There are 40,147 inmates currently incarcerated in Canada, and a large portion of them have been and will stay there for a long duration of time (StatsCan). Some believe that these offenders do not deserve the right to vote; that since they have committed a crime, they should not be able to have a say in our government.
However, it is not fair and just to withhold prisoners’ right to vote, because it is a fundamental Canadian right declared within the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, supports the ideology of the correctional system, and adheres to the ethics and rulings of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. To begin, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms is a well-known constitution, that governs fundamental rights and freedoms of every Canadian citizen. Included in this charter is the article: “Every citizen of Canada has the right to vote in an election of members of the House of Commons or of a legislative assembly and to be qualified for membership therein.” (subsection 3, Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms). This right is made without distinction, and applies to all Canadian citizens, regardless of race, sex, financial status, or disability. A large majority of inmates in Canada are citizens, considering that most foreign criminals are deported rather than tried and punished in Canada.
Removing these citizens’ right to vote would contradict this clause within the charter. Inmates do not lose citizenship upon conviction, the only possible ways of losing citizenship are for one to renounce it themselves, for the Minister to revoke it due to belief of material fraud in the application evidence, or because the subject has violated human or international rights or is convicted of war crimes (Citizenship Act subsection 9, 101, 10.1, 10.51). It is unjust to bend the Charter of Rights and Freedoms to not service a minority that should be qualified to. Another point of interest is the prison system itself, which, from its own government website, states that “Correctional Service Canada’s goal is to assist inmates to become law-abiding citizens.
” (CSC). The fundamental idea of the correctional system is to help those convicted into becoming a part of the community once again. This means that the end goal is for the inmates to rehabilitate and become regular citizens.
Denying them the right to vote and take part in current politics would oppose fair democracy, and the ideology of the prison system: How would taking away their free choice help in rehabilitation? A democracy allows for everyone to have a voice in the decisions being made, it would be corrupt to only allow some voices to be heard. The idea of the system is that prisoners aren’t being removed from the country, just from society so that they can reform and later on reintegrate. This is a working system, for example: 65,782 convicts were let out for probation in 2015/16, which allowed them to return to society and normal life while being monitored, because they were deemed safe enough (StatCan). The total number of inmates in custody in 2015/16 was 40,147, meaning that there were more convicts on parole and in communities than in prisons (Reitano).
Furthermore, there are a large number of minimum security prisons, where security measures are extremely low, to the point where there are no walls or fences, armed guards, and prisoners can even hold day jobs (CSC). These facilities and programs show that prisoners can easily be reformed, and should be allowed to make informed decisions about their future government. Prisoners having the right to vote promotes the reform and free choice the correctional system believes in. Moving forward, an argument that some propose against prisoners being allowed to vote is that, since they commited a crime and were convicted, they are not responsible enough to make decisions that affect others in the community. This point contradicts subsection 3 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, dictating that “Every citizen of Canada has the right to vote in an election…” but moreover, could be applied to other minorities with the same effect, for example, those that have made poor financial decisions, and lack livelihoods.
Another point to consider: the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is a document that states 30 of the rights that every human should be able to have. The United Nations adopted this act, and made it a policy within itself, which all members must adhere to. This includes Canada, a long standing member of the organization. Included within the Declaration is Article 21:(1) Everyone has the right to take part in the government of his country, directly or through freely chosen representatives(3) The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government; this will shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret vote or by equivalent free voting procedures. (United Nations)The above quotes should conclude that everyone within a country should be able to take part in the government in some way, including voting, and that there should be no distinction between individuals who are voting.
The government should encompass the will of the people, and it is unethical and blatantly false to exclude certain peoples from such a decision and still proclaim itself a democracy based upon the will of its people. It should also be mentioned that Article 2 this declaration also states that “Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind,” (United Nations), which, of course, also includes prisoners. These rights and freedoms are set forth with the intention that everyone will have its protection, no matter who they are.
With this in mind, it should be obvious that excluding prisoners from voting would be contradictory to this document.To conclude, it should be clear that the removal of the right to vote from prisoners and convicts in the Canadian correctional system would be a contradiction of its own Charter of Rights and Freedoms, against the correctional system’s own ideology of rehabilitation and reform, and lastly, against the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It only makes sense to grant this fundamental right to all, so that the country, and, possibly one day the world, might be a free, true democracy, with a voice for everyone.