Afghan civic engagement group hopes to get more youth to the polls
Toronto voters are set to head to the polls in the municipal election on Monday
With Toronto voters set to head to the polls in the municipal election on Monday, one organization is still aiming to help one of the city's many ethnic groups cast their ballot.
"Because of the experiences our parents have had in Afghanistan ... there's a lot of distrust in the system," AYEDI executive director Khalidha Nasiri told CBC Toronto.
"There's a bit of a cynical view of democracy and civic engagement in general that's been passed along ... to the younger generations."
Afghanistan's political scene has been tainted by the aftermath of a disputed presidential vote in 2014 that forced the two main rival groupings to form an unstable partnership.
Both sides were accused of massive electoral cheating. Numerous allegations of voter fraud made before the election have also presented a challenge to the legitimacy of the process.
Afghan community faces challenges
Nasiri has been a part of organizations like Scarborough Transit Action and the Canadian-Muslim Vote. She has been representing her riding of Scarborough-Guildwood with the Equal Voice's 2017 Daughters of the Vote initiative.
Nasiri says civic education and resources are not readily accessible to Afghan youth and attributes some of the oversight to the Afghan community's relatively low population in Canada.
UReach Toronto, a religious organization aiming to connect the city's multicultural communities, cites the number of Afghans in Toronto at around 21,000 in 2017.
AYEDI launched in May, and as a grassroots Afghan youth-led group, it aims to cultivate civic engagement and social development in first and second-generation Afghan-Canadian youth — generations that are themselves reconciling the legacy of scars and conflict faced by their predecessors and those still in Afghanistan.
Nasiri has a background working in government, research and youth leadership programs and saw the need for AYEDI after talking with youth in her community.
AYEDI has started a social media campaign to put a face to those who say they want to inspire civic engagement among Afghan youth. Nasiri says it is important for young Afghans to see community leaders who are trying to impact government on different levels.
Voter turnout on the rise
On the federal, provincial and municipal levels, voter turnout is on the rise. Elections Canada found that in the 2015 federal election, over 66 per cent of voters aged 18 to 24 came out to the polls. An 12 per cent increase from 2011. Elections Ontario reported a jump to 58 per cent this year from 51 per cent in 2014.
Nasiri says she wants the momentum to keep going for not only the general Toronto population but Afghan youths. The group plans on expanding by offering a mentorship program and further exploring ways to better educate Afghans on political policy and civic contribution.
Nasiri says she wants the Afghan youth community in Toronto to be mindful of the sacrifices that are being made in Afghanistan, where suicide bombers are killing voters at the polls.
"We should really use the situation there [Afghanistan] as sort of a lesson or to help us realize why it's important for us to be involved here [Toronto]," she said. "Our vote here, really does count and young Afghans really do have the chance to make a difference in their lives."
With files from Reuters