First Nation Right to Vote

July 06, 2015

The right to vote is widely recognized as a fundamental human right in a democratic society and in Canada every Canadian citizen has that right as guaranteed in Section 3 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. [1] Ensuring the ability of citizens to exercise their right to vote is the responsibility of the government.

ICT-Aboriginal-ballot-513481-edited

The right to vote is further supported by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted unanimously by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights “recognizes the integral role that transparent and open elections play in ensuring the fundamental right to participatory government. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights in Article 21 states:

Everyone has the right to take part in the government of his/her country, directly or through freely chosen representatives.
Everyone has the right of equal access to public service in his country.
The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government; this will shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret ballot or by equivalent free voting procedures.” [2]

In Canada, universal adult suffrage was achieved federally in 1960 when the right to vote was extended to all First Nations under the Act to Amend the Canada Elections Act. For some background, please read The Indian Act and the Right to Vote.

So, yes, all Aboriginal people have the right to vote but are they voting proportionally with non-Aboriginal voters? According to Elections Canada statistics, the Aboriginal right to vote doesn't equate to them exercising that right. Here’s the breakdown:

Federal Election

Aboriginal

First Nation

Inuit

Métis

2004

60.4%

55.9%

72.7%

68.4%

2006

69.8%

65.2%

77.1%

75%

2008

54.2%

50.1%

57.1%

67.3%

2011

65.9%

62.3%

66.7%

73.2%

There are a number of reasons why more Aboriginal people don’t exercise their right to vote. Over the next couple of weeks we will take a look at historical reasons and some of the barriers that Aboriginal people face when they want to exercise their right to vote.

[1] Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms Section 3. Every citizen of Canada has the right to vote in an election of members of the House of Commons or of a legislative assembly and to be qualified for membership therein.

[2] New Voter Identification Procedures and Related Impacts on Aboriginal Peoples and Communities in Canada Fifth Report of the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Peoples, 2009

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