Victoria council is advocating for permanent residents to have the right to vote in municipal elections.
In a motion put forward on Thursday, Coun. Sharmarke Dubow, Coun. Laurel Collins, and Coun. Sarah Potts argued that more than 45 countries have granted permanent residents some form of voting rights, and that 11 municipalities in Canada are working towards the same goal.
“Permanent residents are not able to vote in municipal elections, despite them living here, working, playing, contributing and paying taxes,” said Dubow. “There is importance in having immigrants participate and having the chance to know their community, and have a sense of belonging.”
Dubow, who recently became a Canadian citizen himself, argued that there are many people who have lived in Canada for decades who may never get their citizenship.
“Perhaps they don’t want to give up their other citizenship, or maybe there are families who are struggling who can’t pay citizenship fees,” Dubow said. “Here in Victoria we have the opportunity and responsibility to say people deserve to live and belong here.”
Most recently, Vancouver, New West Minister and Port Moody passed motions unanimously asking the province to consider granting permanent residents municipal voting rights, something that could increase voter turnout and civic engagement.
Collins noted that a larger percentage of the CRD population is made up of immigrants and permanent residents.
“They’re our neighbours, friends,” Collins said. “Many are family members who have children in our schools and it’s time that they have the ability to contribute to our community.”
Coun. Geoff Young was the most vocal against the idea.
“Why are our requirements less restrictive than other forms of government?” he asked. Young said two big problems in allowing permanent residents the right to vote could be proper understanding of the language, and a questionable commitment to Canada.
Despite Young’s opposition, the motion passed seven-to-one.
It will now be brought forward the Association of Vancouver Island and Coastal Communities annual convention and the Union of B.C. Municipalities annual convention for further approval, as well as forwarded to the office of the Premier and the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing.