Debates of the Senate  
2nd Session, 41st Parliament, Volume 149, Issue 69
  Wednesday, June 11, 2014
 
Speech on Bill C-23: Fair Elections Act (3rd Reading)
 
Hon. Lillian Eva Dyck: Honourable senators, I would like to say a few words with respect to the aspect of vouching within the fair elections act because it will have a great effect upon First Nations people who are living on reserves.

As was pointed out earlier, one of the aspects of elections should be to allow all Canadian citizens the greatest opportunity to vote. As part of our history, we must remember that Canadians of First Nations ancestry did not get the federal vote until 1960 unless they gave up their Indian status. On the other hand, Canadians of Chinese ancestry got their vote in 1945. I bring those two up because my parents were First Nation and Chinese. Had my mother still been alive when I was in high school, I would have had to say that when I was in Grade 9, my mother would not have been allowed to vote in elections if she had retained her Indian status. In a country like Canada, it's hard to believe that we have that sort of history.

I'm still concerned about the aspect of vouching because in Canada, right now, we probably have about 150,000 or 170,000 First Nations people living on reserves who are of voting age. That's a guess. It's in that ballpark area. As we all know, on reserves about half the population is quite young and not everybody has a driver's licence. Of course, your driver's licence has your picture on it and your address. It is government issued; it is standard issue. We all know that it's difficult on reserves because you don't have a driver's licence and you probably don't have a bill or anything else that has your address on it because you don't have an address. That's an impediment to voting.

Every First Nation person living on a reserve will have their Indian status card, but by itself that is not accepted even though it looks very much like my driver's licence card. It took me almost a year to get my new Indian status card. It's secure; it has the little hologram with my number and date of birth. It does not have an address, but it does indicate my reserve, which is George Gordon First Nation. I don't live there, but even if I did it would not have an address. It's a concern.

In the new bill there are three options whereby you can vote, even though you don't have your driver's licence, that indicate your address. Interestingly, on the Elections Canada website we already have our new options. We haven't even passed the bill yet. So much for the Chief Electoral Officer having to do all that work.

It already says that Option 1 is one original piece of identification with your photo name and address, like your driver's licence.

Option 2 is two original pieces of authorized identification. Both pieces must have your name and one must also have your address. For instance, with my status card I could have used my health card or some other card that has the address on it.

Option 3 in the bill: take an oath and have an elector who knows you, vouch or for you. This person must have authorized identification and be from the same polling division as you, and that person can only vouch for one person. If I'm on a reserve and someone has to vouch for me, probably the majority I don't know, 99 per cent will not have the proper identification, so who will vouch for me? They will have to prove they are properly authorized with two pieces of ID.

I think we envision it's not going to be difficult, but I suspect on reserve it will be more difficult because people who are going to vouch for you are also people who don't have the standard identification, and they can only vouch for one person. Right away, if 2,000 people on the reserve are voting age and you can only vouch for one, it creates a situation that is going to disadvantage First Nations people living on reserves.

I don't know the details of the amendments that were proposed by Senator Moore. I hope that those amendments will address that; Senator Jaffer's does. Amendments to the bill to fix the vouching aspect will be necessary. However, we've also brought up other provisions of the bill that are not fair, so for those reasons I do not support the fair elections act.