We sat down with three young people to discuss how they’ve thrown themselves into the Canadian democratic process
It has become customary for Canadian politicians to plead with young voters to head out to the polls. The youngest voting demographic is consistently below others in turnout.
Despite a reputation for apathy towards elections, many young people have gotten involved in the upcoming federal election. There are plenty of ways for university-aged voters to participate in the democratic process. Young people have been a part of every aspect of this election, from casting ballots to having their names on them.
The Fulcrum sat down with three young people to discuss how they have thrown themselves into the Canadian democratic process.
Canvassing for candidates — Dawoud Najmudin
Second-year international studies and modern languages student, Dawoud Najmudin, has spent the campaign period canvassing for multiple candidates. Najmudin has gone door-to-door both in his home riding of Niagara Falls and in Ottawa-Centre and Ottawa-Vanier.
“I decided to join the [Liberal] party and I was just doing volunteer work with them, and then the election was called so now I kind of transformed into a full-time volunteer,” said Najmudin in an interview.
“It’s important to have the youth involved. Some older candidates are not really able to connect with youth and we [young people] actually do make up the largest voting bloc in this election so it’s very important that we do get out and vote. The most important thing is that they do vote, cast your ballot and show the government what they stand for.”
“I wanted to join and help a party that I might not see eye to eye with on all policy issues, but I feel like has the most room to grow and the most protection for human rights.”
“I think young people should be involved at every level [of politics], whether that’s municipal, regional, provincial or federal. We make up a huge segment of the population that’s not represented in decision-making or planning for communities, that’s a huge oversight on the part of the people who are making the planning decisions. So if we get involved and we show that we’re active and engaged then hopefully we’ll start being represented in the decisions that will affect us in the future.”
Working in the trenches — Hayden Henderson
Former U of O student Hayden Henderson decided to leave his studies to work for one of Canada’s major political parties. From March to September of 2021 Henderson worked to find and nominate candidates across the country and now works on a single candidate’s campaign.
Henderson said in an interview that he is far better suited for his current work environment than he was to the virtual learning format he experienced at the University of Ottawa.
“Part of [my decision to leave] was certainly the pandemic. I struggle with focus and attentiveness a little bit. So online classes didn’t work, so I just decided to step away. The work was available, and everything kind of lined up. So I just felt like it was an okay decision to just step away, because I could have stable finances, all those things.”
Henderson’s young age for this work has not been an issue for him thus far.
“I haven’t really found in my political circles that anyone has been particularly negative about my age. People have been really supportive. When I tell people that I’m so young — I’m only 20 — they’re like, ‘wow, that’s, that’s awesome! It’s really great that you were able to make it this far and, and get this high in the organization.’ ”
When asked if he would encourage other students to get involved in the same capacity as himself, Henderson responded, “I would lean towards yes. But it’s not an easy field to get into.”
“I was really lucky, I met a lot of the right people at the right time. And those people saw how hard I was willing to work. It can be hard as a young person to just devote yourself to [politics] entirely. So I would only recommend it for people who are really, really passionate, and really, really partisan.”
“If your heart’s not in it, this stuff could really wear on a person, but also when you’re young, you have lots of energy and vigor and you’re able to keep up.”
Henderson said that he finds his work “really stimulating. My brain works best when I have lots of big things flying all at once and I can sort of keep a momentum going. I find that it works best for me. I don’t have time to sort of stop and lose my focus.”
“I think all political parties need to, in an economically fair way, explore more internships, and opportunities for young people,” said Henderson. “I could understand maybe not going so far as to offer employment to young people broadly, but internships and attracting young people into the party fold and into our organizational process, with a monetary incentive, I think is really important, and really helps us build and secure the future.”
“I just hope young people know why the election was called and look into how to vote because the student vote [on campus] has been cancelled. I hope young people are taking the time to find out how to exercise their democratic rights in this election.”
On the ballot — Shelby Bertrand
Shelby Bertrand is in the third year of her master’s degree at the U of O and will appear on the ballot in Ottawa-Centre under the banner of the Animal Protection Party. Bertrand shared how her compassion for animals at a young age led to her eventual candidacy with the party.
“As I got older, I wanted to take my love for animals to the next level. I became very disenchanted with what I call classical activism. That was going to marches and protests and such. And I think that there’s a place in the world for it, but it wasn’t for me. I became very discouraged at the elitism and militant-ism that often comes at those events.”
“When I was made aware that there was a federal party dedicated to animal rights I jumped at the chance, because I’m a philosophy grad, and I believe in civil and respectful and compassionate discussion. And ironically, sometimes the people shouting the loudest are being mean spirited towards other people.”
Bertrand shared that she is the Animal Protection Party’s first candidate in Ottawa-Centre and Ottawa as a whole. “I do think that [appearing on the ballot] will change the tide and start changing the minds of policymakers, even if we don’t strictly get votes just our presence is important.”
“A federal party doesn’t necessarily do good just by winning votes. Animal Protection candidates are invited to meetings and discussions about animal centered issues and topics in the federal sphere, and I really do believe in the power and the visibility of having animal rights represented in any capacity.”
Bertrand said she encourages more students to get on the ballot. She shared that the experience has presented some “messy and valuable [experiences that] you’d be hard pressed to find elsewhere.”
“Knocking on doors and doing a sales pitch for a fringe party is quite the learning experience. You learn how to talk with people who disagree with you, learn how to interact with people in an engaging, and professional way. You are a bit of a one man band, you have to do so much organization, logistics, education and other things that are important life skills.”
As a first step into the world of politics, be sure to cast your ballot Sept. 20.