Hamilton teen a part of Ontario court challenge to lower federal voting age

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A Hamilton teenager is one of many who have joined a court challenge looking to overturn Canada’s minimum age for voting.

Jacob Colatosti, 16, is a part of a group aged 12 to 18 from across Canada who have filed an application with the Ontario Superior Court of Justice to contest sections of Canada’s Elections Act baring Canadians under 18 from voting.

Read more: Young Canadians sue federal government in call to lower voting age

The young Hamiltonian says the reason for the bid is simple: the federal government makes decisions that affect his age group.

“We’re impacted by things like the COVID-19 pandemic that’s occurring right now, the economy, racism and discrimination and climate change — one of the biggest issues of our generation,” Colatosti told 900 CHML’s Good Morning Hamilton.

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“We want to be able to take what we believe and what affects us and bring that to parliament.”

Those taking part in the claim, from seven provinces and territories, filed their challenge on Tuesday with the Ontario Superior Court of Justice.

“Initially restricted to property-owning men aged 21 and older, voting rights in Canada have been gradually extended to other Canadian citizens such as women, racialized people, Indigenous people, inmates, and citizens who live abroad,” the declaration said.

“This progressive enfranchisement was driven by our growing recognition that ‘every citizen’ must include those who may have been excluded from social and political participation.”

Sections 3 and 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms are being targeted by the youths with the first (Section 3) clearly stating “every citizen of Canada has the right to vote in an election” for the House of Commons and the legislative assembly.

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Also in their sights is Section 15, which declares “every individual is equal” under the law and has the right to the equal benefit of the law without discrimination, including by age.

Colatosti believes today’s youth are much more informed about the world than previous generations thanks to technology, which he suggests gives them the ability to understand the information coming from it.

“Technology has allowed us to be able to understand and consume a lot more different forms of information,” said Colatosti.

“So we’re able to see information from all sides of stories because of technology, and we’re able to interpret and create our own opinions based off of it.”

The federal government’s Privy Council Office said in an email that youth in Canada have many opportunities to participate in democracy, including encouraging others to vote, becoming engaged in organizations or groups that promote democratic values, and pre-registering to vote.

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It noted the government has established the Register of Future Electors so young Canadians can pre-register to vote, which removes the largest barrier to first-time voters.

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“Youth aged 14-17 are encouraged to register on the Elections Canada website.”

Justice for Children and Youth as well as the the David Asper Centre for Constitutional Rights at the University of Toronto are providing legal help for the youths in the challenge.

As for what new voting age minimum they are seeking, Colatosti says there isn’t a specific one they are fighting for.

“So when you look at other countries around the world that have a lower voting age than 18, the standard is 16 in countries like Brazil, Austria and recently Scotland — which is a country quite similar to Canada itself,” Colatosti said.

“I can see from my own experience, of those people around me at 16 and younger, we’re prepared to vote.”

– with files from the Canadian Press


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