1st Session, 42nd Parliament,
Volume 150, Issue 96

Tuesday, February 14, 2017
The Honourable George J. Furey, Speaker

Ministry of Democratic Institutions

Voter Identification

Hon. Mobina S. B. Jaffer: Minister, thank you for being here. We welcome you to the Senate; I hope you will come here often. I want to share with you that I’m 29 years old in spirit.

Some Hon. Senators: Oh, oh!

Senator Jaffer: You partly answered the question, but I unfortunately couldn’t hear because of our acoustics.

My question is on identification and voting. Marc Mayrand, the Chief Electoral Officer, appeared before the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs and told us that certain demographics were more likely to be turned away from the polls for not having the appropriate identification; in particular, younger voters, ethnic voters and First Nations people were the worst affected. He also mentioned that seniors increasingly had to produce documents they did not have.

He went on to say what we all know, that identification is what lets an individual prove they are Canadian and able to enjoy all the rights they have as a citizen, including the right to vote.

Minister, as a young lawyer, on voting days I would often go into areas where people were disenfranchised, and many years ago I was able to take them to the voting areas to vote because they were Canadians; they had a right to vote.

In the last election, I have found those people to be disenfranchised. I know you’re new on the job, so if you don’t have an answer now, I’ll accept it later. What steps will you take so that each Canadian who wants to vote can vote?

Hon. Karina Gould, P.C., M.P., Minister of Democratic Institutions: Thank you, Senator Jaffer, for your question. If I may, it was a delight to work with you in my previous capacity as Parliamentary Secretary for International Development, and I look forward to continuing our good working relationship moving forward.

If you will indulge me, I feel particularly honoured to be here at 29 because I know I don’t make the Senate age cut-off; so now is my only chance.

On the issue of voter identification, it’s a really important issue, as Senator Sinclair mentioned. We know from a Statistics Canada survey that there are 172,000 Canadians in the last election who cited not having adequate identification as the reason for not voting. That’s 172,000 Canadians too many. That should never be a barrier for people seeking to participate in the franchise.

Part of what is in the legislation for Bill C-33 is to reinstate the practice of vouching and reinstate the voter identification card as a means of identification, with additional pieces beside it, so we can ensure that all Canadians, who inherently have the right to participate and vote, are able to.