Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Oh, British Columbia.

The other evening, I hosted a book club at my house. There are ten of us in the book club, and we were all supposed to brainstorm ideas in the preceding weeks as to which book to read, and then decide together when we got there. To my surprise, several of my friends had "totally forgotten" about our plans when I called the day before. I offered to give them rides, arrange babysitting, or help them figure out work schedule changes so that they could come. I asked them to email me their choice for the next book if they couldn't be there that night, so that we could take their opinion into consideration. In the end, there were only four of us at my house that evening. Some of those who didn't show up offered their apologies.

Sorry, I'm just so tired today. 
I can't be bothered to figure out where your house is. 
There are too many books out there and none of them are true anyway. 
I'm sure you'll pick a good book anyways. 
My opinion doesn't really matter. 
It won't affect my life.

Those of us who showed up had thought about our choices. One friend was still deliberating up to the last minute, but made a choice right before we met. The four of us debated amongst ourselves and finally agreed on a biography of a tyrannical historical figure. It's a beast of a book, the kind of book that looks like it will take four years to slug through. I was unhappy with the choice, but at least I had raised my opinion and it had been considered.
The next day, the six friends who had not shown up to our meeting were notified of our choice. Two of them were so disillusioned that they promptly announced they were leaving our group. Apparently the choice didn't suit their values or priorities. If only they had communicated that when we were choosing. One friend actually said "Oh, was that meeting last night? I guess I missed it!" The other three stayed in the group, but complained about the choice that we made endlessly. The ironic thing is that they probably would have agreed with my book selection, or perhaps even a better selection. Pity they didn't show up or take the opportunity to send in their advance selection.

If you haven't guessed already, this is just an allegory. What are the chances that ten mommy friends would have time for a book club anyways? My friends are much nicer and more considerate than those make-believe friends too.

Our province, beautiful British Columbia, held a provincial election last night. We decided, not upon a book selection, but who will govern our province for the next four years. Guess what voter turnout was?

Fifty-two percent! 

Absolutely shameful. I'm bitterly disappointed with the outcome of the election. I'm exponentially more disappointed by voter apathy. Here is just a snapshot some things to consider when you think your right to vote doesn't matter. The following quotes are all taken from the Elections Canada website (

From 1867-1885, the following groups of people were not allowed to vote in British Columbia:

"Any person of Indian origin.
Any immigrant of Chinese origin.
Any person holding one of the following positions:
-employee of the customs department
-employee of the federal government responsible for collecting excise duties
-judge of the Supreme Court or a county court
-stipendiary magistrate
-police constable or police officer
Any employee of the federal government paid an annual salary (except postal employees).
Any employee of the provincial government paid an annual salary.
Any teacher paid by the government of the province.
Any person previously found guilty of treason, serious crimes or other offences, unless he had been pardoned or served his sentence."

"In 1920, only one province – British Columbia – discriminated against large numbers of potential voters on the basis of race. British Columbia excluded people of Japanese and Chinese origin, as well as "Hindus" – a description applied to anyone from the Indian subcontinent who was not of Anglo-Saxon origin, regardless of whether their religious affiliation was Hindu, Muslim, Sikh or any other."

"British Columbia had a long history of such discrimination: when it entered Confederation, 61.7 percent of the province's population was of First Nations or Chinese origin, while people of British origin accounted for 29.6 percent of residents. Under successive provincial governments, measures excluding First Nations people and people of Asian ancestry from the franchise were extended as immigration increased toward the end of the nineteenth century."

"Denial of the franchise had far-reaching implications, because provincial law also required that pharmacists, lawyers, and provincial and municipal civil servants be registered on the voters lists. As a result, Canadians of Japanese and Chinese origin were barred from these professions and from contracting with local governments, which had the same requirement."

"Several religious groups were disenfranchised by the War-time Elections Act of 1917, mainly because they opposed military service. Most prominent among them were the Mennonites and the Doukhobors. This disenfranchisement ended with the end of the First World War, but the treatment later accorded the two groups in the development of the franchise varied enormously."

"First Nations people in most parts of Canada had the right to vote from Confederation on – but only if they gave up their status through a process defined in the Indian Act and known as "enfranchisement." Quite understandably, very few were willing to do this."

"By 1960, when all Status Indians were finally granted the unconditional right to vote, disqualifications on racial and religious grounds had been eliminated altogether. At the same time, legislative and administrative change was making it possible for more and more Canadians to exercise their right to vote in various ways."
From The Native Voice, July 1949.
Link to original source

Women in British Columbia only won the right to vote in April, 1917. The above quotes don't even address the more complicated land-owning requirements that were in place in various forms during our elections history. Can you imagine if only land-owners in Vancouver were eligible to vote?

link to source
Perhaps for the next election, we should change electoral law to only allow a small group of people to vote, based on a ridiculous set of criteria. Only people who have green eyes, or live in purple houses, or hail from towns of less than 2,000 people would be allowed to vote. Perhaps, at the following vote, people would understand that their opportunity to vote is a sacred responsibility, a road to equality in the electoral process paved by the toil of countless people before us.

On any given election day, there is a small percentage of people who will have a valid reason, in my opinion, not to vote. Perhaps you or somebody in your family dies or has a medical emergency, or...actually, I can't think of any other reason. Get informed, make a decision, and vote! Engage your friends, neighbours, and family in the issues and let your voice be heard. I guess I should have written this yesterday, but I mistakenly had faith that after twelve years of disregard for the environment, ethnic groups, and public services, the voting population was as eager as I was to make their voices count.

A democracy (or, technically, a constitutional monarchy) is a terrible thing to waste. Your vote is a terribly powerful thing to waste, much more so than a book club book selection.


  1. Agree whole-heartedly. Well said.

  2. Wonderful blog.

    I am here to apologize to you and to all of British Columbia. I did not vote. I usually take this privilege very seriously and make sure my opinion is counted. My excuse? Well it certainly does not meet the criteria you suggest in your blog with which I agree.

    I am out of town and did forget (crazy I know because I am not actually staying in a cave) but I can't even use that as an excuse as I had a good friend remind me and even explain how I could vote from where I was.

    So what happened? Apathy? Laziness? Probably some of both and now I must live 4 more years with this choice made by those that did make the "huge effort" (sarcasm) to vote. I even tried to justify that my 1 little vote doesn't count, well, my intelligent mind wouldn't let me get away with that one.

    I believe though I may be different in one way. I will not complain about decisions made by this government, I have no right to. I did not cast my vote so I, myself have silenced my opinion for 4 years, not just one night.

    I will be back at my next voting opportunity because I regret my decision this time, I do care about my province and want my voice heard.

    please forgive me


  3. Forgiveness granted! At least, from me. Thanks for your thoughtful comments.
    Confession - I used to never vote in municipal elections. Laziness was the main culprit, because you have to work a little harder to figure out whom to vote for when there are no parties. Worse confession - I used to vote for the federal Conservatives, although technically they were the reform party back then.


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