A group of 13 students from all across Canada have filed a court challenge to lower the federal voting age to be more in line with the major federal parties. The challenge is arguing the age of 18 set out in the Canada Elections Act is unconstitutional.
One of these students is 15-year-old Katie Yu of Iqaluit, who is not only the only student from Nunavut, but from all three territories. She argues its important not only for youth in general to have a voice, but also Nunavummiut, given the younger population of the territory.
Yu got involved in the movement through UNICEF Canada’s Youth Advocacy program, which she described as sessions that taught youth about advocacy in government.
“Towards the end of the year we developed recommendations about issues we cared about and took a more active approach to advocacy,” said Yu.
That active approach is culminating in filing a court challenge, with the students citing other countries such as Germany, Brazil, Austria, Argentina and a few others as examples of giving youth more of a voice.
“We want to not just give youth a voice in elections but to uplift the youth voice in society in general, because its such a fundamental democratic right,” Yu explained.
The Liberal, Conservative and Green parties each allow members as young as 14 to join their respective parties, while the NDP does not have a set minimum age at the federal level, according to a release from the group.
Yu is particularly passionate about climate change and mental health, issues which particularly impact youth in Nunavut.
“If youth had the right to vote then politicians would be more responsive to youth concerns because they have to serve their constituencies and we’re currently not part of the constituency that can vote,” she said.
She argues it would make politicians more reactive to these issues if youth were part of the electorate.
“I think elections would turn out differently and youth would be more encouraged to get involved and have a say,” said Yu.
While Yu says she doesn’t expect all youth to vote if given the chance, it’s still “important to give them the opportunity to do so.”
The movement to lower the voting age has already reached the municipal level in some parts of Canada. In June, the City of Vancouver officially endorsed lowering the voting age to 16 in municipalities across B.C. The P.E.I. provincial government also struck down an attempt to do so in April.
“We want our rights as citizens to be protected as youth,” said Yu.
“Nunavut specifically, we are facing these issues in unique ways – Nunavummiut are often less represented in national conversations and discussions, I think its really important to uplift the youth voice in Nunavut and the voices of Nunavummiut in general.”