Non-citizens unsure of their place in Alberta election

Todd Houston, a site supervisor for elections in Alberta, in the Stan Grad Center, on Thursday, May 25th, 2023. (Photo by Ifeoma Chukwuma/The Press)

With the upcoming election on Monday, not everybody has the opportunity to vote.

Individuals such as international students and permanent residents, who are considered non-citizens, do not have the right to take part in Canadian elections.

“Since us non-citizens don’t meet the requirements to vote, it shouldn’t be that much of a surprise that most of us don’t have a clue what’s going on regarding the elections, or Alberta and Canadian politics in general, especially those that don’t necessarily need to know much about it,” said Olufunke Ogunmefun.

It is proven that citizens who are able to vote do not participate in voting. A lot of those who cannot vote do not have any interest in the politics of a country in which they cannot participate.

Much of the information non-citizens gain about the election is not necessarily by their doing. Due to their disinterest in the subject, if you were to ask an international student– or permanent resident­– what they know about the election or politics in general, they will only know the basics.

“I, myself, am part of the majority who don’t exactly pay attention to what’s happening right now. I only know the main facts, which are the names of the main candidates: Danielle Smith and Rachel Notley,” said Ogunmefun. “If I’m being honest, 99 per cent of what I know about it is from things I come across on social media, and not me actually going to search for it.”

Some who are  ineligible to vote do have interest in the election.

“I think that non-citizens should be more involved when it comes to the elections in this province and in this country because most of the people I talked to oftentimes say they don’t know what’s going on, or they’re not really interested. I feel if you’re living here, you need to keep up with what’s going on.” said Kojo Parry, an international student at the University of Calgary.

Many immigrants who start off as international students, and become permanent residents, aim to become citizens. In that case, being informed or participating in things that showcase your interest in other ways can come a long way.

“I think it would be better for us to get more educated on the current affairs happening where we live, because by doing so we can have discussions with people who have the power to affect your livelihoods, a.k.a., the voters and still have ‘a say,’ even if you technically don’t.” said Ogunmefun.

“You can showcase your interest by watching the news, reading news articles, attending political watch parties, or even just discussing politics with your friends, your neighbours, and family, and trying to encourage everyone to make use of their rights and just vote,” said Kojo Parry.

Nonetheless, whether or not non-citizens become more involved, it is up to the citizens to choose the best option for both them and their non-citizen counterparts.

“All I’m saying is it’s a wonderful democracy that we have in Canada, and I encourage everybody to remain informed,” said Todd Houston, a site supervisor for Elections Alberta. “I have a spouse who was born elsewhere and became a Canadian citizen, and we have two children and a wonderful life in Canada. And I think that’s wonderful.”

About Ifeoma Chukwuma 4 Articles
As a news reporting and communications major in the journalism program at SAIT, Ifeoma Chukwuma is working as a writer for The Press in 2022-23.