McGill and Concordia Student Unions and Public Interest Research Groups Denounce Voter Suppression and Intimidation in Quebec Elections
Dozens of students report being denied ability to register
(March 31, 2014) Montreal, QC– The Concordia Student Union, the Student’s Society of McGill University, and the Quebec Public Interest Research Groups (QPIRG) at Concordia and McGill are denouncing the clear instances of voter suppression and intimidation against our membership in the lead up to the provincial elections, set for April 7, 2014. We are calling for an immediate end to these tactics, and encouraging students who have been turned away to register on Monday (at Concordia) and on Tuesday (at McGill).
Over the past week, we have received numerous reports from our membership of voter suppression and intimidation. Students who are legally eligible to vote and who have provided more than adequate documentation are being turned away and harassed by election officials. These reports have included officials telling students that they are not allowed to register if they pay out-of-province tuition or because they are students at all. We received a report of one election official in St-Anne-St-Henri telling a student: “We have turned 27 students away already today.” Another student witnessed three students being turned away in the 30 minutes she was present. Other students are reporting clear instances of voter intimidation, including being escorted out of registration offices, being told they are banned for life from returning, and being threatened with charges of electoral fraud.
The provincial election campaign has been marked by a politics of fear and division, used to falsely present Quebec as under threat by non-Quebeckers– specifically scapegoating Muslim communities, and now, out-of-province students. Just this past week, we heard the (now ex) president of the electoral office in Ste-Marie-St-Jacques, Mathieu Vandal, commenting that “It’s as if (Montreal’s) Trudeau International Airport was wide open and we distributed free visas to anyone who came through, without question”, while MNA Léo Bureau-Blouin claimed that out of province students were going to steal the elections. We denounce these Islamophobic and xenophobic comments — ones that are directly aimed at many of our members, particularly racialized students and members of non-christian faith communities.
While we support the choice that many are making not to vote in this election, we assert that this choice is predicated on not denying the right of other Quebec residents to vote. The choice to disenfranchise voters and to fuel concerns about voter fraud, rather than encourage voter participation, speaks volumes about the tactics and strategies in play in this provincial election.
We encourage students who have been turned away to register to vote between April 1-2, 9am to 9pm, and April 3, 9am to 2 pm, at Concordia (LB Atrium) and McGill (Memorial Hall, McGill Sports Complex, 475 Pine Avenue West).
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– QPIRG Concordia: Cassie Smith, Board of Directors (514-848-7585)
– Concordia Student Union: Melissa Kate Wheeler, President (514.848.7474 ext. 8899)
– Student Society of McGill University: Samuel Felix Harris, VP External (514-398-6800)
– QPIRG McGill: Kira Page, External Coordinator (514-398-7432)
– e-mail: email@example.com