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Indigenous Electors

Research has demonstrated that some groups of electors, including Indigenous electors, tend to vote less than the general Canadian population does. To ensure that these electors can exercise their right to vote in federal elections, it is important to understand the barriers that they may face. To do so, Elections Canada looks at results of post-election surveys it conducts, as well as research on participation and democratic engagement. We also have ongoing consultations and relationships with various stakeholder groups, including several First Nations, Métis and Inuit organizations.

Indigenous electors are individuals aged 18 and older who identify as First Nations, Métis or Inuit. In 2016, Indigenous peoples made up about 5% of the Canadian population (Statistics Canada).

Each group of Indigenous electors has a unique history and experience with voting in federal elections. The Métis have always had the same legal rights as other Canadians when it comes to voting in federal elections. With some exceptions for veterans, the Dominion Franchise Act of 1934 disqualified First Nations people living on reserves and Inuit people from voting in federal elections. The Inuit had the vote fully restored to them in 1950, but had poor access to electoral services for many years afterward; it is only in 1962 that ballot boxes were placed in all Inuit communities for federal elections. In 1960, Parliament extended the vote to "Indian persons" unconditionally, which granted First Nations members the right to vote without forfeiting their Indian status. In view of this history of disenfranchisement, Indigenous electors tend to vote in smaller numbers than non-Indigenous electors do.

Notes:

  • This section presents results from the 2019 post-election surveys (National Electors Study), which was refined to provide a better understanding of the barriers that some groups of electors may face when voting in federal elections.
  • This section also presents results from a supplement to the Labour Force Survey, 1 which was commissioned by Elections Canada, and our 2019 study of on-reserve voter turnout.
  • Where possible, results are compared with those from previous elections.
  • Only statistically significant results are presented here.

Participating in federal elections

Indigenous electors tend to vote in smaller numbers than non-Indigenous electors do.

  • In 2019, 84% of Indigenous electors reported having voted, compared with 91% of non-Indigenous electors. However, Inuit and First Nations electors tended to vote at lower rates: 77% and 80%, respectively. This represents an increase in reported turnout over 2015, when 81% of Indigenous electors reported having voted, including 67% for Inuit electors and 79% for First Nations electors.
  • Voter turnout in 2019 was also lower for Indigenous electors living off-reserve (66.4%), compared with non-Indigenous electors (77.5%) (Labour Force Survey) and much lower for electors who live on-reserve (51.8%, compared with 67% of the general population (On-Reserve Voter Turnout 43rd General Election).
  • Indigenous electors were more likely to report not voting due to reasons related to the electoral process (21%, versus 12% of non-Indigenous electors).
  • This is also the case for Indigenous electors living off-reserve (6.9%, compared with 5.4% for all electors). Indigenous electors living off-reserve were also more likely to report that they did not vote for political reasons (47.6% compared to 41.9% for all electors) (Labour Force Survey).

Attitudes and interest toward democracy and politics

Indigenous electors are less likely to be satisfied with the way democracy works in Canada and to view voting as a duty.

  • In 2019, Indigenous electors were less likely to express satisfaction with the way democracy works in Canada (64%) than non-Indigenous electors were (79%). This was also the case for First Nations (66%) and Métis electors (62%). This represents an increase since 2015, when 56% of Indigenous electors were satisfied with the way democracy works, compared with 69% of non-Indigenous electors.
  • Indigenous electors were less likely to view voting as a duty than as a choice (66%, versus 74% of non-Indigenous electors). This difference was more prominent among Inuit (55%) and First Nations electors (60%).

Knowledge of the electoral process

Indigenous electors tend to have slightly lower levels of knowledge of the electoral process, including the requirement to be registered, the voting methods and the voter identification requirements.

  • In 2019, Indigenous electors were more likely to say that they did not know any of the ways to register or update their voter registration information (26%, compared with 21% of the general population); First Nations electors were more likely to say this (28%).
  • In 2019, Indigenous electors were also less likely to mention a polling station on election day or advance polls as ways to vote in a federal election (81% and 52%, respectively, compared with 91% and 72% of the general population). These rates were 82% and 44%, respectively, among First Nations electors. These proportions were lower in 2015, when Indigenous electors were less likely to mention polling stations (75%) or advance polls (42%) as ways to vote in an election, compared with non-Indigenous electors (90% and 65%).
  • Indigenous electors were also less likely to report feeling informed about where to vote than the general population did (71%, compared with 79%).
  • Indigenous electors were less likely than non-Indigenous electors to know that, to vote, they had to present proof of identity (95%, compared with 97%, respectively) and proof of address (87%, compared with 91%; and with 82% for First Nations electors). Knowledge of the address requirement seemed to have improved since 2015 (83% among Indigenous electors, compared with 89% among non-Indigenous electors), but was steady for First Nations electors (82%).
  • However, Indigenous electors were more likely to be familiar with Elections Canada (88%, and 90% among Métis electors) than non-Indigenous electors were (85%). These results are similar to those of 2015.

Getting registered

Registration appears to be a barrier for some Indigenous electors.

  • In 2019, Indigenous electors were less likely to say that they were registered before the election (84%, compared with 89% of non-Indigenous electors). Electors from First Nations were more likely to say this (81%). These results are similar to those of 2015.
  • Indigenous electors were also less likely to recall receiving a voter information card (86%, and 84% among electors from First Nations), compared with non-Indigenous electors (93%). This improved since 2015, where 82% of Indigenous electors, and more specifically First Nations electors (80%) recalled receiving a voter information card, compared with 91% among non-Indigenous electors.
  • Indigenous electors were less likely to find it easy to register (93%) compared to non-Indigenous electors (96%).

Voting at the polling place

Indigenous electors were less likely to have an easy and satisfactory experience when voting.

  • In 2019, Indigenous voters were less likely to have said it was very easy to vote (82%, and 80% among First Nations voters), compared with non-Indigenous voters (85%). These results are lower than in 2015: 87% of Indigenous voters and 88% of First Nations voters said it was very easy to vote, compared with 89% among non-Indigenous voters.
  • Indigenous electors were also less likely to have been very satisfied with their voting experiences (73%, and 70% among First Nations electors), compared with non-Indigenous voters (81%). These rates are lower than in 2015: 80% among Indigenous voters and 80% among First Nations voters, compared with 82% of non-Indigenous voters.

Providing identification

Proving identity and address appears to be a challenge for some Indigenous electors.

  • In 2019, while most Indigenous electors had no problems providing identification, they were less likely to find it very easy to meet the identification requirements (91%, compared with 94% of non-Indigenous electors). This was more pronounced among First Nations electors (86%). This appears to have improved significantly since 2015, when 84% of Indigenous electors found it very easy to meet identification requirements, compared with 92% of non-Indigenous electors.
  • In 2019, 2.8% of Indigenous electors living off-reserve reportedly did not vote because they were unable to prove identity or address, compared with 1.6% of non-Indigenous electors (Labour Force Survey).

Trusting the electoral process

Indigenous electors are more likely to express lower trust and confidence in the electoral process.

  • In 2019, Indigenous electors were less likely to say that they had confidence in Elections Canada (83%, and 81% among First Nations electors), compared with non-Indigenous electors (92%).
  • Indigenous electors were also less likely to strongly agree that Elections Canada was the most trusted source of information about the electoral process (51%, and 47% among First Nations electors), compared with the general population (57%). This gap has narrowed since 2015, when 45% of Indigenous electors compared to 56% of non-Indigenous electors strongly agreed.
  • Indigenous electors were less likely to think that Elections Canada ran the election fairly (83%) than non-Indigenous electors were (90%). These results are lower than in 2015, when 86% of Indigenous electors found that Elections Canada ran the election fairly, compared with 92% of non-Indigenous electors.
  • Indigenous electors were also less likely to report having high levels of trust in the accuracy of results in their electoral districts (81%, and 78% among First Nations electors) than non-Indigenous electors did (90%). These results had decreased since 2015: 83% for Indigenous electors and 82% among First Nations electors, compared with 93% for non-Indigenous electors.

Did you know?

There is a difference between an elector and a voter. An elector is any Canadian citizen 18 years of age and over. A voter is a Canadian citizen who has voted.

View the National Electors Study A voter's journey: from home to the ballot box for a comparison of the experiences of the general population and groups that face barriers to participating in elections.

Click here Information for Indigenous Voters to learn about the programs and services designed to address the barriers to voting that Indigenous electors face.

Go to Inspire Democracy to learn more about how Elections Canada and our network of stakeholder organizations are working together to address some of the barriers to getting involved with elections.

Footnotes

1 Data about Indigenous electors from the Labour Force Survey includes First Nations, Métis and Inuit respondents. It does not include any respondents from the territories; nor does it include persons living on-reserve or on other Indigenous settlements. When discussing those results, we use the term "Indigenous electors living off-reserve" as a shorthand.