Democratic societies are sustained by the commitment of all members of civil society to the culture, values and institutions of democracy. As incubators of critical inquiry and debate, universities function as core institutions of a democratic society. It is in this role that Ontario universities pledge to support the fundamental democratic right of students to participate freely in electoral processes where they are entitled to do so as citizens.
Electoral participation is a core right and responsibility of citizens and yet participation among Canadian youth is lamentably low. In the 2011 federal election, voter turnout among youth aged 18 to 24 was 39 per cent—far below the 75 per cent participation rate for citizens aged 65 to 74. For our democratic society to continue to flourish, the political process must be made more accessible and empowering for youth.
For our part, Ontario universities are committed to working with student groups and electoral officials from all orders of government to promote youth participation in the electoral process by:
- supporting the dissemination of information on electoral participation on campus;
- facilitating the availability of federal, provincial, and municipal voting stations at accessible campus locations where off-campus locations are logistically or geographically inaccessible to students;
- encouraging campus-based groups that promote student voting and work to identify and address barriers to student participation; and
- providing an update on progress toward these commitments at least once every four years.
Ontario universities take seriously our role as educators of successive generations of citizens and future leaders. We look forward to working with students and other members of civil society in the service of a vibrant democratic culture.