Iqaluit high school students make the case for lower voting age

Group will tell senators Thursday why 16-year-olds should vote in federal elections

Sen. Marilou McPhedran listens to a virtual presentation on Monday by a group of Grade 11 students from Inuksuk High School on lowering the federal voting age to 16. The students will make their pitch again on Thursday to McPhedran and a group of other senators. (Screenshot from Zoom/Inuksuk High School presentation)

By David Venn
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

A group of Grade 11 students in Iqaluit made a pitch this week to Nunavut member of Parliament Mumilaaq Qaqqaq to allow 16 year olds the right to vote in federal elections. They’ll make the case to a group of senators later this week.

The nine students who worked on the project support Bill S-209, which is sponsored by Manitoba Sen. Marilou McPhedran, and proposes to lower the federal voting age to 16.

“We wholeheartedly believe that people our age deserve the opportunity to participate formally in the democratic process,” said Penelope Armstrong, one of the students who worked on the project, during the virtual presentation on Monday.

The students started their work in January, said Patrick McDermott, Inuksuk High School’s social studies department head, and quickly became a passion project that carried on after the class finished.

The students laid out a number of reasons why the federal voting age should be lowered, reporting best practices from other countries, citing studies that suggest 16-year-olds can rationally think as an adult would, and saying that young adults are already expected to pay taxes and have other responsibilities.

“Granting the vote to young adults 16 years and older should be part of modernizing our political system,” said Maiya Twerdin, another student who worked on the project.

Qaqqaq, who is the youngest person to represent Nunavut in Parliament, said it’s important to get young people more involved in politics.

“I totally agree that we need to see more responsibility given,” she said.

Qaqqaq said lowering the federal voting age may even help with local voter turnout for regional Inuit organizations because it will get young people accustomed to elections.

“I think that lowering the voting age federally just increases levels of involvement in youth in every way, shape and form,” she said.

“If we’re doing it in Inuit orgs, that just goes to show how much Inuit and northern culture promotes and wants youth involved.”

The bill was introduced in September 2020 and is currently in second reading in the Senate.

Next, the bill will have to go through a committee stage, where senators will do an in-depth review of the bill, and may propose amendments to it.

The student’s presentation to Qaqqaq was a warm-up for a second informal presentation that will take place on Thursday, which will have a senator-only audience, and will be co-hosted by Nunavut Sen. Dennis Patterson and McPhedran.

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(13) Comments:

  1. Posted by 21 on

    What are they smoking? Most 18 year olds have zero understanding of politics, let alone a 16 year old. If anything, voting age should be raised to 21.

    • Posted by JOHN on

      My 16 yr old has no idea , who jagmeet singh or orin o toole are , but she can name all the kardashians .

  2. Posted by Think About It on

    Only if they eliminate the Young Offender’s Act. You can not say in one breathe that someone who is 17 should not be held accountable for their actions because of their age, and then say they are 17 and should be capable of understanding the ramifications of the decisions in the voting booth

  3. Posted by Draft ‘Em I Say on

    As long as they are old enough to be drafted too.

  4. Posted by Optical Illusion on

    “16-year-olds can rationally think as an adult would”

    Is this saying something meaningful? In reality many adults can barely think rationally, I’m not sure if this is the best framing.

    • Posted by Irrational Thinker on

      Maybe it is meaningful. 16 year olds know as much about politics or more than most adults. I’d argue most adults vote for their party and that is where the thinking ends.

      If the kids are expected to pay taxes shouldn’t they be allowed to vote?

      • Posted by Optical Illusion on

        While it is tempting on an intuitive level to agree that most adults don’t think through their politics, or that youth hold equally complex and informed views (with the caveat that these might not be all that complex) this is the kind of statement that requires both some quantification and qualification.

        Of course there are going to be outliers and exceptions, we all know people who hold opinions that seem to lack much thought. Yet, we should consider that even views that appear sophisticated can have this problem.

        At the moment, though, my intuition is that on the whole 16 is a bit young to vote, even though there are surely 16 year olds who are engaged and thoughtful enough. This is a tough question.

      • Posted by Crystal Clarity on

        A ten year old who goes into the store to buy a can of pop will pay tax on that can of pop but I wouldn’t say they are equipped to vote in an election. Most16 year old kids have no idea about the electoral process, political parties, who leads those parties etc…. hell a significant number think our “president” is Donald Trump. They don’t know we have a prime minister speak less of who that person is. The youth turn out for Inuit org elections is incredibly low, even lower than the abyssmal turn out rate for the general population. And Mummilaq is a good example of how clued in youth is when it comes to politics.

  5. Posted by The Old Trapper on

    I don’t believe that this would be in the best interests of the country.
    We currently have a hard enough time getting capable people of any age to stand for election, whether it is federal, territorial, municipal, or for any one of the numerous organizations and boards that are a major source of employment in Nunavut.
    If you can vote, you should be able to vote for any candidate, including yourself. This would mean allowing 16 year olds to service in government.
    As for the “average” voter, most don’t pay any attention to politics with the possible exception of two weeks before an election, or to watch a debate on TV. While federal and provincial parties still have detailed platforms many of the candidates don’t know the details, outside of the vague party “policies”.
    And then it is a rare party platform that is backed up by a detailed plan. The platforms all sound good, but how do you execute the platform, and how do you pay for it?
    It’s great that the younger people want to be involved. Great, join the young Liberal, Conservatives, NDP, Greens. Canvass, work for a candidate, learn what the policy means, and how it would be implemented. You will be well prepared to vote when you reach the legal voting age.

  6. Posted by Tactics on

    Sounds like tactics from the woke left to get votes from kids who can’t think rationally.

    • Posted by Woka-Cola on

      This was actually one of my initial thoughts on this…

  7. Posted by Hmmmmm on

    Society allows 16 yr olds to drive cars and shoot guns and have jobs and pay taxes. 16 is the age you can move out or drop out. We trust these youth to care for our kids and work in our stores. Look around you next time youre in town and notice all the young people making key decisions that affect you and doing a good job at it. Vote? I dont see why not. They are already significant contribitors to our communities.

    • Posted by Ochlocracy on

      These are good points, and it is true that young people contribute a lot to our communities. Still, I don’t think there is an analogue between the activities you listed and what we take to be the characteristics incumbent of the voter. Being a cashier or working at a daycare center, or whatever it is among the many things our youth do are valuable to us, but nothing in these activities suggests the kind of preparation at the intellectual, educational or experiential levels of human development we expect, or should expect (I may be speaking on an idealistic level here to some extent, sadly) of a person charged with decision making at the broad societal level, implied by choosing a representative or leader. A comment above suggests kids are as informed about politics as adults, but this is wishful thinking and an obvious fiction.

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