Case Study 3: Youth [language learners]

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Context Card

A photograph showing a group of young people protesting, waving Canadian flags and signs that say “vote.”
Source: Dave Chidley / The Canadian Press

In 1867, at the time of Confederation, only certain men who were 21 and older could vote in federal elections. During the two world wars, people under 21 could vote if they were in the military. Once the war was over, they lost those rights. 

In 1970, a full century after Confederation, the voting age was reduced to 18. Today, our society talks about how to get more youth involved in democracy and voting. Many people support lowering the voting age to 16. 

Activity Cards

1867

A painting depicting the Fathers of Canadian Confederation.  
Source: © House of Commons Collection, Ottawa

When Canada is formed in 1867, 21 is the minimum age for voting in federal elections.

1917

Black and white photograph of a group of soldiers in an empty battlefield marking their ballots.  
Source: Canada. Dept. of National Defence/Library and Archives Canada, PA-002318

People are supposed to be 18 to serve in the military. However, many soldiers are younger than 18. During the First World War, everyone in the military is allowed to vote, no matter how old they are. 

1919

Black and white photograph of three young soldiers in uniform.  
Source: Jean-Baptiste Dorion, Library and Archives Canada, PA-122937

When the First World War ends, the minimum voting age returns to 21 for everyone.

1940

Black and white photograph of a group of men wearing military uniforms, gathered around a table. One man gives a ballot to another man. On the wall is posted a paper that reads: “List of Electors.”
Source: Canada. Dept. of National Defence/Library and Archives Canada, PA-005160

During the Second World War, everyone serving in the military is able to vote in a federal election, no matter how old they are.

1944

Black and white photograph of Tommy Douglas sitting in his office, signing and official document and smiling at the camera.  
Source: Provincial Archives of Saskatchewan, R-B5749

In 1944, Tommy Douglas is the premier of Saskatchewan. Under his leadership, Saskatchewan lowers the voting age to 18 for provincial elections. It is the first province to do so.

1948

Black and white photograph showing a group of young people standing together with Agnes Macphail.
Source: Courtesy of The St. Catharines Standard, photographer Don Sinclair

Youth speak to a panel of parliamentarians at a national conference. They ask the panel whether the voting age should be lowered. 

1968

Black and white photograph of Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau shaking hands with a young person, while standing at the centre of a large group of smiling youth.
Source: Dick Loek, Toronto Star via Getty Images

Youth are active in the 1968 election, when Pierre Trudeau is elected as prime minister. 

1970

Photograph of Canada’s House of Commons.
Source: © Library of Parliament - Roy Grogan

Parliament lowers the voting age for federal elections to 18. Millions of new voters cast votes in the 1972 election.

2016

Photograph of four smiling teenagers holding up a piece of paper.  
Source: Brian Higgins, CBC Licensing

Prince Edward Island allows youth ages 16 and 17 to vote in a provincial plebiscite. During a plebiscite, people vote on an important question. In this case, the question is about whether to change the way provincial elections are run. These youth in Prince Edward Island are allowed to vote because they will be 18 by the time of the next provincial election.