Sunday, December 19, 2021

Attempts to lower the voting age in Canada

Canada will soon debate a private member's bill, sponsored by NDP MP Taylor Bachrach, proposing to lower the voting age to 16. I don't know its prospects of success, since it seems that there have been similar attempts in the not-so-distant past. Still, this may be useful for discussion on my democratic theory module next semester.


In a separate, though related, matter it seems there's a current legal challenge to the current threshold. It's argued that this minimum is an unjustifiable breach of Section 3 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which states that "every citizen of Canada has the right to vote in an election of members of the House of Commons or of a legislative assembly." 


I don't know much about Canadian constitutional law, but it's not obvious that lowering the minimum voting age to 16 would be much of an improvement. If every citizen has this right, and citizenship starts from birth, then presumably there should be no minimum voting age. Any age threshold will exclude some citizens who are below that age.


Perhaps exclusions of the very young may be justifiable breaches of this right, though this still leaves a question as to at what point this is justifiable. I've heard proposals to set the voting age at various points from 12 to as low as six before. If any of those are remotely plausible, then even 16 would be unjustifiable.

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