BCCLA supports expansion of voting rights to permanent residents in UBCM vote

NEXT week at the 2019 Convention of the Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM), councillors and mayors from across the province will have the historic opportunity to endorse Motion B109, a resolution seeking to strengthen democracy in the province.

The British Columbia Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA) strongly encourages the endorsement of the resolution, which requests that the BC government make the legislative change necessary to enable permanent residents to vote in local government elections in the province.

A permanent resident is someone who has been granted the status by immigrating to Canada, but is not a Canadian citizen. Permanent residents have protection under Canadian law and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Permanent residents are bound by laws and must pay taxes. They have the right to get most social benefits that Canadian citizens receive (including public health insurance), can live, work, and study anywhere in Canada.

Voting rights have never been fixed in Canada; they have evolved along with the shifting values of Canadian society. The BCCLA believes that it is time to enfranchise permanent residents with a municipal vote, especially against the backdrop of declining voter turnouts and restrictive access to citizenship.

“Many models currently exist across the globe where non-citizens can participate in local government elections,” says Ela Esra Gunad, #LostVotes Campaigner. “BC will hopefully join the ranks of many enlightened jurisdictions – including over 45 countries and seven American cities – where residents have already been granted voting rights. This is essential to create an inclusive local election system.”

Extending municipal voting rights to permanent residents has many democratic benefits.   Immigrants are members of our society and granting them voting rights will foster deeper civic engagement in our communities. Local governments will also be more accountable to their communities as more residents will have a say in how public funds are spent and what bylaws are made on the issues affecting their daily lives.  

“Our elected leaders will soon have an extraordinary chance to back the enfranchisement of more residents,” said Meghan McDermott, BCCLA Acting Policy Director. “Given the barriers to accessing Canadian citizenship – including increasing costs and long government backlogs – we are very excited by the prospect of making local government elections more inclusive of all residents.”

The BCCLA is collaborating with #LostVotes campaigners to draw attention to the resolution and to educate elected officials about the benefits of the proposal. Mayors and municipal councillors who want to find out more about this important initiative can contact Mark Hosak,  BCCLA Director of Community Engagement, at [email protected] or (604) 630-9757.

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