That was one of the questions discussed when Community Living Ontario CEO Chris Beesley met with Karina Gould on Tuesday (August 22nd) in Toronto.
The Burlington MP and Federal Minister for Democratic Institutions was keen to receive input on ways to remove barriers to people voting come election time.
Beesley was delighted to hear that the Federal Government was interested in providing greater accessibility and helping more people to vote, but he pointed out that civic engagement and citizenship go well beyond election time, which only happens every four years.
“Removing barriers to elections begins by encouraging people who have an intellectual disability to take an active interest in politics, and to learn about the issues that are important to them and their community,” said Beesley.
“Then you can assist people to have an active voice in the process, to volunteer with a campaign or even run for political office themselves.”
Beesley and Minister Gould also discussed how legal capacity issues are a barrier to civic participation, and ways the Federal Government can encourage and influence the development of supported decision-making frameworks within each province and territory.
In addition, they talked about the need for more plain language materials to be produced on how to cast a ballot, as well as enhanced training for staff and volunteers at polling stations to better accommodate people who have a disability.
According to Statistics Canada, almost 200,000 Canadians did not vote in the last Federal election, because they did not have the sufficient identification required to vote. Bill C-33, which is intended to make amendments to the Canada Elections Act, will allow for the government to better promote and encourage people to vote, among other things.
“They’re going to use mobile polling stations more to be where people already are, rather than the other way around. I mentioned that across the country, there are, unfortunately, still people living in institutions who never get the opportunity to vote, so the mobile polling stations would work well in that instance,” added Beesley.
He also told Minister Gould that the Community Living movement is ready to partner and support her mandate and Elections Canada in creating more and better resources, so that people who have an intellectual disability can be better included in voting and the political process.
Beesley also left her with a copy of Inclusion International’s 2015 Toolkit for Governments (click here to download the document), which outlines how governments can audit themselves on how inclusive they are regarding voting and ways to improve the electoral process.
Update Friday Staff