is one of the ways to foster political participation and ensure better representation of the various groups that form society,” the report said.

“Montreal, the city that welcomes the largest number of immigrants to Quebec each year, should ensure it reflects the diversity of its population.”

The committee, composed mostly of elected officials from the two main parties at city hall, wants Montreal to publicly affirm its desire to grant voting rights to permanent residents who have lived “for at least 12 months on the territory of the city of Montreal.” It also wants the city to lobby the provincial and federal governments to change laws to allow non-citizens to vote in municipal elections.

The idea has its critics. Frederic Bastien, history teacher at Montreal’s Dawson College and former leadership candidate for the Parti Quebecois, says allowing non-citizens to vote could endanger the foundations of the nation state.

He says citizenship comes with an understanding of the culture, language and history of a country, adding that the idea could be a political strategy by Mayor Valerie Plante ahead of next November’s municipal election.

“It is part of a series of gestures from the Plante administration,” Bastien said in a recent interview. “It’s a ‘woke’ trend among Projet Montreal and it’s a toxic vision of social and public life,” he added, referring to Plante’s political party.

Chris Erl, doctoral candidate in McGill University’s geography department who researches municipal politics, disagrees that granting voting rights to marginalized communities would undermine the country’s democratic values. Rather, he said, doing so would provide a voice for many people who have been excluded from politics.

“Where all the political parties have failed in the past is in recruiting candidates from communities of colour,” Erl said. “Something like this could certainly help inspire people that may feel isolated from the political system to get involved.”

He said he questions the fairness of refusing to allow people who are actively engaged in the urban life of a city the right to select those who represent them in office.

“People need to look at this from the very basic idea that their neighbours, who might not have citizenship, are paying the same property taxes, they use the same services and they have the same ideas and opinions about how the city could be better run, so why shouldn’t they be able to send people to city hall to make decisions?” Erl said.

The city’s diversity committee noted that permanent residents compose about 9 per cent of Montreal’s population, equalling about 170,000 people — roughly 105,000 of whom would qualify as voters.

Montreal’s city administration says it’s interested in letting non-citizens vote in order to attract more people to the political process — especially immigrants. Voter turnout in the 2017 municipal election was 22 per cent in Cote-des-Neiges—Notre-Dame-de-Grace, the most ethnically diverse borough in the city, according to government data.

But it’s unclear what the Quebec and federal governments think of Montreal’s idea. A spokesperson for Quebec’s municipal affairs minister didn’t return a request for comment. And Corinne Havard, spokesperson for federal Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc, said Ottawa doesn’t play a role in municipal elections and directed questions about reforming voting laws to the Quebec government.

Montreal doesn’t seem interested in pushing the issue at the moment — at least not ahead of November’s city election.

Genevieve Jutras, spokeswoman for Plante, said the city will take its time to examine the report, adding that it is up to the provincial government to modify voting rights.

“The administration doesn’t have the intention to request a modification before the next municipal election,” Jutras said.

Virginie Ann, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

electionvoting

Just Posted

A map of Huu-ay-aht-owned forestry cutblock. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)
Island First Nations restrict access to territory in wake of forestry standoffs

Huu-ay-aht set up checkpoints after heated and dangerous incidents on southwest Vancouver Island

Sean Hart, 34, unexpectedly left the Seven Oaks Tertiary Mental Health Facility in Saanich on Nov. 6, 2020 and has now been missing for six months. (Photo courtesy Penny Hart)
Mom still hopeful for Island man who left care six months ago, hasn’t been seen since

Support from community, police keeps search alive for Sean Hart six months after his disappearance

The Independent Investigations Office of B.C. is investigating the shooting of an Indigenous woman in the Ucluelet First Nation community of Hitacu. (Black Press Media file photo)
Island First Nation wants ‘massive change’ after its 3rd police shooting in less than a year

“We need to get to the root of what is actually happening with the RCMP and our communities”

Oak Bay resident Hugh Thompson died Friday, May 7. (GoFundMe photo)
Oak Bay dad dies mountain biking near Shawnigan Lake

Community rallies around family with online fundraiser

The Regional District of Nanaimo has its sights set on busing to the Cowichan Valley in time for March 2022. (News Bulletin file)
Bus link between Nanaimo and the Cowichan Valley expected by next March

Unallocated transit hours already in Regional District of Nanaimo budget

(Pixabay)
B.C. doctors could face consequences for spreading COVID misinformation: college

College says doctors have a higher level of responsibility to not spread incorrect information

The seasonal Search and Rescue program will run between May to September. ( File photo/Canadian Coast Guard)
North Vancouver Island Coast Guard Inshore Rescue Program ready to relaunch

Teams have protocols in place to ensure COVID-19 safety while providing marine safety net

Kelowna resident Sally Wallick helped rescue a kayaker in distress a week and a half ago. (Sally Wallick/Contributed)
VIDEO: Kelowna woman rescues capsized kayaker in Okanagan Lake

Sally Wallick is asking people to be prepared for the cold water and unpredictable winds

Dr. Bonnie Henry talks about phase two in B.C.’s COVID-19 immunization plan. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
All of B.C. will eventually ease out of COVID-19 restrictions at same time: Henry

People who have received two doses of a vaccine can’t yet return to post-pandemic activities with each other, she says

Winnipeg Jets’ Andrew Copp (9) and Edmonton Oilers goaltender Mike Smith (41) watch an incoming shot during second period NHL action in Winnipeg, Monday, April 26, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Greenslade
‘Very jealous’: Canadian teams can’t take advantage of NHL’s relaxed COVID-19 rules

League eased some tight COVID-19 health and safety protocols over the weekend for fully vaccinated clubs

Police stopped, then let go this man and his large collection of cans during a stop Monday morning on Resthaven Drive. Police had received a report of a possible theft, but let him go after he had returned the property, which he believed was his to take after being left out in public. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)
Precarious cartload balancing act of ‘put out’ goods draws raised eyebrows in Sidney

Police determined goods were not left out for anyone to take, property returned

Business founder Jeff Ross stands outside his shop Gold Silver Guy in Qualicum Beach on May 10, 2021. (Mandy Moraes photo)
Qualicum Beach store owner finds shop in shambles after early morning robbery

RCMP investigating after door smashed, showcases shattered and inventory stolen

Victoria Police Department looks to identify a person of interest after a Friday night stabbing. (VicPD handout)
Victoria stabbing leaves man with potentially life-altering injuries

Friday night assault has police looking for help in identifying a suspect

Most Read