It's not news to note that the Harper government is fixated on the past. From dropping the word "progressive" from the party's moniker to building a resource based economy -- with the focus on one resource -- the Harperites are detemined to make the clock run backwards. And the "Fair" Elections Act is part of that agenda. Paul Adams writes that, when Canada was founded, the franchise was not available to everyone:
We tend to think of women’s suffrage as the last significant extension of the franchise, occurring around the time of the First World War. We also tend to think of the expansion of the franchise as a steady forward march. Bit by bit, more and more people got the vote, and steadily we become more democratic.
The process has been much more herky-jerky than that.
Two years after women got the vote, Parliament re-affirmed that aboriginal people, including Inuit, could not participate in elections. Nor could minorities such as Chinese, Japanese or Hindus vote federally in places such as British Columbia and Saskatchewan where they were barred from voting provincially.
Canada's first inhabitants have been overlooked since we -- the Europeans -- arrived. Pierre Poilievre proposes to continue that policy:
Most Canadians don’t live on reserves. Most Canadians don’t have parents or grandparents who were forbidden from voting by law. And most Canadians would have trouble imagining the circumstances of those who do.
As First Nations leaders have pointed out, many people living on reserves don’t have driver’s licences or even bank accounts. Interestingly, ‘status
cards’ — the core identification document on reserves — have a photograph but not the addressrequired by the proposed bill. Moreover, these cards expire and may be difficult to renew.
We know that aboriginal people rely on the vouching provisions of the current law to a far greater degree than other Canadians for precisely those reasons.
Lurking not far beneath the suggestion that most Canadians think it is reasonable for voters to have ID in their pockets on election day is the sense that only the “deserving” — the upright, respectable citizens — should be participating in our democracy.
There is racism just below the surface of the "Fair" Elections Act. This is the government which tore up the Kelowna Accord and treated Chief Theresa Spence with contempt.
Without a doubt, the Harperites are an ugly blast from the past.