Non-citizens cast out of city ballot

As the end of the campaign nears, not all residents will have the opportunity to cast their vote in the Oct. 25 election.

Currently, a permanent resident living in Canada cannot join the army, run for office, or vote for any level of government.

East Scarborough’s voting participation
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“I’ll be asking the province to allow permanent residents to vote,” said Leonardo Zuniga, the camapign coordinator for I Vote Toronto, a community organization dedicated to expanding voting eligibility to permanent residents.

Zuniga said that with a low voter turnout in elections, this strategy would engage residents now before they become citizens.

Low-voting neighbourhoods can be found in North York and Scarborough, areas that attract high numbers of immigrants.

According to a 2006 census, the majority of Malverners were of a visible minority and only 36 per cent of eligible voters cast a ballot.

“While the coalition represents many different interests, they are united in their understanding that Toronto’s electoral process must better reflect the makeup of its residents,” the I Vote Toronto website says.

But not all are on the side of broadening voter rights.

“I strongly urge people to become Canadian citizens,” said Ward 36 councillor Brian Ashton.

According to Ashton, the right to vote should be granted solely in citizenship. Canada has a three-year residency requirement to achieve citizenship.

“I am a real-life example of [how] permanent residents are active in the civic life of Toronto’s politics,” said Zuniga, who has lived in Canada since 2004 and recently received his permanent resident status.

“We are going to work hard to make a proposal by 2014 to allow permanent residents the right to vote,” he said.