Voting can be intimidating for first timers. Resources are out there to help new Canadians

Help is out there for those casting a ballot for the first time on June 2.

'Voting and feeling like I don't have information is a bit stressful and overwhelming'

Yara Abdel Sater says she wants to do her research before voting for the first time in an Ontario election. (Jennifer La Grassa/CBC)

Windsorite Yara Abdel Sater, 21, is voting in an Ontario election for the first time.

She's not ready to commit to a candidate yet — she wants to do her research first — but she's looking forward to having her say on the issues.

"I'm just looking for there to be a little bit of hope for a better future," she said, adding that she would like to see lower inflation, a cooling off of the housing market, more jobs for newcomers and a decrease in student debt.

Abdel Sater has always had Canadian citizenship but moved to Canada in 2020 after living in Lebanon for most of her life.

As a newcomer and a busy student at the University of Windsor, she said she hasn't had enough time to get up to speed on the history ahead of the June 2 vote, though she did cast a ballot federally in the fall.

She's also concerned about whether the information she reads online is objective and factual, considering her current level of knowledge.

"Voting and feeling like I don't have information is a bit stressful and overwhelming," she said.

She sympathizes with new Canadians who might have language barriers adding to that struggle, though she doesn't have a barrier herself, and she's like to see more awareness and advertising of the resources to support new Canadians who are voting for the first time.

Rema Nohra is a manager at The New Canadians' Centre of Excellence. She oversees the settlement workers in the school program and library settlement partnership program. (Jennifer La Grassa/CBC)

The New Canadians' Centre for Excellence in Windsor-Essex is one resource that new citizens can access for voting support. 

Rema Nohra, manager of the centre's settlement workers in the school and library settlement partnership programs, told CBC News that the centre teaches refugees and permanent residents about the political processes when they first arrive. 

She said this includes teaching them about democracy and the freedom to vote, along with the specifics of poll locations and the actual process. 

"It's amazing what they learn and what they think about Canada," she said. 

"Some because they come with a stigma from wherever they were, coming here and learning about everything, the freedom, the democracy, freedom to exercise your rights to vote, your rights to live freely, that's amazing to them." 

But voting in this election requires Canadian citizenship, as well the voter must be 18 years or older and a resident of Ontario. 

First time voters can go to Elections Ontario's website to register ahead of time, Nohra said the centre can help with that. 

As well, for people who have just gotten their citizenship and want to go through the political parties and their platforms or get a refresh on the voting process, Nohra said they can call the centre for more information. 

While the centre hasn't received many questions just yet, she said they're already planning ahead for a possible information session that will help new Canadians be prepped on the voting process. 

Some of the challenges, she said, include getting the information out to people in a timely way. 

"Sometimes they don't follow the elections, they don't watch news in English, some of them, but it's part of educating them, that's the main thing, we have to have the time and the language capacity, the right time for them to get the information and practice whatever they are learning," she said. 

The Elections Ontario website has resources on how to vote in 38 languages.


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