Canadian laws · Canadian Stories

What would it be like not to have the right to vote in Canada?

It feels with every passing election that politics becomes more divisive, and the uglier and more divisive, the less likely people will vote.

With the federal election looming, I find myself thinking, what good will my vote do? 

And yet… I will vote. I will vote because being unable to vote in this country means having no say over what a government may do to me.

Being able to vote means being a person entitled to all the rights of citizenship:

  • It means I may travel with a passport declaring my citizenship.
  • It means if I’m in trouble while travelling, I can call my consulate.
  • It means I may request documents considered private from Library and Archives Canada through the Access to Privacy and Information Act.
  • It means if I am accused of wrongdoing I have the right to engage legal counsel.
  • It means if I am fired for being female, or gay, or Muslim, or deaf, I have the right to sue to be treated as any other citizen in the country.

Being a citizen means being surrounded and largely protected by an invisible web of laws and regulations that allow most of us to carry on with our lives without needing to know much about it at all. Which leads me to: what would it be like to live in Canada and not be a citizen? How hard would it be? 

Here is my story from April, 2017. It’s a story about rights and voting, about history and unjust laws, and about two men – Kew (K.) Dock Yip and Irving Himel – who took on the federal government and won.

The right to be a Canadian: Irving Himel, K. Dock Yip, and The Committee for the Repeal of the Chinese Immigration Act

The right to be a Canadian: Irving Himel, K. Dock Yip, and The Committee for the Repeal of the Chinese Immigration Act
K. Dock Yip and Irving Himel, 1991

Afterword

Like all good stories, the story behind the story is as good as the story itself. K. Dock Yip almost didn’t become a lawyer. There had never been a lawyer of Chinese descent before. He was refused entry to law school three times before being admitted to Osgood Hall. What would we have lost if Dock hadn’t been both smart and determined?

For more on the achievements of K. Dock Yip, here is a video interview featuring sons John and Alfie.

As I write this post I’m about to leave for China. On my list of To Dos is taking advantage of the advance voting because I’ll be out of the country and offline when Canada goes to vote on October 21st. Happy voting!

 

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