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Ontario university presidents' pledge to encourage students to vote

As Canadians head to the polls, The Council of Ontario Universities (COU) has announced that the presidents of Ontario’s 20 publicly funded universities have signed a pledge committing to encourage students to get out and vote.

"As incubators of critical inquiry and debate, universities function as core institutions of a democratic society,” says the pledge. “It is in this role that Ontario universities pledge to support the fundamental democratic right of students to participate freely in electoral processes where they are entitled to do so as citizens.”

Electoral participation is a core right and responsibility of citizens and yet participation among Canadian youth is lamentably low. In the 2011 federal election, voter turnout among youth aged 18 to 24 was 39 per cent—far below the 75 per cent participation rate for citizens aged 65 to 74. For our democratic society to continue to flourish, the political process must be made more accessible and empowering for youth.

“Voter turnout in Canada has been declining for decades, particularly among young people. It’s crucial that universities encourage students to vote,” said Dr. Mike DeGagné, president and vice-chancellor of Nipissing University.  “Students need to be informed and engaged citizens who actively participate in our democracy.”

Ontario universities are committed to working with student groups and electoral officials from all orders of government to promote student participation in the electoral process by:

  • Supporting the dissemination of information on electoral participation on campus;
  • Facilitating the availability of federal, provincial, and municipal voting stations at accessible campus locations where off-campus locations are logistically or geographically inaccessible to students;
  • Encouraging campus-based groups that promote student voting and work to identify and address barriers to student participation;
  • Providing an update on progress toward these commitments at least once every four years.

“Ontario universities are educating generations of citizens and the leaders of tomorrow,” says Bonnie Patterson, COU President and CEO. “Our democratic culture will be ever more vibrant if we help our students get engaged in the democratic process.”

Click here to see the pledge.


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