Montreal

Quebecers who can't vote still want their voices heard this election

Ineligible voters say that parties should do more to engage with them during the election. As members of Quebec society, they feel like their needs and wants are just as important as those of voters.

As contributing members of society, they say they shouldn't be ignored

A man looks at the camera.
Emmanuel Heisbourg is a post-doctoral student at UQAM who came to Quebec almost five years ago to study. (Sara Eldabaa/ CBC)

Emmanuel Heisbourg has been watching the Quebec election closely. And he's frustrated that he doesn't get to have his say at the polls.

"You cannot interact but you're still watching something that directly concerns you and that is extremely hard," said Heisbourg, a French citizen who is in Canada with a work permit.

Heisbourg came to Montreal about five years ago to get his PhD, and is now pursuing post-doctoral studies here.

With immigration a frequent topic of debate during the campaign, he says he feels helpless because his voice isn't being heard on an issue that deeply affects him.

Heisbourg says people tend to think that all immigrants cannot speak French when in fact, many of them do. However, as a native French speaker, he feels that speaking French has only made it slightly easier to live in Quebec.

He says the province doesn't do much to help French-speaking migrants stay in Quebec.

Low engagement

To vote, a person has to be a Canadian citizen over the age of 18 and must have been living in Quebec for at least six months before election day.

Some of those who aren't eligible, like Heisbourg, say they shouldn't be ignored during the campaign because they contribute to society just like citizens do.

A woman poses for the camera.
Soaad Hammami came to Canada as a refugee in 2020 and is pursuing a master's degree in education. (Submitted by Soaad Hammami)

Soaad Hammami is a permanent resident who lives in Montreal with her family.

Neither Hammami nor Heisbourg feel like any party has tried to engage with them since the campaign began. Both said that when candidates knocked on their doors, they lost interest when they were told they cannot vote.

Hammami says it's discouraging to feel like your opinion doesn't matter.

"I am still a participating member of society in Montreal and Quebec and it feels like nothing I do makes a difference in the political sphere," said Hammami, who is originally from Syria.

She says ineligible voters can still offer valuable perspectives and that they are an important part of Quebec.

"There needs to be an understanding that there is a lot of untapped potential in new immigrants," she said.

"We make up the backbone of a lot of society. Once we feel fully integrated, including voting, it can make life in Montreal so much more harmonious."

A woman works on a computer.
Myriam Keyloun said that her first time voting in Canada was in the 2021 federal election. (Sara Eldabaa/CBC)

What parties can do

Myriam Keyloun, the sponsorship program accompaniment co-ordinator at Action Réfugiés Montréal, says parties can do much more to show newcomers that they care about their interests "even before they can vote."

She says some parties tend to alienate newcomers without realizing many share some of their values.

Many are left to figure out Quebec's political landscape on their own, said Keyloun. She says that can prove difficult for those who are not fluent in French or English.

Hammami says being part of the democratic process would only be fair, and a political party could gain future voters in the process.

"I want to be able to feel like even if I do not vote right now, I am expected to be a part of the community," she said. "And in a couple of years, I will vote."

"It's about the idea of welcoming people into the society … into the ideology of voting itself."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Sara Eldabaa

CBC Journalist

Sara Eldabaa is a Montreal-based journalist with a background in psychology. Her goal is to do journalism that pushes boundaries and benefits society as a whole. Contact Sara at sara.eldabaa@cbc.ca or follow @e_sara__ on Twitter.

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