The following press release was issued by Mark Handley on October 30, 2014. We are sharing it with you here as it is an issue that we at the Green Party of Vancouver feel strongly about.
For Immediate Release
October 30, 2014
(Vancouver – Unceded Coast Salish Territory)
First Nation Man Files Human Rights Complaint Against City of Vancouver for Shutting out East Vancouver in Advance Polling
Advance voting in the Vancouver municipal election is practically unattainable for a vast majority of people who are poor and Aboriginal. Advance polls shut out the most vulnerable of Vancouver’s population: the homeless and the poor residing in the Downtown Eastside, Mt. Pleasant, Grandview Woodlands and E. Hastings. Mark Handley, a First Nations man filed a human rights complaint with the BC Human Rights Tribunal on Tuesday, October 28, 2014, citing that this population is being discriminated against based on ancestry, place of origin and source of income, with preferential treatment being given to wealthier people living on the west side of Vancouver.
“There is a large percentage of Aboriginal people who are homeless, do not have access to a computer to register to vote and do not have identification,” stated Mr. Handley. “They are further disenfranchised by not being able to get to advance polls between November 4-12, 2014 because they do not and cannot afford to travel outside the communities they live in.” Each of the east side designated advance polling stations are an average of 50 blocks away from the downtown core, making them unattainable for the majority of poor and marginalized people.
Said barbara findlay, a Vancouver human rights lawyer, “It is incomprehensible why the City would establish the service of advance polls, then deny that service to the people most marginalized in this City, especially when issues such as housing are top of the municipal agenda. In my view this is contrary to the Human Rights Code. What effect the City’s actions would have on the results of an election are hard to predict.”
Sadly, First Nations people were only legally eligible to vote in elections since 1960, and today are not able to exercise their constitutional right to vote because the electoral system disregards them, discriminating against them because it is virtually impossible to get to the advance polls.
There is a huge proportion of voters who are shut out of their constitutional right to cast their ballots all due to the fact that the City of Vancouver decided over one year ago that the east side of the City of Vancouver does not need equity in advance polls, while the west side of Vancouver has five advance polling stations. To make matters worse, the advance polling stations that have been allotted to east Vancouver are out of reach for most as they are far south or north of the city. The east side of Vancouver which has the majority of poor and Aboriginal people only have three advance polling stations, and they are not easily accessible or even known locations within the city.
There was a formal request made to the City of Vancouver on October 23, 2014 to open up three additional advance polling stations on the east side of the city. The next day the City Clerk and Chief Election Officer responded by letter that they will not entertain the request, even though three community organizations have already stepped forward to offer their locations as advance polling stations at Trout Lake Community Centre, Britannia Community Centre and Union Gospel Mission. In addition, over forty community groups across the city signed and supported the formal request for three additional advance polls that were already willing to host in east Vancouver. “It is very telling that priority is given to the west side of the population who have 9 days to vote at their leisure while the east side of Vancouver only has one day to cast a ballot, due to the fact that advance polls are not available where the people live” stated Mark Handley. Mr. Handley is still awaiting word on the outcome of his Human Rights Complaint against the City of Vancouver and whether or not there can be an intervention to support voters residing in east Vancouver.