TORONTO - “Yesterday’s news release from Elections Canada concerns me, as it provides information that contradicts the requests of our federal, provincial and Toronto public health officers who have asked people to stay home and to restrict personal contact to their immediate households.
“There were over 700 new COVID cases yesterday in Ontario. Stage II Ontario guidelines cap indoor public gatherings at 10. How will this work logistically for Toronto Centre residents as they all come home from work at once, seeking to vote?
“Toronto Centre voters are the essential workers, many of them low-income and racialised, that have kept our economy running all these months, and have been infected with COVID at higher rates as a result. These same people are now being asked to stand in what are sure to be long indoor lines – the least safe conditions according to epidemiologists – to exercise their right to vote.
“This is not the first time that low-income and racialised people have had to face barriers to their democratic participation. I ask the people of Canada to think of their neighbours, and ask themselves: would you accept voting in Stage II, under these circumstances, and before Elections Canada's proposed changes for a safe COVID election have been put in place? These are voting conditions that would be condemned in other countries.
“Toronto-Centre is a community that takes great pride in voting, and normally has a higher than average voter turnout. However, it is also a community in which 40% of residents do not have English or French as their mother tongue. Therefore, while sending out an Advance Voting notice, with 6 days to go to request a mail-in ballot, may be sufficient for some communities, it is certainly inadequate to secure the safe, accessible and democratic participation for the community of Toronto-Centre.
Remarkably, this release omits Elections Canada's own guidelines for ensuring safe, accessible voting during the pandemic, which include voting over 2 weekend days, for example.
What protocols are in place to ensure those who are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms will be enfranchised in the event they do not see the Elections Canada press release, and what protocols are in place to enfranchise those who begin to experience symptoms after the mail-in deadline passes?
Electors with concerns for their health should contact Elections Canada and the Prime Minister immediately.
And for all Toronto-Centre residents – do not allow yourself to be disenfranchised, or for you or your family to be put at risk; apply by mail by 20th of October at elections.ca."
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