Canada’s federal election is a few days away, but Vernon students are getting the jump on casting their votes.
Students at Mission Hill Elementary School and Vernon Secondary School took part in mock elections held in their classrooms on Friday. It was a chance for them to engage with the types of pre-election conversations that have been heating up across the country, and an early practice run for when they become voting age.
Chad Soon has been teaching his Grade 6 students at Mission Hill about elections and voting for the past three weeks. His civic lessons has taught students the basic mechanics of voting at the booths, as well as how to evaluate the different candidates and form their own opinions.
“We just want to try to engage and empower our kids to see themselves as citizens, to be informed at a young age, to get in the habit of learning what the issues are,” Soon said.
Soon set up voting booths and a ballot box provided by Elections Canada in his classroom. He gave his students a recap on how to properly fill out their ballot behind the voting booths, reminding them to fold it to ensure their classmates don’t get a peek.
In the weeks prior to the mock vote he showed his students the Morning Star’s videos on the five candidates in the Shuswap-North Okanagan Riding. He encouraged them to look critically at the different platforms and compare ideas.
“As we’ve seen with some of the youth movements like the climate strike and so on, kids are getting engaged and we want to keep them engaged,” said Soon. “And not just in climate change,” he said.
Indeed, Soon’s students learned about a wide range of hot-button issues.
“I didn’t know there were so many categories you had to learn about,” said 10-year-old Bronwen Walker, who listed immigration, Indigenous issues, economy and justice as categories the class discussed.
“Justice is important,” Walker said decisively. “I find that very important because my dad is a lawyer.”
Another student in Soon’s class, Aliza Raza, said her teacher helped clarify Canada’s electoral system and the different jurisdictions, and also explained the concept of how votes are tallied and a Prime Minister is chosen.
“I kind of thought that you just wrote a name down on a piece of paper and then put it in a box and they drew it randomly,” Raza said, describing what she understood about elections three weeks ago.
“He helped us understand it. Instead of going really fast he talked us through it and showed videos to make it really easy to learn about.” she said.
For Soon, learning how to vote at an early age is an important way to strengthen democracy – and hopefully a way to improve political discourse in future generations.
“We’re trying to make it more evidence-based and part of it too I think is trying to keep the discourse civil as well, being able to debate these issues respectfully.”