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Myer Siemiatycki Ryerson University Who Belongs Conference 24 September 2010.

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Presentation on theme: "Myer Siemiatycki Ryerson University Who Belongs Conference 24 September 2010."— Presentation transcript:

1 Myer Siemiatycki Ryerson University Who Belongs Conference 24 September 2010

2 Voting Rights in Canada are Attached to Canadian Citizenship Status Citizenship Confers and Withholds Political Rights “The rule of citizens over noncitizens, of members over strangers, is probably the most common form of tyranny in human history.” (Michael Walzer)  Immigration Status Determines Municipal Voting Rights in Canada. Is This Appropriate?  I’ll Argue that a Renewed Emphasis on ‘Urban Citizenship’ is one way to Extend Democratic Rights to Disenfranchised Immigrants

3  Not to 60% of Eligible Voters  So Why Bother Advocating an Expanded Municipal Franchise & Electorate?  The Broken is Bad & the Fix Would Be Good  The Current Municipal Franchise Regime ◦ Debases Urban Democracy ◦ Promotes Social Exclusion Where Immigrants Live ◦ Is Inappropriate for ‘An Age of Migration’  Extending Non-Citizen Municipal Voting Rights ◦ Advances Democracy & Political Participation ◦ Promotes the City as an Arena of Newcomer Belonging ◦ Promotes Immigrant Political & Electoral Participation ◦ Could Yield More Equitable Diversity of Politicians

4  “Cities have re-emerged not only as objects of study but also as strategic sites for the theorization of a broad array of social, economic, and political processes central to the current era: economic globalization and international migration; and the emergence of new types of inequality”(Saskia Sassen)  “Who belongs where, and with what citizenship rights, the emerging global cities?” (Leonie Sandercock)

5 Voting Rights Historically Restricted & Contested Property Qualification Female Exclusion Racial Exclusion First Nations Exclusion Age Exclusion “immigrant rights are the civil rights of the day”; “noncitizen voting is the suffrage movement of our time”. (Jamin Raskin)

6  Determined By the Province of Ontario in the Municipal Elections Act  The Municipal Franchise is Contingent on: ◦ Nationality: Canadian Citizenship ◦ Age: 18 Years and Over ◦ And EITHER  Residency in the Municipality; OR  A Non-Resident Owning or Renting Property in a Municipality (Hence Paying Municipal Property Tax), in which case the owner/renter AND spouse have right to vote in the municipality as Non-Residents  19 th Century citizenship norms of property rights live on in 21 st Century Ontario, ( Plus 2 For 1 Special)

7 MunicipalityNon-Citizen Pop% Total Pop. Montreal179, % Ottawa 42, % Toronto380,135 (Halifax)15.4% Brampton 50,56415% Mississauga 94, % Hamilton 30,065 6% Winnipeg 36, % Calgary 83, % Edmonton 48, % Vancouver 74, % Burnaby 29, % Surrey 45, %

8  1. Landed Immigrants Not Yet Naturalized ◦ High Naturalization Rate in Canada: 85.1% ◦ In 2006, Toronto = c. 187K  2. Landed Immigrants Not Yet Eligible for Naturalization ◦ 3 Year Residency + 1 Year Application Time ◦ At current immigration levels, Toronto = c. 200K  Never Eligible For Naturalization…Temporary Residents ◦ TFWs, International Students & refugee Claimants ◦ 1996=270K; 2008 = 587 K ◦ Ontario Gets Most  B) Never Eligible For Naturalization…Non-Status ◦ Toronto Economy Relies on Underground Workforce  Total Non-Citizens in 2010 is Greater in 2006  Most Are Visible Minorities

9  Almost 1 in 6 Torontonians Denied Local Voting Rights  Extreme Neighbourhood Effect ◦ Some Have >30% Non-Citizen Population ◦ 25% of Ns Have >20% Non-Citizen Population  No Vote in the City that is Home, Where They Pay Taxes, Rely on Local Services & are ‘Regulated’  Across Ontario 130,000 Students have Parents Ineligible for School Board Elections  Is this Exclusion Fair? Does it Create Conditions For Optimal Municipal Policy-Making?  Prior to last 2006 City Election, 246,924 names were dropped from Voters List – Vast Majority Due to Non- Canadian Citizenship  What is Gained By Denying So Many the Vote?

10  1. The High Cost of Exclusion  2. Municipal Government is Different  3. Creating Cities of Belonging  4. Strengthening Canadian Democracy  5. Other Countries Do It

11  Powers & ‘Rights Regime’ Are Different  Powers of Municipalities ◦ ‘Merely Local’ Jurisdiction of Municipalities Precludes ‘Dual Loyalty’ Fears of Extending Franchise to Foreign Nationals re: defense, foreign affairs, etc  Rights Regime ◦ Municipal Voting Rights Always Based on Different Principles than Fed/Prov Regime ◦ Stakeholder Principle Prevails Municipally ◦ Property Tax-Paying Confers Voting Rights ◦ “No Taxation Without Representation” Enshrined Municipally ◦ Since Property Tax Paying Trumps Municipal Residency as Right to Vote, Why Not Also Trump Nationality? ◦ Nationality an Arbitrary Criteria for Municipal Voting Rights

12  What is the Optimal ‘Rights Regime’ for Cities of Migration  Voting Restrictions Construct Immigrants as Political ‘Outsiders’  Immigrants Demonstrate Commitment to Toronto By Leaving Homeland For Here  Integration Works Best When Newcomers Feel Valued, Recognized & Equally Treated  Residency as Shared Basis of Urban Belonging

13  City of Toronto Act of 2005 Defines the City as a Corporation “that is composed of the inhabitants of its geographic area.”  Inhabiting a City SHOULD Confer Status, Identity, Rights & Responsibilities  City Does Enact This in Own Sphere of Jurisdiction: Policy on Access to City Services  Dublin Mayor Michael Conaghan on how Its Non- Citizen Immigrants Regard Their Local Voting Rights: ◦ “They like the idea of being asked for their vote. They feel a part of the city. I suppose they feel they’re not being dismissed.”

14  Canada’s Democratic Deficit Deepening  Voter Turn-Out & Trust in Gov’t Falling  What Promotes Political Participation?  Start By Removing Barriers and Promoting Engagement  Equate Voting With Living in Canada  Municipal Government as ‘School of Democracy’  Political Participation as Learned Experience  Reduce the Under-Representation of Immigrants & Visible Minorities in Elected Office

15 Over 30 Countries on 5 Continents today grant voting rights to non-citizen residents Variances in which non-citizens can vote, at what jurisdiction & based on what residency period New Zealand the most permissive: after 1 year residency, legal immigrants vote in national & local elections Norm is municipal voting rights only, for legally admitted immigrants after 1-5 year residency

16 Give Political Voice and Rights to Many disenfranchised Residents & Taxpayers Make local Government More accountable Reduce Political Marginalization & Exclusion of Immigrants Promote Importance of Issues affecting Immigrants Promote immigrant Political Inclusion Promote Voting : Carry-over to Federal & Provincial Arenas after Naturalization Promoting One Resident, One Vote Could Lead More Currently-Eligible Voters to actually Do So


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