Quebecers who can't vote still want their voices heard this election
As contributing members of society, they say they shouldn't be ignored
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.
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.
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."
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."