Elections Canada working to make sure Montreal's homeless get a chance to vote
TORONTO -- Elections Canada is working with homeless shelters across Quebec’s largest city to make sure those with no fixed address can register to vote.
With more than 200,000 homeless in Canada, the government’s non-partisan election agency is working to make sure the most vulnerable in society have a say.
“Well interestingly enough, people experiencing homelessness are remarkably well-informed,” according to Sam Watts, chief executive of the Welcome Hall Mission.
“They read a lot of newspapers, they listen to a lot of radio and TV and for them it's not just one single issue; they're interested in a lot of different aspects of Canadian politics.
“It gives people a profound sense of being involved.”
Robert Brunet was homeless for a time and now works with Elections Canada. He told CTV News Montreal that voting is the best tool to help homeless people push for more spending on social housing and other programs.
“I would say not to close the emergency rooms in hospitals for people, helping people that really need a hand,” Jason Hambrook told CTV News Montreal.
Welcome Hall has already registered more than 50 people to vote. And at the city’s Old Brewery Mission there are plans to shuttle people to polling stations.
But Brunet added that many homeless people are too embarrassed to stand in line to vote.
“It's important for everybody to vote and I think it's particularly important for people who feel on the edges of society to have an opportunity to express their support and participation in a major event in our society,” Matthew Pearce from the Old Brewery Mission said.
Meanwhile in Timmins, Ont., a homeless shelter is also encouraging its service users to exercise their democratic right.
“For the most part they’ve given up on the system because the system doesn’t help them,” Jason Sereda, chief executive of The Living Space, told CTV News Northern Ontario on Saturday, Oct. 12.
“So we try to empower people and give them that voice back to say that their voice does matter, that their contribution to the community does matter and just talk them through how elections influence things like funding for homeless shelters.”
Sereda said around 10 clients there have signed a form allowing the shelter to vouch for them and use the building as an address so they can vote.
“If we start to take action more than just talk about it, we might see a change,” Living Space client Justin Trepanier said.
“But even then it’s probably going to take a long time, maybe even decades.”
Elections Canada will also have mobile polling stations, usually used in hospitals or elderly care homes, but also deployed at certain homeless shelters.