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Canadian immigrants discuss voting

The Story

"I've never had this right to vote before," says Beku Kessaye, a new Canadian who emigrated from Eritrea. There, he actually voted once or twice, but it wasn't a real vote -- he was told whom he had to vote for. Here, "it's a birthright," he says, and he's taking it seriously. "I will be very proud to vote," adds his daughter Sophia. This 1997 CBC Television clip looks at new Canadians, and how they view voting in Canada as "a moral obligation, not just a right." 

Medium: Television
Program: 1st Edition
Broadcast Date: May 29, 1997
Guest(s): Judy Boyce, Beku Kesshaye, Sophia Kesshaye, Roberto Menendez
Duration: 5:33

Did You know?

• A 2001 article by McGill University professor Jerome H. Black investigated immigrant participation in Canadian elections. Black said that in the 1960s and '70s, the traditional view was that immigrants didn't participate as often in Canada's electoral process. Newer research revealed, however, that they are active participants in Canadian politics. They vote in similar numbers to the general Canadian population, and in the case of some immigrant groups — such as the Greeks — they vote in greater relative numbers than the general population.

• In the 2004 federal election, Elections Canada launched a campaign to educate Canada's ethno-cultural communities on the importance of voting in Canada, as well as on how to vote in Canadian elections. As part of this campaign, titled "My future, my vote," TV commercials aired in 12 different languages, radio ads were broadcast in 23 languages, and print ads appeared in 24 languages.

• Despite the enthusiasm from some of Canada's newer citizens, like the ones seen in this clip, voter turnout for the overall Canadian population has been dropping steadily in recent years. In 1988, 75.3 per cent of Canada's total eligible voting population voted in the federal election, according to Elections Canada. That percentage dropped to 69.6 in 1993; to 67.0 in 1997; to 61.2 in 2000; and to 60.9 in 2004.

• Today (2004), all Canadians citizens over the age of 18 have the right to vote. The only exceptions are the government's Chief Electoral Officer and the assistant Chief Electoral Officer, who can't vote because they must remain impartial at all times.


Voting in Canada: How a Privilege Became a Right more