Cherishing the right to vote

I regularly tune in to CBC Radio in the mornings. I like the world and local news broadcasts, and enjoy hearing about what’s happening in BC Southern Interior.

I regularly tune in to CBC Radio in the mornings. I like the world and local news broadcasts, and enjoy hearing about what’s happening in BC Southern Interior.

The Current with Anna-Marie Tremonti is a show I particularly enjoy. Last week Anna-Marie had a woman named Flora Thibodeau on her show. Flora is a 110-year-old Acadian residing in New Brunswick. If you didn’t catch the show, you may be thinking that Flora talked about her secret to long life. But that wasn’t the case. Instead, Flora talked about voting since she remembers when women did not have the right to vote. Timely topic with a federal election going on.

Canadian women first voted in Ontario municipal elections in 1884, but only widows and “spinsters” cast ballots. Shortly after, other provinces followed suit, enfranchising the same category of women. B.C. and Manitoba went a step further, allowing all women rate-payers (which was a very few) the municipal vote.

Between 1883 and 1914, a few men introduced bills for women’s vote at both federal and provincial levels of government. They were defeated not because each bill only enfranchised a selected group of women, like those unwed or of European heritage, but because women were considered “the weaker sex” in mind as well as body.

Finally in 1916, after a passionate and notable campaign led by Nellie McClung, provincial voting rights were extended to all Manitoban women, excluding some ethnicities and all aboriginal peoples. Most other provinces followed suit. A couple of years later, the government of Canada granted this same demographic of women voting rights in 1918. It wasn’t until 1960 that all Canadian citizens finally had the right to vote.

Flora voted the first chance she got. It was a big deal. Since then, she says she has “voted a lot,” more times than she can count. And when asked if it is difficult for her to vote at 110 years old, she replies “voting isn’t any trouble for me.”

Now if Flora, at 110 finds voting easy, why don’t a large portion of those between the ages of 18 and 40? Many say that they don’t know enough to vote, that they aren’t paying much attention.

Well to those, I say “Know this: Democracy isn’t a spectator sport, don’t use and you lose it.”  The right to vote is also a responsibility not to be taken for granted. Apathy breeds dictatorships that strip people of basic freedoms.

The act of voting is powerful and it belongs to every one of us. So check out candidates’ Facebook pages and websites; read or listen to the news; pick up a brochure; go to a debate; ask candidates questions. They want to hear from you. Like what you learn? Volunteer on a campaign. Democracy happens because we make it happen.

With 110 years under her belt, Flora Thibodeau has made huge contributions to her community and to her country because she votes. You can do the same. So, get out to vote May 2.

Nelson-Creston MLA Michelle Mungall writes a monthly column for the Nelson Star.