The180

Electoral reform must include racialized communities

Discussion of electoral reform in this country has most often focused on HOW people can engage in the democratic process, but lawyer Avvy Go argues it's time for the government to look at WHO is engaging with the democratic process.
Early immigrants faced not only the hardship of settling into a new home but also racist policies — Chinese and Indo-Canadians did not have the right to own property and only got the right to vote in 1947. (CBC)
Listen3:18

Since the day Justin Trudeau promised to replace the first-past-the-post voting system, there has been a lot of talk about electoral reform in this country. 

Most of that discussion has been about how people participate in the democratic process. 

But for Avvy Go, if the government truly wants to reform elections, it must examine who gets to participate in Canada's democracy. 

Today, tens of thousands permanent residents are denied the right to vote because of our strict naturalization law.. That's not to mention the 200,000 or so immigrants with precarious status who have lived and worked in Canada without ever being given a chance to regularize their status.- Avvy Go

She notes that historically, Canada has made voting impossible for racialized communities. 

Avvy Go, lawyer and director of the Metro Toronto Chinese & Southeast Asian Legal Clinic. (Submitted by Avvy Go)

In 1885, for example, Go says the government stripped Chinese Canadians of the right to vote because according to John A. Macdonald, they had "no British instincts or British feelings or aspirations."

And while the legal barriers aren't as obvious now, Go argues they are still significant and troublesome. 

She argues electoral reform is an opportunity to engage Canadians in a discussion of democracy.

We can begin by having a dialogue with each other on not only the technical aspect of voting, but the kind of society we want to live in. - Avvy Go

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