Young Canadians sue federal government over voting age

One of the litigants is Diego Christiansen-Barker of Campbell River, 17.

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Several young Canadians are suing the federal government in an attempt to abolish the minimum voting age.

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They argue that denying citizens under the age of 18 the right to vote in federal elections is unconstitutional.

They argue that the minimum voting age violates two sections of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms

They say that a section of the charter guarantees the right to vote for all Canadian citizens regardless of age.

The Canada Elections Act sets the minimum age for federal elections at 18.

Thirteen young people from across the country, aged 12 to 18, are part of the lawsuit, which has not been tested in court. One of the litigants is Diego Christiansen-Barker of Campbell River, 17.

“They each want to participate meaningfully in Canadian democracy by exercising their right to vote before the age of 18,” said the request, which was filed Tuesday in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice.

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Young people argue that the electoral rules have changed dramatically over time and should continue to do so.

“Initially limited to male owners 21 years of age and over, voting rights in Canada have been gradually extended to other Canadian citizens such as women, racialized people, Indigenous peoples, inmates and citizens living there. ‘foreign,’ the statement read.

“This progressive emancipation has been motivated by our growing recognition that ‘every citizen’ must include those who may have been excluded from social and political participation.

The youth are joined in the lawsuit by Justice for Children and Youth, a non-profit legal aid clinic dedicated to advancing the rights and interests of young people in Canada.

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Twelve-year-old Tharan D’Silva is among those taking the federal government to court and “believes young people have intelligent and developed political views that the government needs to recognize,” the claim said.

“He is passionate about healthcare, climate change and education, and participates in a social club for children with autism,” he said.

Katie Yu, 15, of Iqaluit, Nunavut, is also part of the claim.

She is “committed to raising public awareness about climate change, mental health, suicide prevention and racial justice, and the impact of these issues on the North,” according to the statement.

“The minimum voting age presents an unjustifiable restriction on the right of citizens to vote in Canada,” argues the demand.

Young people say being denied the right to vote “perpetuates stereotypical and damaging attitudes that young people are less able and less deserving to participate in Canadian democracy through the electoral process,” according to the document.

These qualifications are not imposed on those over 18, they say.

“Vague and unsubstantiated claims of maturity are not sufficient to justify the deprivation of much of Canadian society of their basic political right,” said the claim.

The federal government did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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