Natthawadee Wathir (left) and Chermel Binas are preparing to vote in their first federal election in Canada Oct. 19.

Election 2015: New citizens take privilege seriously

North Okanagan-Shuswap voters Natthawadee Wathir and Chermel Binas aren’t just sitting on the sidelines

Natthawadee Wathir and Chermel Binas aren’t just sitting on the sidelines.

New Canadians, they are preparing to cast ballots in their first federal election Oct. 19.

“It’s our right to vote as a citizen and I want a voice,” said Binas, who grew up in the Philippines, and is surprised by the low voter turnout in this country.

“I think they (people) don’t care, whereas in the Philippines, it’s 90 per cent.”

Wathir voted regularly in her native Thailand and it’s a tradition she wants to continue here.

“I want the best for Canada and to use my rights,” she said.

“Some people don’t care and don’t think voting will change anything. But it’s not right because things can change.”

Both are undecided leading up to Oct. 19, but they are doing their homework and familiarizing themselves with the candidates and platforms.

“I’m asking co-workers about the issues and parties,” said Binas.

Wathir is watching a lot of television news.

“I also look online and see which party is trying to do the best,” she said.

The enthusiasm for voting from Wathir and Binas is welcomed by Sue Young, with Renewing Democracy Through Co-operation.

“I would love all Canadians to hear this because it’s so important,” she said.

“Sixty one per cent voted in the last election and 39 per cent of that voted for the government. A lot of Canadians don’t have their viewpoint represented. We hear the cynicism that, ‘They (politicians) don’t do what they say,’ or ‘My vote doesn’t count.’ But how does it change if you don’t vote or participate between elections?”

Renewing Democracy, Okanagan Regional Library and the Vernon and District Immigrant Services Society are holding a number of electoral education sessions at the Vernon library.

They include the importance of voting Oct. 7 from 7 to 8 p.m., a mock election Oct. 9 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Oct. 10 from 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and understanding the issues Oct. 9 from noon to 1 p.m. and Oct. 10 from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m.

New and long-time voters are urged to attend.

“We are pushing voters to understand that they need to register to vote and have the proper identification like a driver’s license or health card,” said Young.

A particular demographic being targeted for the sessions are 18 to 24-year-olds.

Wendy Zarr, a VDISS co-ordinator, hopes long-time Canadians will embrace the enthusiasm of their new compatriots.

“They take a big step giving up their citizenship and participating in Canada,” she said.

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