With the federal election fast approaching, countless Canadians will be heading to the ballot box on October 19 to vote on the issues that matter most to them. But many residents who face barriers—including a low-income, lack of education, and newcomer status—are not engaged in the democratic process.
United Way recently teamed up with Samara Canada to bring a unique voting simulation experience—Vote PopUp—to residents at Community Hubs in two priority neighbourhoods. The goal? To foster interest in the upcoming election—and to generate a larger discussion about the importance of adding your voice to the conversation to fuel community change and ensure a more promising future.
Imagine a City spoke with Retchel Morales, a Vote PopUp participant and volunteer at Bathurst-Finch Action for Neighbourhood Change (ANC), a resident-led initiative supported by United Way that works to create vibrant neighbourhoods where people feel a sense of belonging.
1. Tell me a little bit about Vote PopUp training and what you learned.
The civic process varies greatly throughout the world, so casting your vote for the first time in Canada can be intimidating—whether you’re a newcomer or a local first-time voter. I’m originally from the Philippines and although I’m not a Canadian citizen yet, I took part in the workshop to ensure I’m prepared when the time comes. We learned about registering, ID requirements, locating a polling station, and we even practiced casting a ballot.
2. Why do you think civic literacy is important?
In any democratic society, residents need to have a say in their future. Considering voter participation is continuing to drop in Canada, civic literacy is incredibly important now more than ever. That’s how change happens—by having your voice heard, engaging in your community and actively participating in the democratic process. Knowledge is power. When you have the information and the right tools, you can make informed decisions to encourage change.
3. Voting isn’t the only way to bring about community change.
It’s true. Although many of my neighbours are newcomers and are not eligible to vote, it’s not the only way we can bring about change—whether it’s through small scale resident-led projects or advocating for vital needs in your neighbourhood or region. Community engagement starts at a grassroots level. A perfect example of this is the Bathurst-Finch Community Choir, which began when one inspiring young woman had a simple idea to create a neighbourhood choir. With the support of the Community Hub and ANC, she used her passion for music to connect her community. The choir has helped newcomers build relationships with their neighbours and is even helping seniors overcome isolation. When a community comes together for a common cause, meaningful change begins.
4. What are some other issues that matter to you and the people that live in your neighbourhood?
I’ve talked to many Bathurst-Finch residents about the issues in the community that matter to them. Three concerns stand out: affordable housing, employment and childcare. I see families who are not able to access childcare because the cost of rent is too high. Others struggle to find meaningful employment. Thankfully, we have resources like United Way’s Bathurst-Finch Community Hub that helps tackle some of these issues. But, there’s always more room for change.
To learn more about how United Way empowers residents to build better lives for themselves and their communities, check out our Building Strong Neighbourhood Strategy.