Ontario municipal candidates fear polling day will fall on Diwali

Some Hindus and Sikhs in Ontario are unhappy with the timing of this year’s municipal elections, especially some of the candidates, as people are due to vote on the main religious holiday of Diwali in October.

“Policy makers need to be more concerned with inclusivity and consider diversity,” said Fazle Baki, Greater Essex County District School Board school board nominee for Wards 1, 2 and 9 in Windsor. “It is equivalent to having [the election] at Christmas.”

Diwali is a religious and cultural holiday for Hindus and Sikhs around the world. Traditionally, watchers visit religious temples to join in prayers, spend time with family and friends, exchange gifts, and light candles and fireworks.

Diwali usually consists of a five-day celebration that culminates on the third day with the main Diwali celebration. The date changes every year, as Hindus and Sikhs follow the lunar calendar.

This year, the main day is October 24, also the day of the municipal elections.

“It will be a very busy day,” said Gurpratap Singh Toor, candidate for Brampton Area Council Wards 9 and 10. “We are seeing the economic impact to the point where banks and telecom companies are all advertising and marketing specifically for this date.”

Toor noted that prominent politicians are also getting involved.

“You will see the prime minister and the prime minister joining the congregations or joining the community and the celebrations,” he said.

Gurpartap Singh Toor, candidate for Brampton Regional Council Wards 9 and 10, is concerned about the holding of municipal elections on Diwali. He says most people only think about voting on election day. (Michael Charles Cole/CBC)

Baki said holding the elections on the same day as the main day of Diwali could have a major impact on Hindus and Sikhs who want to vote. He called it a “systemic barrier”.

“They will have difficulty going to vote. They will be excluded from the election. Many of our supporters are [of] of South Asian origin.

Toor said there is precedent for Election Day displacement in Ontario, which occurred during the 2007 provincial election.

“The [date was] moved from October 4 to October 10 because it coincided with the Jewish holiday Shemini Atzeret,” Toor said. “It was also not an official holiday, and it was in the same case as Diwali.”

Windsor Morning8:21Municipal elections take place on Diwali

This year, the municipal elections coincide with Diwali, the biggest holiday in the South Asian calendar. We spoke to Brampton candidate Gurpartap Singh Toor, who is asking Elections Ontario to make a change.

Although Toor’s campaign has reached out to the provincial government and Elections Ontario, he fears it may be too late to change Election Day.

In an email to CBC News, Elections Ontario said it was not responsible for administering municipal elections in Ontario and recommended contacting the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing.

In an emailed statement to CBC News, a department spokesperson said there are “several” options municipalities can use to get people to vote before Election Day if necessary, including voting by proxy, Internet voting and postal voting.

“It is up to each municipality to determine whether it is appropriate to have alternative voting methods based on local needs and circumstances,” the statement continued.

Article 5 of the Municipal Elections Act says that voting day “in an ordinary election is the fourth Monday in October”.

Advance voting is not the best alternative

“City clerks have the authority to set advance voting dates to provide voting opportunities for those who are unable to vote on October 24,” the ministry statement said. “Advance voting can take place from 30 days before the day of the vote.”

When Baki mentions his campaign to Windsor residents of South Asian descent, he says there are alternatives to voting on Oct. 24.

“I tell them there are early voting dates as well,” he said.

A man wearing a white shirt
Fazle Baki, candidate for Greater Essex County District School Board trustee for Wards 1, 2 and 9 in Windsor, said Election Day falling on the same day as Diwali is a ‘systemic barrier’ for South Asians. (Sonya Varma/CBC)

But Toor said early polls are not an effective solution. The City of Brampton says that in the 2018 municipal election, 13% of the total number of people who voted did so early.

“Most people wait until the election date where they wake up that day, go on with their day and realize, ‘Oh, it’s election day for city government. Let’s go out and vote,'” he said. . “That’s why we see such low participation rates.”

Toor suggested targeted voting, where polling stations are set up in Hindu mandirs and Sikh gurudwaras. This also influenced his campaign strategy.

“We have spoken to the temples and seen if they can help us – not to me alone as a candidate, but to help all candidates in general by informing the public that the date of the elections will be on Diwali day before your visit. the temple.”


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