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

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A medical worker prepares vials of the COVID-19 vaccines, Chinese Sinopharm, left, Sputnik V, center, and Pfizer at a vaccine centre, in the Usce shopping mall in Belgrade, Serbia, Thursday, May 6, 2021. Serbian authorities are looking for incentives for people to boost vaccination that has slowed down in recent weeks amid widespread anti-vaccination and conspiracy theories in the Balkan nation. The government has also promised a payment of around 25 euros to everyone who gets vaccinated by the end of May. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)
38 new COVID-19 cases, more than 335k vaccines administered in Interior Health

Interior Health also to start targeted vaccinations in high transmission neighbourhoods

FILE PHOTO
Second doses of COVID-19 vaccine will be available, as AstraZeneca supply runs low: Interior Health

Province expecting large volumes of Pfizer BioNTech as age-based cohort immunization program ramps up

Greg Nesteroff and Eric Brighton, the historians behind popular Facebook page Lost Kootenays, are set to release a book of the same name and have just unveiled its cover showing the ghostly Hotel in Slocan City shortly before its 1953 demolition. Photo courtesy of Greg Nesteroff and Eric Brighton.
Popular historical Facebook page Lost Kootenays set to release book

128-page hard copy documenting history of East and West Kootenays coming this fall

Revelstoke’s Mayor Gary Sulz getting his COVID-19 vaccination on April 5. (Jocelyn Doll - Revelstoke Review)
Revelstoke is leading B.C.’s interior on vaccinations: Interior Health

Approximately 70% of the community has first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine

Revelstoke Fire Rescue Services responded to a fire at the Revelstoke Community Energy Corporation site Feb. 11, 2021. It was the fourth fire at the facility since it was built in 2005. (Revelstoke Fire Rescue Services photo)
Future uncertain for City of Revelstoke owned company

RCEC is using a backup system to provide heating after a fire forced the facility offline

(The Canadian Press)
Trudeau won’t say whether Canada supports patent waiver for COVID-19 vaccines

‘Canada is at the table to help find a solution’

City of Vernon Coun. Dalvir Nahal proposed two blocks of Main Street be closed to bolster recovery for downtown businesses amid the COVID-19 pandemic. (Caitlin Clow - Vernon Morning Star)
Vernon’s ‘support local’ Main Street closure would cost city $24K, staff say

Bylaw costs, loss of parking revenue and equipment logistics behind price tag

Five properties have been added to the Lake Country fire protection zone, after council moved to expand the local service area Tuesday, May 4, 2021. (Google Maps)
Lake Country expands fire protection zone, covering 5 exposed properties

The properties petitioned to join the local service area after being left out ‘for reasons unknown’

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

VSAR’s Air Rescue One unit assisted in a rescue in West Kelowna May 3, 2021. (VSAR screenshot)
VIDEO: VSAR’s Air Rescue One team assists in West Kelowna Rescue

The Vernon Search and Rescue helicopter team pulled off a successful rescue Monday

Peachland resident and cleanup volunteer Lloyd Stinson Sotas holds up a discarded TV riddled with bullet holes. (Aaron Hemens/Capital News)
PHOTOS: Peachland residents clean up community watershed

More than 70 people gave back to Mother Earth by assisting with the cleanup

Officials are surveying the streets of Vernon to get a better sense of the issue of homelessness in the city, as part of the province’s point-in-time homeless count for 2021. (Brendan Shykora - Morning Star)
Province conducts homeless count in Vernon

It’s the first time Vernon has been included in the provincial homeless count

A map showing where the most number of cases were recorded from April 23 to 29. This map, revealing a breakdown of infections by neighborhood, was pulled from a data package leaked to the Vancouver Sun last week (and independently verified).
36 Abbotsford schools flagged for COVID-19 exposures in the last 2 weeks, shattering record

Clearbrook Elementary recorded an ‘exposure’ on all 11 school days

Most Read