City forum calls for voting rights for residents

    TORONTO, March 21 /CNW/ - In recognition of the International Day for the
Elimination of Racism and Discrimination, the City of Toronto today hosted a
panel discussion attended by over 150 people at City Hall. "A City where
Everyone Counts - Voting Rights and Civic Participation" explored the
extension of the vote to all residents as a means of strengthening Toronto's
civic engagement.
    The panel, moderated by Councillor Janet Davis, featured Mohamed
Boudjenane, Canadian Arab Federation; Alejandra Bravo, Maytree Foundation;
Debbie Douglas, Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants; Chi Nguyen,
Toronto Women's Call to Action; and Myer Siemiatycki, Ryerson University and
Inclusive Cities Canada.
    In her opening remarks, Councillor Davis said, "About 263,000 residents
of Toronto are excluded from the democratic process in our city because they
cannot vote and cannot seek elected office. This needs to change. I want to
live in a city which has a culture of participation and engagement, where
racism and discrimination no longer thrive."
    The panelists discussed a range of topics including: the low
participation of immigrant populations, the relation between poverty, gender,
immigration and electoral participation, and the lack of mechanisms or
campaigns to increase the racial and ethnic diversity of political
representation. There was consensus on the need to extend the vote to all
residents, to put the onus on political parties to increase diversity among
their candidates, on increasing participation through civic education and
allocation of resources, and issuing "governance report cards" for all levels
of government, holding them accountable for measurable goals.
    Councillor Davis closed the discussion by calling on all those attending
to join the campaign for 'one resident, one vote.' "An active democracy
requires the ability of all residents to influence the actions of government -
including the right to vote," she said.

    Toronto is Canada's largest city and sixth largest government, and home
to a diverse population of about 2.6 million people. It is the economic engine
of Canada and one of the greenest and most creative cities in North America.
In the past three years Toronto has won more than 50 awards for quality and
innovation in delivering public services. Toronto's government is dedicated to
prosperity, opportunity and liveability for all its residents.

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For further information:

For further information: Media contacts: Janet Davis, Councillor, Ward
31 (Beaches-East York), Chair, Civic Appointments Committee, (416) 392-4035;
Ceta Ramkhalawansingh, Manager, Diversity Management and Community Engagement,
Strategic and Corporate Policy Division, City Manager's Office, (416)

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