BCTF officially endorses the Vote 16 BC campaign

By: Daya Charchun, Vote 16 BC campaigner

Arguably teachers know firsthand what youth are capable of. They see us at our best and worst and still believe we deserve the right to vote.

Why? Because as some of the closest adults in our lives, besides our parents, they have a front-row seat to our lives. They see the devastating impacts climate change is going to have, how the pandemic is affecting our future job prospects, the challenges that marginalized youth – queer teens, IBPOC youth, those who live in poverty – face every day. They understand that voting while still in high school will not only give us the opportunity to change our lives now but will set in place a habit that will strengthen our democracy and society long term.

This past week, the BC Teachers Federation passed a motion to support lowering the voting age. We are grateful for their confidence. As the BCTF has talked about at length, the pandemic has impacted teachers and students in distinct ways. We know that together we can make our classrooms, and communities, safer, more inclusive and more educative spaces for all of us.

BCTF joins a growing number of unions and labour councils stepping forward to support lowering the voting age in B.C. Last month, the BC Federation of Labour, the largest labour umbrella group in the province, passed a resolution of support for lowering the voting age in B.C. And local labour councils recognize the importance of lowering the voting age as part of their support for young workers.

Almost 70,000 workers in B.C. don’t have a vote because of our age – which means we have no direct say in decisions that impact our safety and health. Young workers face some of the greatest employment challenges during the pandemic. Traditionally vulnerable to exploitation, this pandemic only magnifies the risks. Young people who typically work in retail and food service are employed in the hardest-hit industries, working long hours and being exposed to high-risk COVID hotspots.

Young workers in B.C. have very little power in their workplaces. The subjection of young workers has been amplified with the stress of being forced in unsafe working conditions and the fear of being laid off. As pandemic restrictions increase, service and retail jobs are only becoming more competitive, potentially meaning youth don’t have the ability to be safe and comfortable, and raise their rights, in their work environment.

Today, the B.C. job market is struggling to survive through these unpredictable times. However, emerging research is showing an upcoming recession will impair the job market for years to come and have crucial impacts on our lives for decades.

Young people stand at the edge of the unknown – facing uncertainty in what our education and job market will look like. Yet we don’t have the ability to shape our future or hold decision makers accountable.

Time isn’t slowing down, the impacts of decisions our government makes today will affect us for decades. The strong voice youth have needs to be heard and brought to democracy. We need to act now and bring light to the issues young workers face.

The BCTF and the BC Federation of Labour acknowledge the seriousness of lowering the voting age. They understand that our needs are just as important as every other British Columbian. They support treating youth with respect and fairness. That’s true solidarity, and we deeply appreciate it.

Join them in supporting our campaign. Sign the petition to support lowering the voting age.