In 1867, at the time of Confederation, only certain men aged 21 and older could vote in federal elections. People were considered mature enough at this age to make important decisions. During the two world wars, people under 21 could vote if they were in the military, but those rights were removed once peace returned. However, the wartime service of young Canadians led some parliamentarians to ask whether the voting age should be reduced.
In 1970, a full century after Confederation, the voting age was reduced to 18 with little debate, likely due to changing perceptions of the role of youth in society. Today, there is discussion in society about how to get more youth involved in the democratic process. Many are pushing for lowering the voting age to 16.
When Canada is formed in 1867, the minimum age for voting in federal elections is 21.
The Fathers of Confederation believe that people younger than 21 lack the knowledge and maturity to elect their representatives.
During the First World War, everyone who serves the country through military service is given the right to vote, no matter how old they are.
People are supposed to be 18 to serve in the military, but many who enlist are younger.
The First World War ends. The minimum voting age returns to 21.
Military personnel who had been able to vote at a younger age lose that right.
During the Second World War, everyone serving in the military is able to vote in a federal election, no matter how old they are. Around 700,000 people in the military are under 21.
Under Premier Tommy Douglas, Saskatchewan lowers the voting age to 18 for provincial elections. It is the first province to do so. This move prompts several other provinces to lower the voting age to 18 or 19.
The voting age for federal elections returns to 21 for military personnel, the same as for other Canadians.
Youth at a national conference ask a panel of parliamentarians whether the federal voting age should be lowered.
Some prominent parliamentarians, such as Agnes Macphail and John Diefenbaker, are open to the idea.
Youth are active in the 1968 election, which brings Pierre Trudeau to power. Mobilized by the youth culture movement of the 1960s, they rally, march, lobby and petition Parliament on many issues.
Two different bills to lower the voting age are introduced in Parliament—one as a private member’s bill and one by the government.
With little debate, the voting age for federal elections is lowered to 18. Millions of new voters can cast votes in the 1972 election.
PEI allows 16-year-olds to vote in a provincial plebiscite on electoral reform because these youth would use the new electoral system at the next election, when they are 18.
Voting age for provincial elections in PEI (and all of Canada) remains at 18.