Good afternoon, Mr. Chairman, honourable members. Thanks for having us and Shanah Tova to any friends who might be celebrating 5777, I think.
My name is Kevin Dobie. I'm a member of the board of directors of the Quebec Community Groups Network, the QCGN. I'm accompanied by Stephen Thompson, the director of policy, research, and public affairs for the organization.
The QCGN is a not-for-profit organization bringing together 50 community sector organizations from across Quebec that serve the needs of Canada's English linguistic minority communities, which we refer to collectively as the English-speaking communities of Quebec. More than one million people, half of all Canadians living in an official language minority community, are English-speaking Quebeckers.
We've distributed copies of our brief. We've submitted a copy to the clerk of the committee for translation and inclusion in the committee's work. These opening remarks will be brief and focused and I hope that we can get into a more detailed conversation in the time allotted after this.
The QCGN is concerned that the Government of Canada has not provided Canadians with a specific electoral system on which to be consulted. What we're going through today is a very important conversation and it's a meaningful step in the process, but it is not, in our opinion, a comprehensive consultation process.
This meaningful conversation has been largely conducted by experts and special interests, which is normal and to be expected. However, from our experience in the organization, it's not a matter that is really resonating with members in our community.
The QCGN is opposed to mandatory voting. Voting is a charter right, not an obligation. The idea of the state forcing a citizen to exercise a right runs counter to our democratic heritage.
The QCGN supports electronic voting if, objectively, the integrity of the vote is equal to or exceeds the current system.
Education is the key to youth engagement and we feel it's a fitting, or a nice coincidence anyway, that we're presenting with Apathy is Boring today on this point. We recommend that the Government of Canada, in partnership with the provinces and territories, develop a compulsory civics course for Canadian students at the secondary four or grade 11 level. Upon completion of this course, students would be registered to vote in the first following election after they reach 18 years of age.
The linchpin to effectiveness, legitimacy, citizen engagement, accessibility, inclusiveness, and system integrity is local representation. The QCGN believes it is essential that elected officials be directly accountable to a geographically defined electorate.
Finally, we are very uncomfortable with the notion of legislated or regulatory opportunities for inclusion of under-represented groups in the political process. Our concerns around this point are many. What does under-represented mean? What groups would be helped to the table and in what numbers?
The committee's mandate mentions a number of under-represented groups, but forgets to mention Canadians living in official language minority community situations.
Thank you very much.