Members of the public were invited to hear from local community leaders on the engagement of young Canadians in politics as part of St. Lawrence College Cornwall’s Community Connection Series on January 19th. Speakers included Cornwall Mayor Justin Towndale, Senator Bernadette Clement, and SLC Cornwall campus Dean Richard Wiggers, Ph.D.
The event was well attended by students, youth, and newcomers to Canada who were interested in learning more about the political process and how to get involved. Topics of discussion included whether the voting age should be lowered, or voting made compulsory, and how can we fully engage and empower youth in politics at all levels of our society.
Local artist Yafa Goawily attended the event with her 14-year-old son. She said it was an important start to discussing these topics, but more needs to be done to engage young people in democracy.
“What does a senator do? What does the mayor do? It’s very important for young people to know this stuff because they are the future. I went with my son, and I am so proud that he is also a part of voting discussions and getting to be aware of what’s around him,” Goawily shared.
In September, a bill proposed by the NDP to lower Canada’s voting age from 18 to 16 was defeated in the Senate by a vote of 245 to 77. Senator Bernadette Clement, who has recently embraced TikTok to educate youth about politics, was in favor of the bill.
“Part of the reason we put the event together is that the senator was supporting the idea of lowering the voting age,” explained Richard Wiggers, St. Lawrence College Cornwall Campus’ Dean of Interdisciplinary Studies and Pathways, “Some of the young people who attended, and in fact some of them were even younger than 16, actually expressed the view that they didn’t think it was a good idea and that many people at that age weren’t mature enough to vote.”
“It was interesting because I don’t think it was necessarily what people expected to hear, but its exactly what we were trying to do with this event,” Wiggers added, “Get people out to listen to different perspectives and hopefully even voice their own views, that might differ from the norm or from what was expected.”
SLC Community Connection Series is part of the College’s commitment to help build thriving communities on and off their campuses in Eastern Ontario.