Canada is going to Federal Elections on October 19 and half of Canadian voters as of September 1, 2015 poll results are still undecided. Only 44 per cent of those surveyed by Nanos Research indicated they are set on one choice for their vote.
This election will be an exciting one as we had predicted earlier with a potentially unpredictable three-way race between the Conservatives, Liberals and NDP. The election this year is marked by significant anniversaries as well which include 800th anniversary of Magna Carta.
According to an Ipsos Reid exit poll from the 2011 election, 12 per cent of Muslims who voted supported the Conservative party, while 46 per cent voted Liberal, and another 38 per cent voted NDP.
According to Statistics Canada, Muslims comprise between 12 and 19 per cent of the populations in 19 federal ridings, 11 in Ontario, six in Quebec and two in Alberta.
Canadian Muslims are concentrated in certain provinces. They are most numerous in the province of Ontario, followed by Quebec, British Columbia and Alberta. Within these provinces, Muslim Canadians are further concentrated in Toronto, followed by Montréal, Vancouver, Ottawa, Calgary and Edmonton. Combined, these six Canadian cities are home to 85.2% of the Canadian Muslim population, with Toronto alone housing 43.8% of Muslim Canadians. Ref: Elections.ca
On August 2, 2015, Prime Minister Stephen Harper triggered a federal election campaign when he met Governor General David Johnston and asked him to dissolve the Parliament. Election day is set as Monday, October 19 making it a marathon eleven-week campaign, the longest in modern times. This could also go on to become the most expensive campaign in Canadian history. The last time politicians spent extended campaign time on an election trail was in 1872.
Why Canadian Muslims should vote
In Canada, we are all blessed with fundamental rights (free speech, religion) – rights that don’t exist in some countries that vast majority of immigrants come from. We have a judicial system that is autonomous from the government, something that is not the case in many countries. Above all, in Canada we have the right to freely vote in an election once you turn 18 years old.
You have the right to cast a ballot on a number of different occasions: be it federal, provincial, and municipal. Your vote counts. While all this sounds too good, historically there has been low voter turnout in recent elections in Canada. It very is important that as Muslims, we demonstrate our participation in a democratic process in this great country, which we are proud to call our home.
There are few questions that need to be looked at as we gear up for the 2015 Federal Elections:
Do you understand the agenda/program offered by the main political parties?
Do you understand what are the responsibilities of a Federal elected representative?
Do you really know who you are voting for and why?
Do you know your rights as a voter?
Are you influencing your friends, family and eligible youth in the family to vote?
تكلم حتى أراك
صوتك يعبر عن وجودك وهو أكثر من مجرد قدرة على الحديث.. فكلامك هو أنت
Many new Canadians who come from countries in Middle East and Asia have not been exposed to an elections process. Some of these countries have absolute monarchies and no electoral process.
آپ کا ووٹ آپ کی آواز
It hence becomes important for people to realize the significance of voting process here in Canada. This is more significant for those immigrants who come from countries where election process is different or altogether non existent.
Equally important is to explore the reasons why people do not come out to vote. Here are a few thoughts that come to mind that could help address and perhaps solicit more engagement from people in the future to come out to vote and have their say in the affairs of their country:
1 – A survey/study: to find out the reasons for people not coming out to vote – Such a study could focus on finding out what incentivizes people to participate in election process. Advertisements focussing on social sense of responsibility and encouraging participation and making voting day a special day for everyone to think and ask the questions, “how can I make my country better?”
2- Youth Engagement: is equally important. There should be focus on youth and educating children in lower grades to understand the importance of voting. Youth outreach programs should be introduced to engage young population and discuss real issues facing our country. Making politics meaningful to the youth will go a long way in fostering a culture of democratic participation.
3- Role of Imams: In some cases new eligible voters have come from countries where electoral processes are either different or non-existent. It is an opportunity to engage, educate and instil a sense of empowerment to this demographic group, which will help integrate them more deeply into our Canadian fabric. Community leaders have a great responsibility here and we appreciate the initiatives taken by Canadian politicians who keep themselves engaged at Muslim community events, be it Ramadan, Eid or other significant events.
4- Raising Awareness On Issues Concerning Immigrants: It is only by participation, collaboration and engagement that we can demonstrate our understanding of the social issues and what concerns immigrants and their issues. If you stay away from this key national dialogue and lose your chance to vote, who will voice your concerns?
5- Islam’s Message Is Universal: Islam’s message is universal and advocates that we live in a harmonious and cohesive social environment. Islam encourages us to voice our opinion peacefully with sound justifications and reasoning on all aspects of our lives. By participating in Canada’s political process, we are getting a valuable opportunity to support and build national causes that include Citizenship and Immigration, Health, Finance, Justice, Public Safety, National Defence and other important Federal issues.
We need to realize here that political engagement is an important part of civic responsibility. It begins with increased awareness of issues surrounding us and our willingness to discuss resolution of these issues that impact our community’s life; and ultimately participate in a process to resolve those issues that matter. While it is equally important for our governments to ensure our democratic systems demonstrate visible participation, it is the voter, you, who makes his/her voice matter. You fulfill all your other civic responsibilities quite well by paying taxes, reporting for jury duty, following the laws of land.
Political Parties in Canada:
There are six political parties in Canada at this time. The four main political parties are the Conservative Party of Canada (governing party), the New Democratic Party (official opposition), the Liberal Party of Canada, and the Green Party of Canada. The other two political parties are the Bloc Québécois and Forces et Démocratie. To learn about these parties click on the links below to keep yourselves updated:
This is a public service message that should be spread as much as possible among our social circles. Canada is home, let’s make our voice meaningful and heard at the right time. Let’s educate ourselves on national issues, which political party is going to address those issues and above all let’s be responsible citizens of this great country.
Let’s also engage with Canadians of all beliefs and faiths and engage in a meaningful dialogue and vote on issues that matter to us all as one nation, proud Canadians! Let’s be part of this great democratic process on October 19, 2015.