(Stock photo)

COCULLO: Permanent residents deserve permanent voting rights

Permanent residents have to wait years before becoming citizens and participate in democracy

On June 24, city council heard from a group called Fresh Voices about their Lost Votes Initiative, a push to help permanent residents become included in local democracy by granting them the right to vote.

After living in Ford Nation and being inundated with Trump’s hate rhetoric on a daily basis, it was a breath of fresh air to see that the idea of making democracy accessible to all is still alive and well somewhere and that not one councillor expressed opposition to the idea.

READ MORE: Council briefs: Support for permanent resident’s voting rights, Moby Dick owner speaks about goats

According to the last Canadian census, more than 10 per cent of Prince Rupert’s population are permanent residents. That is too high a number of people who are not participating in our local democratic processes.

Permanent residents have to wait years before they become citizens. For those that turn 18 in Canada, this means that they will cast their first-ever ballots well into their twenties.

Toronto has been trying to explore the idea of allowing permanent residents to vote in municipal elections since 2013 but are hitting a brick wall when it comes to changing their provincial municipal elections act. Fresh Voices is hoping to take this idea to the Union of BC Municipalities in September and present a united front with cities across B.C.

When I attended the Rushbrook Trail cleanup a few week ago, I had met a couple who had just moved to Prince Rupert from across the Pacific Ocean.

They were holding a garbage bag cleaning up the trash left on the gravel road and picking up some fallen branches to make the way safer for hikers. They were excited to be contributing to their community, despite only having lived here for a month.

Democracy is something many of us take for granted or put on the backburner to life’s day-to-day issues.

READ MORE: Hi my name is Jenna Cocullo and I am the new general reporter for the Northern View

It’s easy to forget that our neighbours, local store owners, and fellow taxpayers whom we see everyday, who also pour their blood, sweat, and tears into the community, are not granted full access into municipal decision-making.

From the looks of it, council will vote at their next meeting in favour of supporting this initiative, after hearing Fresh Voice’s presentation on Monday. I only hope that the public will engage more in this discourse to help push this issue to the forefront of our ever increasing list of stuff to get done.

Jenna Cocullo | Journalist
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