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June 11, 2009
Panel advocates for local voting rights for permanent residents regardless of citizenship
  
The City of Toronto held a special forum last night to discuss municipal voting rights for permanent residents - regardless of citizenship. There are more than a quarter million adults living in Toronto who are not Canadian citizens and consequently do not have the right to vote in local elections. More than 150 people attended the event. The panel, made up of Astrid de Vries, Diana Salas and Alan Broadbent, argued that residency, not citizenship, should be the only criterion for eligibility to vote municipally.

“Voting is about how we choose our government, but it is also about social inclusion and welcoming newcomers,” said Mayor David Miller, who hosted the event. “Extending voting rights in municipal elections to permanent residents is part of our vision of an inclusive city with opportunity for all.”

Astrid de Vries, Deputy Consul-General, Netherlands Consulate, Toronto, told the audience that overall voter and political participation has increased since non-citizens were given the right to vote in municipal elections in the Netherlands. As a result, non-citizens have also become more active in their local communities and political parties have adapted their policies to respond to non-citizen issues.

Diana Salas, Associate Director, Women of Color Policy Network, Wagner School of Public Service, New York University and a member of the New York Coalition to Expand Voting Rights, said that extensive community outreach and polling efforts in New York City showed that the primary concerns of non-citizens such as transportation, education and jobs were similar to those of voting citizens.

Alan Broadbent, Chairman of the Maytree Foundation, the Caledon Institute of Social Policy and the Tamarack Institute, made four points: 1) This concept works around the world. 2) Voting rules change from time to time to accommodate the changing population. 3) We need immigrants to replace an aging population. 4) We need immigrants to become fully integrated into our society quickly - the long-term benefits outweigh the risks.

Councillor Janet Davis, Chair of the Community Development and Recreation Committee (Ward 31 Beaches-East York) and the evening’s MC, concluded the evening by stating: “Permanent residents in many other jurisdictions around the world have the right to vote in municipal elections and the results have been positive. What we have learned from the panel is that extending the vote can, in fact, strengthen residents’ involvement in the political and social life of a city.”

Mayor Miller called on Toronto’s community to build grassroots, community support for this change, and to support the community-based campaign at ivotetoronto.org.

Toronto is Canada's largest city and sixth largest government, and home to a diverse population of about 2.6 million people. It is the economic engine of Canada and one of the greenest and most creative cities in North America. Toronto has won numerous awards for quality, innovation and efficiency in delivering public services. 2009 marks the 175th anniversary of Toronto's incorporation as a city. Toronto's government is dedicated to prosperity, opportunity and liveability for all its residents.

Media contacts:
Councillor Janet Davis, Ward 31 Beaches-East York and Chair of Community Development and Recreation Committee, 416-392-4035
John Gosgnach, Manager, Communications, 416-392-8386, jgosgna@toronto.ca





 

 

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