The Great Young Offenders Act Debate

The debate for December 1999 is:

Canadians are not entitled to vote in federal and provincial elections until they turn 18. Should the voting age be reduced to 12? Young persons ages 12 to 18 can be prosecuted for all the same criminal offences and can be required to serve the same kind of sentences as adults so why can't they vote? Are young persons incapable of making responsible decisions? Are adults better at choosing politicians? Are young persons ignorant of social issues? Are political decisions irrelevant to young persons?

What do you think?


bulletCanada Elections Act (see specifically s. 50 and 53
bulletproposed Canada Elections Act Bill C-2 (see s. 3)
bulletCharter of Rights s. 3 (citizens entitled to vote)
bulletCommentary by the Department of Justice
bulletCharter of Rights s. 15 (no discrimination based on age)



29 D.L.R. (4th) 544

British Columbia Supreme Court 

"The "right to vote" in s. 3 of the Charter is subject to reasonable restrictions such as age, mental capacity, residence and registration. So long as the administrative procedures involved in the latter do not constitute a practical denial of the right to cast a ballot in the election in question, or constitute unreasonable restrictions on the s. 3 right, they will not be struck down." 


Read what other people have said

Comments Made by Participants

29 Nov 1999

Is an age limit of 18 a "reasonable limit" on the right to vote?

If age is a prohibited ground of discrimination under Charter s. 15 how can it be a "reasonable limit"?

Legislation which discriminates on the basis of age (eg. the Young Offenders Act) is permitted to discriminate under Charter s. 15 if it seeks to ameliorate the conditions of a disadvantaged group. Are 12 to 18 year olds having their conditions ameliorated by denial of the right to vote? What would happen if a visible minority were denied the right to vote in order that the majority could ameliorate their conditions, i.e. take care of them ? Has this happened before in Canadian society? What was the result?

29 Nov 1999

I am age 11 and I think people my age should have a right to vote because we may know a bit more of the inside view of what's going on with our education.

30 Nov 1999

Democracy is based on the principle that everyone should have a voice. This is regardless of how stupid, ill-informed and unethical a person is. However, this right to have a say in government does depend on age. I think I'm smart enough to vote and I think I'd offer a different opinion than most people of voting age. I also know that most people my age (16) , or even people of voting age are too stupid to make an informed decision. If the voting age was lowered most of the young people who don't know anything about current events and politics won't vote anyway. So why not, I mean, would it be such a disaster to allow teenagers to vote? Stupid teenagers will just turn into stupid adults, we might as well give them practice at being decisive now.

01 Dec 1999

I believe that 14 would be a better choice then 12. Voting is something that requires a certain level of maturity, which has not yet developed at this age. I believe that it would give teenagers more of a sense that they are a respected part of society. Many teenagers feel that they are treated as second class citizens without a say.

08 Dec 1999

I think that anyone should be able to vote, no matter what their age, if they are able to vote. I think that people aged 12 and over should be allowed to vote. The main argument against this, is that people think that people under the age of 18, and not intelligent enough to pick a proper candidate. Well, my argument is that people over the age of 18 can not pick a decent Prime Minister! Look at who we have now! That was picked by people over the age of 18. I don't think that people under the age of 18 could do any worse, so why not give them a chance?? I can guarantee you that if i had a vote, there is no way I would vote for someone who has difficulties doing everything! Boo!! Prime Minister! Boo!!

 So why would 14yr olds even want to vote?

08 Dec 1999

I believe that the age to vote should be 16yrs. Anything under that age I think is much to young. I'm 19 yrs ,and I don't even vote myself. So why would 14yr olds even want to vote?

21 Jan 2000

Personally, I think 18 is too young to vote, most people at the age of 18 are still in school, and don't have time to catch up on the issues of the election. Kids who are 15, 16, 17 couldn't possibly understand the candidates and the issues they are for or against.