Magazine article Teach

LESSON 4: Voting: Why Bother?

Magazine article Teach

LESSON 4: Voting: Why Bother?

Article excerpt


The following is a lesson plan excerpt from Suffrage: Canadian Women and the Vote, an interactive graphic novel and resource. To see the full lesson plans or to learn more, please visit

The struggle for women's suffrage in Canada began at the birth of the nation and continued for almost half a century before the federal government granted "universal" women's suffrage in 1920. It continued on for 40 more years until finally, all women, regardless of race, gained the right to vote in 1960.

But do all women show up to vote today? How many Canadians of any gender vote today? According to Statistics Canada, in the 2015 federal election, 32% of people who did not vote gave the reason as "not being interested in politics." This was true for people of all ages between 18 and 64, men and women. Twenty-three percent of non-voters said they were too busy to vote.1

According to Statistics Canada:

"Voting is one of the most fundamental aspects of civic engagement. Many political scientists link voting with the health of the democratic process and argue that declining voting rates may be symptomatic of a "democratic deficit" (Pammett and LeDuc 2003; Nakhaie 2006). Because political participation can also influence public policy, others are concerned that lower participation may result in policies that are not necessarily representative of key constituencies, like those who tend to vote less (Archer 2003). As a result, the voter turnout rate is used as one indicator of civic engagement."


Citizenship, Global Citizenship, Canadian History, Social Studies, Political Studies


3 to 4 classes


Franchise: the right to vote

Suffrage: the right to vote in political elections

Suffragist: a person who supports or recommends extending the right to vote, especially to women


In this lesson, students will reflect on what they have learned from their study of the Canadian suffrage movement. They will consider how the struggle for suffrage has informed contemporary attitudes towards voting in general and, in particular, women's voting. How many women vote in today's provincial and federal elections? Which women vote and which ones don't, and why? What is the role of diversity in Canada? Why is voter turn-out of all Canadian women important to Canadians? Students will consider whether voting still matters in Canada, and come to understand that it remains a critically important responsibility of Canadians.

Students will also gain an understanding of how women became "persons" and gained the legal right to sit in Canada's Senate. They will explore whether what Canada learned from the struggle for women's suffrage and other rights, may help guide our country toward embracing attitudes and putting into place laws that reflect reduced political inequality among Canadians of all genders, ethnicities, and religions and greater diversity in government.

Students will use cameras to document their family and friends' attitudes toward voting and will attempt to connect with, and share evidence from, women of various backgrounds and ages about their attitudes to voting. They will summarize the experience and reflect on how their participation in this project may have created change.


Students will:

* Increase their knowledge of the struggle for women's rights in Canada, specifically the Famous Five and the Persons case.

* Examine and compare contemporary voter turnout rates in Canada and consider the implications for political representation and democracy.

* Gain insight into pros and cons of Canadian electoral reform and consider and suggest various options for action.

* Describe inequities in Canada, including gender inequity, economic inequity, racial inequity, and health inequity, and why these gaps matter. …

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