SUCCESSES AND SHORTCOMINGS OF GENDER REPRESENTATION POLICIES IN SUB-SAHARAN AFRICA
AUTHOR: Eric Zhao
Eric Zhao is a first year student at the University of Toronto, intending to study economics and conflict studies. His other academic interests include history, international relations, and public policy.
The common Western conception of international women’s issues often invokes tendencies, in the juxtaposition of developed and developing nations, to assume that the former group of countries is far superior in advancing progressive ideals than their developing world counterparts. However, several African nations are challenging pervasive notions that disregard the accomplishments of non-Western states on social justice issues. Located in the junction of Central and East Africa, Rwanda has led the Inter-Parliamentary Union’s worldwide rankings in percentages of women elected to national legislatures for the past decade, with 61.3% of seats in the Rwandan Parliament belonging to female politicians (IPU, 2018). Rwanda is shortly followed by fellow African countries such as Namibia, South Africa, Senegal, Mozambique, and Ethiopia—all of which make appearances in the global top twenty of female parliamentary representation. In contrast, the United Kingdom, Canada, and the United States are much farther from reaching gender-balanced legislatures, each with fewer than a third of their elected members identifying as female and overall placing 39th, 60th, and 103rd in the world, respectively (IPU, 2018). Although the feat of numerous African nations in advancing female representation is frequently overlooked, investigating how their governments employed legislation and minimum representation policies to outpace affluent Western countries is crucial to understanding effective methods of reducing inequality. In essence, Western states can learn much from the staunch use of pro-representation policies to encourage gender equality in countries such as Rwanda and Senegal. Meanwhile, African nations that excel in equal representation occasionally falter in development on social issues and gender roles due to the vacuum of grassroots feminist movements left through the use of immediate legislative action that exists in place of the gradual change that often characterizes Western social justice. This article compares the results of both legislative and grassroots approaches to improving gender equality and highlights each of their merits. Generally, while numerous African countries have taken advantage of policies to create significantly better female representation than in the West—both politically and economically—they often experience dwindling progress on women's social issues when compared to the developed world.
In recent history, certain African nations have significantly increased the presence of female politicians elected to their national legislatures, primarily using minimum representation policies and other forms of legislation to surpass Western standards. As one of the few nations worldwide that experiences higher rates of participation from women than men in parliament, Rwanda provides an example of a gender-accessible political system rooted in the tangible and cultural changes ushered in by legislative action. Its distinguished history with gender representation is considered to have originated in 1994, when the devastating aftermath of the Rwandan Genocide left a surviving population comprised of roughly two-thirds women (Warner, 2016). This sudden demographic shift was likely a result of the disproportionate targeting of men during ethnically-charged massacres, due to their perception as more threatening given the substantially higher levels of education and wealth afforded to male Rwandans prior to 1994 (Abari, 2017). In response to the Rwandan Genocide, President Paul Kagame seized control of the recovering nation with a focus on quickly rebuilding its damaged social and political institutions. In recognition of the immense losses of male labourers, academics, and politicians, Kagame turned his focus to the surviving female population, encouraging women to occupy positions of power that were once exclusive to men. Under the premise that recovery would be unsustainable under patriarchal organizational structures and only the labour of the surviving male population, Kagame declared that “women have to be involved at all levels and in all activities meant for the development of our country” (Rosin, 2016). Throughout the subsequent decade, Kagame’s regime pledged financial support for female education programs and appointed women to positions as government ministers and police chiefs—ultimately culminating in Rwanda’s Constitution of 2003, which reserved 30% of all seats in parliament for women (Warner, 2016). The use of female parliamentary quotas brought sweeping pragmatic changes to Rwanda’s government, as well as cultural shifts towards accepting women as qualified political leaders. Currently, Rwanda’s parliament is 61.3% composed of female politicians, signifying that its electorate has voluntarily doubled the minimum requirement of 30% (IPU, 2018). The effects of minimum representation policies in reshaping unbalanced legislatures and encouraging the acceptance of female leaders can be further observed in other African nations as well. The governments of South Africa and Senegal, each consisting of over 40% female members, have similar historical records of employing quotas for politicians (IPU, 2018). In particular, South Africa introduced a series of measures to heavily combat discrimination following the collapse of the Apartheid regime in 1994, which institutionalized racial segregation against South Africans of colour for nearly half a century. Specifically, the new Constitution of 1996, the South African Women’s Charter, and the National Commission for Gender Equality all make reference to essential rights for women, including rights over decisions concerning reproduction and freedom from gender-based discrimination (Pitamber, 2016). Most notably, South Africa’s dominant political party, the African National Congress, implemented gender quotas when selecting candidates for parliamentary elections, beginning with a requirement of 30% female candidates but eventually raising the requirement to 50% in 2006 (Preece and Nielson, 2013). South Africa’s historical focus on pro-women legislation indisputably contributes to its current proportion of female members in parliament, which only totalled around 2.7% of the entire legislature prior to the 1990s (Pitamber, 2016). This legislative approach is mirrored in Senegal, which adopted laws ensuring gender balance in political parties in 2010 (Frantzman, 2016). After the introduction of female quotas, Senegal experienced a rise in state funding towards women’s education, helping to foster skills and qualifications for future political leaders (Salami, 2017). Overall, the use of quotas and policies favouring representation by African legislators has been pivotal in raising the presence of African women in high-ranking political offices, to levels well above those of their Western counterparts.
In contrast to proactive governments in Rwanda and Senegal, North American and British legislatures have frequently opted for passive approaches in the face of political inequality—to the overall detriment of their female politicians. Canada and the United States have both shown reluctance to adopt quota systems in politics throughout history, instead relying on unrestricted first-past-the-post elections in local ridings and districts. Similarly, the United Kingdom House of Commons rejected six different proposals to improve female representation in parliament in 2017, including a bill requiring parties to ensure that 45% of appointed candidates in general elections would be female (Elgot, 2017). The impetus of all three nations in their dismissal of minimum representation is likely rooted in structural factors; particularly that all three have existing male-dominated legislatures that continue to appoint male candidates and protect their own interests. Furthermore, Western political cultures often house deeply-entrenched aversions to interfering with the power of the electorate in any regard—a phenomenon seen in the recent British rejection of quotas, which were alleged to be hindrances to the “cherished concept of meritocracy” (Salami, 2017). Instead of using legislation to improve political representation, Western governments often contend that a democratic body naturally tends towards electing meritocratic candidates, and thus, women will eventually become elected if they are deserving of political office. However, this fails to account for shortcomings of first-past-the-post systems in electing qualified candidates, especially from historically-disadvantaged backgrounds. Notably, selection bias plays a large role in the ability for candidates to run as members of parliament, given that parties must first appoint politicians to run in local districts during general elections. Since first-past-the-post systems privilege candidates who best appeal to the lowest common denominator of voters, or the broadest majority of an electorate, parties often face pressures to appoint nominees who most easily identify with the average politically-active citizen or the members of current party selection committees. In either case, selection committees often gravitate towards male and Caucasian candidates over female candidates or candidates of colour, the latter of whom are frequently viewed as less certain to appeal to the broader public. Melanee Thomas of the University of Calgary investigates this trend in a 2013 study, finding “considerable evidence that party [nomination committees are] more likely to discriminate against women candidates” (Hantiuk, 2015). Specifically, women are more frequently appointed to run in ridings already considered “strongholds” for other political parties, whereas male nominees are typically assigned to ridings with higher chances of successfully becoming elected (Thomas and Bodet, 2013, p.163). Thomas further elaborates that “where women are involved in the party nomination process… more women are recruited to run for that nomination,” while male-dominated selection committees recruit fewer female candidates on average (Hantiuk, 2015). Due to the subjective influence of selection committees in determining candidates available for election, options of electing female members of parliament are often restricted in Western democracies, irrespective of merit. This effect is further compounded by the subjective decisions of Western voters who potentially hold their own biases regarding female politicians, especially given the dominance of male political leaders that pervades history and popular culture. Rather than rectifying gender imbalances in parliament, the passive approach of Canadian and American legislatures has only appeared to stagnate female representation. Current estimates suggest that if the U.S. Congress follows its current trends in congressional elections without quotas in place, it would take approximately 500 years to reach a 50% female gender balance (Thomson, 2017). However, a crucial observation can be made that not all Western nations experience the same dismal gender representation that plagues the 27% female Canadian Parliament or the 19.6% female U.S. Congress (IPU, 2018). By following similar quota policies as Rwanda and other aforementioned African nations, Iceland and Sweden have both reached the global top twenty countries in female representation (Salami, 2017). Not only does this demonstrate the merit of the legislative approach taken by several African governments, but it also signifies that the success of minimum representation policies could potentially be replicated in developed nations around the world. However, the continued reluctance of large Western powers, such as Canada and the United States, in adopting regulations to improve gender parity in politics has caused them to lag well behind numerous countries in the developing world on this particular front.
Regarding economic liberation for women, certain African nations have again made significant advances that many Western states have yet to accomplish. In Rwanda, for instance, its developments for women in the political sphere has translated to greater participation by women in the economy as well. With 86% of working-age women finding employment in 2017, Rwanda currently exhibits the highest rate of female participation in the labour force of any country, followed closely by Madagascar and Mozambique (ILO, 2017). Relatively fairer wages accompany the strong presence of working women in the Rwandan economy. While American women on the aggregate earn an average annual income equal to 74% of earnings by men, the median salary for Rwandan women is equivalent to 88% of that of their male counterparts (Haglage, 2015). In part, Rwanda’s engagement of women in the labour force can be attributed to necessity and its unique history as a nation, given the deficiency of male workers in the 1990s. However, as noted by Stéphanie Thomson of the World Economic Forum, a similar effect occurred in the United States during World War II as well, whereby “men went off to war, demand for female workers grew significantly, as did wages… but once the war was over, things quickly returned to [prior]” (Thomson, 2017). The crucial difference between Rwanda and the United States, when each encountered a rapid and unanticipated increase in female employment, is that the former accordingly introduced policies to encourage present and future generations of women to continue participating in the labour force. For instance, Rwandan legislators introduced an extensive nationwide maternity leave program, offering three paid months off of work to make employment more accessible and desirable for prospective mothers (Theuri, 2016). In contrast, the United States remains as the sole developed nation worldwide without any government-mandated paid maternity leave program. Incidentally, only 56% of working-age women in the United States participate in its labour force, placing it at 75th in the world overall in terms of female economic engagement (ILO, 2017). Along with countries such as Senegal and South Africa, Rwanda also dedicated significant amounts of funding towards women’s education and job training programs during its transition from unbridled conflict to a female-led 21st century. Further attempts to incorporate Rwandan women into their economy include passing laws granting women equal rights to inherit property and wealth, thus encouraging a greater degree of financial independence (Salami, 2017). These legal and policy advancements helped ensure that the widespread introduction of women into the labour force would become a permanent feature of the Rwandan economy, rather than a short-lived responsibility born out of necessity.
Despite the accomplishments of African nations in incorporating women politically and economically through legislation, this progress can occasionally neglect development on women’s social issues that often receive a greater focus in the West. While it indisputably appears to be one of the world’s most pro-women countries in terms of female engagement with political and economic systems, Rwanda continues to experiences a tense social climate, described by Christopher Kayumba of the National University of Rwanda as one where “feminism” is viewed as a “dirty word” and domestic gender roles are uncompromising (Abari, 2017). In a 2014 study, Justine Uvuza of Newcastle University examines whether the increased political power of Rwandan women has translated effectively into social liberation by interviewing female members of parliament in Rwanda regarding their domestic lives. Overall, she reported that only four women claimed there had been any notable improvement in the balance of domestic roles in the past decade, while all other interviewed members of parliament felt that no significant changes had occurred to balance roles between themselves and their spouses, who still expected women to perform traditional housekeeping roles (Uvuza, 2014, p.199). In addition, multiple female politicians feared violence and other potential repercussions from their spouses if they failed to comply with their expected domestic tasks. Analyzing the effects of legislative action without grassroots change for women, Uvuza argues that the endurance of stagnant gender roles in Rwanda “reflects the contradictory nature of government-driven gender equality approaches if not accompanied by a strong women’s movement to challenge the status quo” (Uvuza, 2014, p.53). She further establishes that “a female politician could stand up in parliament, advocating for issues like stronger penalties for sexual violence… but find herself scared to speak out about the oppression in her own home” (Warner, 2016). A similar phenomenon can be observed in Senegal, where numerous advances have been accomplished to produce political equality, but rigid gender roles and widening rates of inequality between urban and rural women persist (Frantzman, 2016). This disparity between development on women’s political issues and women’s social issues in African nations is likely explained by several factors. Firstly, many of these countries adopted pro-women policies on the order of governors and legislators, without necessarily shifting the opinions of everyday individuals and families on the importance of providing opportunities to women. Furthermore, developments in both Rwanda and Senegal to improve representation are publicly justified under the guise of nationalism, rather than for the sake of upholding women’s rights themselves. More specifically, President Kagame’s regime in Rwanda adopted rhetoric during the period in which it implemented gender quotas maintaining that representation would be primarily “meant for the development of [the] country,” rather than as an intrinsic benefit for women (Rosin, 2016). In Senegal, former presidential candidate Amsatou Sow Sidibe discussed quotas by claiming, “For stability, we need women in politics in Africa… when there is no discrimination against women it is good for stability, and we have a big responsibility for peace in our countries” (Frantzman, 2016). In both cases, local politicians defended pro-women policies as mechanisms primarily intended to improve stability within their nation, rather than as a means to improve conditions for women. Uvuza elaborates that “for some of these women, the very real strides that they were making outside the home could feel less like liberation and more like a duty to be fulfilled” (Warner, 2016). Consequently, many local women in these states maintain that becoming politically active and adhering to traditional gender roles are equally valuable pursuits, as both can be regarded as “national responsibilities” despite their differing implications for women’s rights. In this regard, the legislative changes pursued by certain African countries may actually have played a role in strengthening traditional domestic roles rather than eliminating them, by implying that developments for women should be contingent on proving their benefit to the wider nation rather than for the sole purpose of improving women’s rights.
Compared to Western states, African nations employing female quotas also have a relative deficiency of robust domestic feminism movements to campaign on behalf of women’s social issues and reshape societal norms. Although Western nations continue to experience certain faults in terms of social development, many have historically developed their own activism movements involving local women, spurred by instances of state inaction in improving gender equality. The importance of grassroots feminist movements in furthering women’s social issues has been previously espoused by the Women’s Voice, Agency, and Participation Research Series commissioned by the World Bank. According to its 2013 study, “Autonomous movements articulate the social perspectives of marginalized groups, transform social practice, and change public opinion… these effects of autonomous organizing are more important [than] women’s descriptive representation inside the legislature or the impact of political parties” (Evans and Nambiar, 2013, p.19). In essence, the presence of local women’s movements tends to be a stronger indicator in reduced gender roles, violence against women, and other social inequalities when compared to other factors such as wealth per capita or proportion of female politicians in parliament (Evans and Nambiar, 2013). This ultimately suggests that the more passive approach taken by governments in Canada and the United States claims some advantages over immediate legislative change. On social issues, such as domestic roles and violence, these nations are often able to outpace states like Rwanda with fewer local women’s movements, where these inequalities exist to a greater extent. Concluding her study of female members of parliament in Rwanda, Uvuza asked each interview subject if they would support a women’s movement locally in Central Africa—to which nearly every participating woman declined. In response to the prospect of a “movement to change not just the public roles for women but to re-evaluate gender relations on all levels,” several women insinuated that the concept of feminism was “for Westerners,” or incompatible with the duties and goals upheld by their nation (Warner, 2016). Consequently, Western countries exhibiting a comparatively greater acceptance surrounding feminist movements are often better positioned to combat social injustices, compared to states that act on political or economic inequality but neglect to foster social change.
Ultimately, while a handful of Sub-Saharan African states have successfully advanced political and economic representation through progressive egalitarian legislation, a reluctance to mobilize local women’s movements often limits their ability to address social issues affecting everyday women. This trend can be observed by contrasting states such as South Africa, Rwanda, and Senegal with Canada and the United States, which face inequalities due to their resistance against minimum representation policies. As with all generalizations between binary classifications of countries, specific exceptions may exist. Certain Western Nordic countries such as Sweden and Iceland have already employed female quotas in their legislatures, whereas numerous African nations have yet to implement the policy reforms seen in the examined regions. However, this trend generally demonstrates that both legislative and grassroots approaches have merits and limitations when employed to address different areas of inequality, and a confluence of both approaches is necessary to develop a holistic remedy. This leads to several implications—namely that Western states can benefit women working in political or professional fields by abandoning their aversion to legislative change, as cases in Rwanda and Senegal demonstrate that representation quotas can coexist with a highly-qualified body of elected officials. Furthermore, developing nations that have already committed to gender equality on a political level should actively foster the growth of local activist groups that serve to address social inequalities. In essence, pursuing a compromise involving both legislative and grassroots change is ideal in addressing gender disparities holistically; by embracing policies and movements that support women rather than treating the two as mutually exclusive courses of action.
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MORE THAN MEETS THE EYE: A CASE STUDY OF THE CRIMINAL LAW CONVENTION ON TRIALING INDIVIDUALS WITH NEUROLOGICAL IMPAIRMENTS IN CANADIAN JURISPRUDENCE
More Than Meets the Eye: A Case Study of the Criminal Law Convention on Trialing Individuals with Neurological Impairments in Canadian Jurisprudence
Recent discoveries in the field of neuroscientific research have made great progress towards providing a more complete picture of human behavior. However, the very concept of legal responsibility in Canada is derived from a model of human behavior that neuroscience that does not share, which introduces a grey area for individuals whose neurological characteristics deviate from the norm. This study seeks to analyze the current court procedures set in place in Canada to accommodate individuals with mental impairments that have committed severe crimes and to investigate technological integration within trials involving such cases, which ultimately aid in reducing the disparities between neuroscientific development and the law. By analyzing past cases involving individuals with neurological disorders “those who were deemed not criminally responsible or ‘NCR’”, common sources of evidence used to evaluate culpability were found. A thorough analysis demonstrated that there has been significant diversity of judicial opinions on the outcomes of NCRMD cases, and no significant technological integration has been implemented in the court of law for use as evidence in the past 20 years. A second component of this study aims to uncover the preconceived perceptions of potential jury members towards such defendants to determine if Bill C-30 (the NCRMD Bill) established in 1992 is successful in de-stigmatizing mental illnesses. This study found that Canadian adults are divided on their outlook of individuals with neurological disorders who commit severe crimes.
Key words: Not Criminally Responsible (NCR), Canadian Law, neurological impairment, neurolaw, technology, mental disorder
A commonly accepted interpretation of the law, as a human institution, is that it acts as a system for governing human behavior. To avoid governmentally-administered consequences, one must refrain from certain actions that are declared socially deplorable. In other words, it is a means of controlling the behavior of individuals for the safety and order of society. It also common knowledge that the brain is the organ that governs an individual’s being, characterized by activity within his/her nervous system; Any physiological changes that may arise with this organ system will result in drastic impacts to one’s self, which includes major influences on behavior. It thus becomes evident that at their very core, law and neuroscience are intimately intertwined, and it is unfitting to assume that it is possible to implement a system of controlling societal behavior if the origin of the tendencies itself are ignored. Whilst there exists extensive research regarding how behavior can be altered by both macroscopic influences (such as trauma or benign/malignant growths) or microscopic ones (an unbalanced volume of neurotransmitters and/or neurochemicals, damage to neural pathways), the way in which such a situation would be taken into consideration in the court of law remains a highly controversial matter.
The “Criminal Lunatics Act” that was incorporated into British law in the year 1800 was adopted by Canada in 1892, whereby if an individual was deemed criminally insane, he or she would be automatically detained in prison. However, in 1991 a landmark Supreme Court decision in the case of R vs. Swain uncovered the conflict between the “Criminal Lunatics Act” and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which resulted in the creation of Bill C-30, currently known as the NCRMD (not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder – NCR for short) defense, to be implemented in 1992. For a person to be considered as “not criminally responsible” (NCR), it must be proven that they did not have the capacity to understand the nature of their actions, know right from wrong, or if they were able to control their behavior – In other words, it is a requisite assessment of mens rea (intention of wrong doing). The common law test of criminal liability is expressed in the Latin phrase actus reus non facit reum nisi mens sit rea, which translates to "the act is not culpable unless the mind is guilty" (OJEN, n.d.). In jurisdictions with due process, there must be both actus reus (the act of wrongdoing) and mens rea for a defendant to be guilty. Due to the significant uncertainty that comes along with assessing culpability, only 2 in every 1000 cases result in an NCR verdict. From those cases, charges of serious violence only account for 8.1% of overall NCR cases (Statistics Canada, 2012). The large difference between an individual designated NCR and any other offender is that under new legislation, the goal becomes rehabilitation of the NCR individual. Following court decision, the individual is managed by review boards, which are independent tribunals made up of at least five people, one of which must be a psychiatrist (The Canadian Bar Association, n.d.). The board can bestow varying degrees of privileges upon the individual, ranging from a conditional discharge to an absolute discharge. When given conditional discharge, individuals are allowed substantial freedom and access to the public, whilst an absolute discharge translates into freedom without supervision that is granted only when the board decides that the person does not pose a threat to society. In July of 2014, the Stephen Harper government altered the NCR legislation in Bill C54. The Not Criminally Responsible Reform Act implemented a “high risk” designation for those found NCR in cases of severe personal injury (NCRMD), which does not allow for leaving the hospital for up to three years between review board hearings. The latter was in response to the cases of Vince Li, who decapitated a fellow passenger on a bus in Manitoba in 2008, and Allan Schoenborn, who killed his three children in Merritt, B.C., the same year.
At first glance, the NCR system appears to be fully functioning; Recent statistics have demonstrated that three years following an initial NCR verdict, approximately 10% of individuals reoffend, which is in stark contrast to 40% recidivism from the general penal system in Canada. However, many opposition and mental health advocates, including the CPA (Canadian Psychiatric Association) disagree with the legislation – Especially the implication of Bill C54, which is believed to conflict with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Many fear that the new law will influence affected individuals to choose prison over rehabilitation, which would result in returning from prison untreated and much more likely to reoffend. Concerns have also been raised concerning the rise of more controversy by showing the dimensions of these complex illnesses and revealing the vulnerabilities of the patients, victims, and the mental health care system.
One of the main goals of the NCR Bill is to reduce the stigma surrounding mental illness and to encourage the re-integration of offenders into society, but the success of this law has yet to be proven – Especially considering the prejudice individuals continue to possess against individuals with neurological disorders. Therefore, although the NCR bill seems to have decreased the tendency to reoffend in the relatively small population of individuals who receive such a designation, whether Canadians have a changed outlook on how individuals with neurological disorders should be regarded in the court of law is questionable. It is commonly believed that the ambiguity surrounding the process of evaluating culpability has fostered negative feelings towards the NCR bill. Therefore, there is a chance that mending the major gap between neuroscientific understanding and court proceedings can aid in reducing the uncertainty, all whilst relieving some controversy.
The literature in the field of neurolaw is saturated, each taking a unique perspective on the topic. A thematic approach was taken to analyze each source. The case of Christopher Tiegreen is one that is commonly discussed when exploring the interface between neurological pathology and law. Tiegreen was a teenager when he sustained a brain injury that caused damage to the frontal lobe, and eventually awoke from a coma much more violent. In 2012 he was found attacking a woman, and at his trial a neuropsychologist for the defense testified that Tiegreen suffered brain impairment that directly influenced his actions, yet he was declared competent and guilty by the jury (Bottalico, 2011). This case demonstrated one of the many challenges that lawyers, judges, and defendants face when neuroscience and the law are combined, where an attempt to explain the brain/behavior can differ with how the jury determines culpability. The literature in the field of neurolaw poses the question of whether neurological disorders should be directly acknowledged in the court of law often. However, reports on this topic are informational rather than argumentative. Moreover, whilst there exists extensive research regarding how behavior can be altered through disorders affecting specific parts of the brain, the way in which such a situation should be taken into consideration in the court of law remains unexplored. A second gap exists in the interface between scientific knowledge and the role it plays in such cases, and how to mitigate such shortcomings.
Part XX.1 of the Canadian Criminal Code was enacted, in part, to reduce the stigma surrounding the mentally ill as well as to eliminate stereotypes and preconceived perceptions of those with neurological disorders (CBA, n.d.). After the re-evaluation of how to deal with such cases post-R. v. Swain, the court accepted that the mentally ill have been historically discriminated against (Penney et. al, 2013). In the case of R. v. Winko in 1999, Justice McLachlin wrote, “If society is to be protected on a long-term basis, it must address the cause of the offending behavior — the mental illness” (CanLII, 1999). In this context, there is no room for fear or blame, but rather an understanding of the harm done to victims, and an awareness that the accused does not fulfil the requisite mens rea. With these objectives and principles in mind, the Canadian Bar Association passed a resolution in 2011 calling on the federal, provincial, and territorial governments to “allocate sufficient resources to reduce the criminalization of mentally ill individuals” and “develop policies to enhance the lives of those suffering from mental illness to prevent them from encountering the criminal justice system.” (Crocker et. al, 2014). Therefore, although the obvious goal of Bill C30 is to ensure justice for individuals with neurological disorders, it is also an attempt at re-integrating said individuals into society via de-stigmatization. In total, there were 4,402 homicide offenders recorded from 1987 to 2012 in Canada. Among these, 163 individuals – or 4 per cent of all offenders – were seriously mentally ill and found NCR (Miladinovic et. al., 2015). In contrast to declining hospitalization rates, the rate of NCR homicide remained constant at about 6.5 cases per year (Criminally insane, 2005). It can thus be noted that the chance of being killed by a mentally ill stranger is exceedingly rare; Out of the 710-people killed by strangers over from 1987-2012, 15 were killed by mentally unwell persons (Simpson et al., 2017). More than half of the people discharged by Review Boards, either conditionally or absolutely, did not get re-hospitalized nor had encounters with the judicial system after a three-year observation period. Those who did need help were more likely to end up back in the health system than in the judicial system (Crocker, 2015).
Many esteemed researchers in the field of neurolaw who study how regulations like NCR affect the population discuss a “slippery slope” that exists when questions of diminished responsibility arise. This becomes more evident when mental illness enters the discussion. As such, the question of whether a defendant had the requisite mens rea becomes a difficult one to answer. Michael S. Gazzaniga, distinguished professor of psychological and brain sciences at Dartmouth College, discusses how in the law’s view of persons “human beings are, first and foremost, practical reasoners” (Gazzaniga, 2001). This amounts to saying that people act rationally, and this idea is behind all the legal system’s ideas about human behavior. Gazzaniga also shares how the current standards for diminished responsibility “refer to breakdowns in one of the steps of the behavior generation process”; This includes the accused being unable to exercise free will (the irresistible impulse test) or he/she was not aware that their behavior was wrong (the McNaghten rule) (Gazzaniga, 2001). In contrast, Stephen J. Morse, a professor of law and psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania, discusses the problems that arise in defining what constitutes a mental disorder that merits a different treatment when considering the fate of a defendant, but agrees that overall, there must be a different way to approach such cases. Morse argues that “brains don’t commit crimes; people do” (Morse, 2011). What this implies is that even the latest neuroscientific research and imaging cannot answer questions about responsibility and competence. Whilst both these authors analyze the process of trialing a defendant with a neurological disorder through questioning what the court currently defines as worthy of a lesser or alternate sentence, they both fail to use case-based evidence to demonstrate how these individuals are dealt with in trial.
Kevin Davis, journalist and former crime reporter, talks about how lawyers attempt to “humanize” defendants by attempting to find a neurological disorder to attribute the crime to (Davis, 2012). In “Brain Trials: Neuroscience in the Courtroom”, Davis cites the work of professor of law and biology at Vanderbilt University, Owen Jones, to illustrate the difficulty of relying on brain scans to determine culpability. Jones believes that “once you start going down this path that there’s this quirk in the brain that makes me not responsible for my actions, that makes people “understandably concerned” and that brain scans and evidence of trauma must “be weighed with other evidence” (Jones, 2011). Davis claims that lawyers and juries do not know how people try to control their impulses, which leaves a lot of space for ambiguity in interpreting the law. The issue with this argument is that the outcome possibilities that are considered by the author are binary; The defendant is either guilty, or not guilty. However, there is a spectrum for culpability, and stories such as that of Christopher Tiegreen fall somewhere in the middle, which merits further investigation. Davis does, however, consider that the “best illustration of where law and neuroscience need to work together” is not to explain or excuse criminal behavior, but to evaluate each defendant and customize a plan that serves their mental health needs as well as the need to keep the public safe (Davis, 2012). As Tiegreen’s mother had mentioned, “it’s not that Christopher is cruel, it’s that he can’t control himself like me or you”; Scientists such as Amane Tateno, M.D., can say with certainty that intentions and behaviors are controlled by specific areas of the brain (some areas being more certain than others). Such studies had concluded that when assessing the aggressive behavior in 89 patients with traumatic brain injury and 26 patients with multiple trauma but without TBI using a quantitative scale (the Overt Aggression Scale), aggressive behavior was found in 33.7% of TBI patients and 11.5% of patients without TBI during the first 6 months after injury (Tateno et tal, 2003). Aggressive behavior was strongly associated with the presence of frontal lobe lesions, poor premorbid social functioning, and a history of alcohol and substance abuse. It thus follows that the mens rea is not present, and the trial must be modified in some way to ensure utmost fairness.
In terms of the scientific perspective on neurolaw, Dean Mobbs discusses studies of the prefrontal cortex in anti-social and violent populations. His research had found that the human prefrontal cortex is what makes us rational, intellectual, and moral entities. Other similar studies on patients with focal frontal lobe injuries support this conclusion; The study found that even an 11% decrease in prefrontal cortex grey matter, which can be caused by most neurodegenerative disorder or injury, is associated with severe aggression and pathological lying (Mobbs et tal, 2007). Although this scientific report provides great insight on how damage to the prefrontal cortex has direct effects on the personality of an individual, it does not consider other areas of the brain that may increase propensity toward behaviors deemed criminal or anti-social. It has long been known that injury to the frontal lobe, including the amygdala, also results in blunted emotional responses (Fox et. al., 2013). However, the way in which neuroscientific background of prefrontal cortex injuries is implemented in the court of law is left unexplained. Neuroscientist Jyotpal Singh discusses culpability in the face of the law, and how even “a minor alteration in a chemical in the brain can drastically alter personality and behavior” (Singh, 2008). Singh then proceeds to question the basic assumption of the law that people are “conscious, intentional, and rational actors that can choose how [they] act” (Singh, 2008). This article provides the application of the neuroscientific background provided by the work of Mobbs et tal within the court of law.
In a journal article that questions whether brain scanners can detect the intentions of criminals, Daniel Pallares-Dominguez and Elsa Gonzalez-Esteban (esteemed professors of sociology at Universitat Jaume I) make use of case studies to describe the shortcomings of neuroscience (Pallares-Dominguez, Gonzalez Esteban, 2016). They use the case of Terry Harrington, a 17-year-old American minor spent 25 years in prison for a murder that he did not commit. According to the article, the motive for Harrington’s release was the acceptance of “Brain Fingerprinting” as proof of innocence. This technique uses an EEG that measure’s one’s “event-related potential”; It tests the recognition of a stimulus in comparison with the context of a crime. In Harrington v. State, the professional who was representing the defendant presented a report to the court that showed that when Harrington was presented with stimuli related to the alibi, it coincided at a rate of more than 99% (Pallares-Dominguez, Gonzalez Esteban, 2016). This means that Harrington’s alibi was true, and he was not responsible for the crime. The journal article discusses other cases in which such a technology was utilized, and proceeds to consider the ethical implications of neurolaw and Brain Fingerprinting. In stark contrast to this, Matthew B. Crawford, researcher at the University of Virginia, discusses conceptual problems hovering the interpretation of brain scans as pictures of mentation (Crawford, 2008). He argues that there is often an overextension of brain scans to domains where they have little explanatory power. However, the author does not dismiss all uses of neuroscientific technology, he merely cautions others about the overuse of scans when unfitting.
A journal article written by Paul M. Kaufmann, neuropsychologist and attorney, discusses the role of clinical neuropsychologists who engage in forensic consulting activities, especially when the defendant possesses a brain injury. Kaufmann explains how courts must evaluate expert qualifications, and questions the relevance of expert opinions to the dispute. Moreover, he discusses cases in which expert opinions were wrongfully excluded, such as in the case of Baxter v. Temple, and wrongfully admitted, such as in the case of John Richmond v. Henry Bennett (Kaufmann, 2013). The weighting of the words of these experts must be assessed to ensure that the case does not boil down to the word of one expert against the word of another. Furthermore, Neil Krishan Aggarwal, a member of the Department of Psychiatry at Columbia University, talks about the emerging field of neuro-ethics and its relation to neurolaw. Aggarwal introduce the terms “neuro-essentialism”, defined as the notion that the brain reflects brain function, “neuro-realism”, which is functional neuroimaging that accurately reflects brain function, and “neuro-exceptionalism”, or the belief that neuroscience and neurotechnology pose new ethical challenges (Aggarwal, 2013). The article discusses the clinical assessment challenges presented by patients with traumatic brain injuries in court, and focuses on providing an ethical analysis on the emerging use of neuroimaging technologies in trial. However, it does not acknowledge the process of trialing an individual with a neurological disorder in court.
Through looking at previous research done on the topic of how neurological disorders influence the behaviors of individuals, combined with how such scientific proof influences the court of law, we begin to discover whether these individuals are receiving a fair trial. However, there has been inadequate research on the interface of both the neuroscientific background of neurological disorders and the Canadian court of law. A report discussing criminals with neurodegenerative diseases written by Stephen Morse at Northwestern University pointed out that the cases in which evidently ill individuals are declared competent in the justice system are becoming more common (Morse, 2011). When one analyzes the current binary system of guilt or innocence within the law, it becomes evident that such a model does not account for those with neurological disorders.
I chose a mixed research method to combine different perspectives, ranging from the experiences of defendants and lawyers, to the opinions of Canadian Adults. More specifically, this study analyzed court cases involving defendants with neurological impairments using the method of case study research. I supplemented the latter through interviewing a Canadian board-certified criminal lawyer, and gathering quantitative data that reflect the opinions of Canadian adults using a survey.
Case study research is a qualitative method of providing an understanding of complex or abstract issues, and adds strength to what is already known through previous research. This methodology emphasizes detailed contextual analysis of a limited number of events and their relationships. Using this method, one can examine contemporary phenomena and specific issues to provide a basis for the application or extension of ideas. According to Creswell, in case studies the “researcher develops an in-depth analysis of a case, often a program, event, activity, process, or one or more individuals” and they are bound by time. This oftentimes involves the development of themes into patterns or theories, with the overall intention of exploring a process/issue. In terms of the data collection procedures, Creswell states that the sample size “depends on the qualitative design being used”, and that case studies should include around five cases. This ensures that following a “detailed description of the setting or individuals”, there is analysis of a fair amount of data for themes or issues (Creswell, 2000). When discussing the validity of qualitative data, a great concern is that the researcher develops a procedure that does not “take advantage of the richness of the qualitative findings” which happens when the data “lacks rigor” (Creswell, 2000).
Cases were found using the Canadian Legal Information Institute, which is a database for cases involving diverse fields in law. Eight cases were selected, each involving a neurologically impaired individual, and from this, certain pieces of information were sought after: The nature of the crime, the neurological impairment that resulted in an NCR designation, and whether technological intervention occurred. With this information, a list of patterns and observations were compiled. Furthermore, using a survey, a secondary component of Bill C30 was tested – Whether the law has influenced the perspective of potential Canadian jury members. Within this survey, data was compiled from 150 adults in Canada (over the age of 18) to understand the way in which people perceive the NCR bill. Finally, a semi-structured interview was conducted with a Canadian board-certified criminal lawyer. Both the questions of the survey and the validity of the findings were evaluated with the help of this interview, in addition to discussing technology in the law. Through utilizing diverse sources of data and analyzing NCR through various perspectives, a more holistic view of the trial process for individuals with neurological disorders is found.
For the first component of this study, eight cases involving NCR designated individuals in Canada were found using three sets of criteria; The trial had taken place after the year 2000, they involved individuals from different provinces, and it was not their first time in the justice system. The latter criterion is to ensure that it is not a first-time offense, and thus no special leniency is provided. Through recording specific pieces of information, including the reason for being given NCR designation and the type of evidence used, patterns can be determined.
In a secondary segment of this study, 150 adults over the age of 18 that are citizens of Canada were surveyed, and the survey asked a series of questions that evaluated the persons comfort with deviating from the court process that would otherwise be provided for a neurotypical individual. An internal review board at my school had approved the survey before distribution. Likert scale style questions were mostly asked, whereby 1 signified that the individual strongly disagrees with the statement, and 5 signified that the individual strongly agrees with the statement. The participants were told that the survey is both anonymous and confidential, in an effort to receive honest responses. The goal of the survey was to view the preconceived perceptions of potential jury members that review the cases shown in the table above. The questions asked and the distribution of answers are shown through the graphs below:
In a survey of Canadian adults, 42.3% disagree that “all individuals are currently treated fairly in the court of law”, whilst almost 29%, close to a third, believe that people are widely treated fairly. Moreover, 76.1% of people believe that the procedure in the court of law should be the same for everyone, which contrasts the responses towards a question later in the survey that asked under which circumstances individuals would be comfortable with deviation from standard court procedures, where 59.7% of people answered, “all of the above”. The contradictory nature of the latter two questions can be attributed to either a moral inclination to accommodate others when given a specific choice, or because people simply don’t know the grounds for culpability that merit designations like NCR. This can be further confirmed by the fact that the “all of the above” option included the alteration of trials on account of physical disability, which is not an impairment that affects the requisite mens rea. Regardless, 31% of individuals are not comfortable with any deviation from standard court procedures whatsoever, which means that a significant portion of jury members may not agree with the current NCR mandated accommodations set in place. The survey also uncovered that 78.4% of individuals are comfortable with the use of biological information as forensic evidence, and that 33.1% of individuals are comfortable with the use of experimental technology to evaluate culpability. For this question, 46.9% of people were undecided and responded a 3 on the Likert scale, which means that there is an opportunity for progress to teach others about the need for technological intervention. Moreover, 69.2% of individuals somewhat believe that if an individual with a mental impairment commits a crime, he/she should be treated as any other defendant in the justice system, whilst only 10% of individuals feel it is unjustifiable for an individual with a neurological disorder to go to a mental health facility for a crime that would otherwise result in a prison sentence. Once again, the latter two are contradictory responses that can also be attributed to an altruistic bias; People may not reflect their true opinions by simply choosing the more accommodating option. The contradictory responses can also be partially due to the varying degrees of specificity of the questions posed, or because of a lack of knowledge on the topic. Many people also chose 3 on the Likert scale for various questions, which adds an element of ambiguity and space for development.
The results of the survey were largely inconclusive; Responses were often contradictory, and the way in which Canadian adults perceive criminal cases involving individuals with neurological disorders cannot be concluded with certainty. Regardless, the consensus seems to be divided; Whilst some believe that it is justified to provide an alternate outcome for crimes that would otherwise result in incarceration, many others maintain a preconceived perception about mental illness and the way it should be accommodated in society. Especially considering that the individuals of the general Canadian adult population are mandated to serve jury duty and contribute to the fate of those undergoing trial. A jury is not required to accept an expert opinion that there is a "strong circumstantial case for an NCR finding", and a jury can accept or reject the evidence in the "same manner as any other evidence" (Pickersgill, 2011). Furthermore, the jury can accord less weight to the opinion if it is not based on proven facts or were based on assumptions (R. v. Richmond, 2016). As such, it becomes evident that the opinion of the public not only influences the perception of individuals with neurological disorders, but affects the way in which those to be designated with NCR are to be sentenced.
In general, NCR is uncommon in Canada – The default attitude of the law is to be overly cautious with who can and cannot be considered NCR to avoid conflict and controversy. Through this case study, many specific pieces of information were drawn from the relatively small pool of cases that involve NCRMD in Canada, and notable trends were observed. The goal of the case study was to determine the way in which a typical NCR case plays out in court, and evaluate the quality of evidence used in determining culpability when contrasted with current neuroscientific developments. However, through the study of various court cases, it was also unintentionally observed that the clear majority of NCR cases involve individuals that have been diagnosed with either schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. It can be speculated that the latter is because it is simple to argue that those individuals suffered from delusions that took away from their capacity to understand the nature of the crime. These disorders are also amongst the most common and thoroughly understood in the scientific community. However, with more complex (and oftentimes less understood) conditions such as brain tumors, CTE, borderline personality disorder, concussions, etc. are not fully understood, and thus sound conclusions regarding culpability cannot be made. It is also common for the defendant to be against being treated as NCR – For instance, Bergman of R v. Bergman (2000) refused all psychiatric assessment, and Jones of R v. Jones (2011) believed that NCR was unnecessary as he was convinced that he was Jesus Christ. In terms of court procedures and evidence, the weight of the NCR decision was heavily based on the opinion of expert psychiatrists, which were either court mandated professionals or aided the defendant in managing his/her neurological disorder in the past. NCR cases over the past 2 years demonstrate that the most salient factors that distinguish between those who get NCR status and those who don’t “are factors related to psychiatric opinion” (e.g., diagnosis of a psychotic disorder or recommendations psychiatrists make in reports to the court). This further reinforces the stark contrast between neuroscientific innovation and the current state of the law; Whilst neuroscience is constantly developing and understanding of behavior is increasing, the legal system evolves glacially and has not adopted major technological integration in the past 30 years – An interview with lawyer Calvin Berry uncovered that the last major technological contribution to the law was the development of the polymerase chain reaction to replicate limited DNA samples in 1984. As a result, a lot of NCR cases remain disputed because of the grey area surrounding the evaluation of culpability. Through studying cases, it can also be seen that a large quantity of individuals are being sent to hospitals for rehabilitation. This has ultimately lead to those deemed “high-risk” by Bill C54 being permitted to be put into a hospital for up to 3 years awaiting a verdict on their NCR status (or incarcerated if the hospital beds are full). Once more, the latter problem can be explained by a lack of neuroscientific understanding of the nature of neurological disorders, and how they can influence one’s mens rea.
Conclusion & Suggestions:
Due to range of perspectives of adults in Canada regarding the most effective way of trialing individuals with neurological disorders, conclusions can only be made with a limited degree of certainty. Overall, a significant portion of adults do not believe that accommodations are needed for people with neurological disorders who commit crimes, and many are comfortable with the use of experimental technology to properly evaluate culpability – Especially considering the limited use of neuroscientific innovation in the court of law. The findings also demonstrate that schizophrenia and bipolar disorder are the most common neurological disorders that result in NCR verdict. It can be safely stated that the reason for almost all conflict surrounding Bill C30 is due to a lack of neuroscientific understanding, and the lack of public knowledge about what being designated NCR entails. To mitigate the severity of this underlying problem, lawyers and other members of the courts should be given an updated understanding of the current interpretations of the brain and behavioral disorders. However, to truly determine if the NCR bill is effectively contributing to the ultimate de-stigmatization of mental illnesses, further research on the social outlook of individuals on those with neurological disorders should be conducted.
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Interview questions from discussion with Toronto criminal lawyer, Calvin Barry (J.D.):
YOUTH VOTER TURNOUT: AN INTERNATIONAL APPROACH TO WHY YOUTH VOTING IS DECLINING
AUTHOR: HOLLY O'HANLON
Holly has just begun her second year at The University of Western. She is pursuing an honours specialization in political science. A notable area of interest for her is how world events impact the business world.
Youth voter turnout is in decline all over the world. Statistics reveal that valuable opportunities offered up by democratic governments such as having the privilege to have a say in the political system through elections are not valued by many millennials. Voter turnout is essential to having a successful democracy, and youth are especially important as they are the leaders of tomorrow. This essay explores how Canadian youth voter turnout has declined for cultural reasons. As a point of contrast, declines in youth voter turnout in Ireland will also be examined, and reveal very different reasons for this trend. These findings suggest that there are several global trends impacting this recent phenomenon of declining youth voter turnout.
Ireland and Canada present two very interesting cases when looking at the decline in youth political participation. Both countries have a parliamentary democracy, share a similar culture/lifestyle, and speak the same language. They do however differ in terms of youth political engagement. Canadian youth are more likely to be disengaged with politics for culturally related reasons of political apathy where individuals do not see the point in political engagement. Ireland on the other hand holds a population of youth that are willing to participate in politics, but feel the system is not addressing their needs and can be improved upon. It is essential that these countries turn around this pattern in order for their governments to be successful. Citizens need to vote and be willing to share their opinions through political engagement at all levels of the political process. If youth are not participating today and this trend continues, the future of politics is endangered.
Canada is unique in that youth are unable to see the value of political engagement causing voting levels to be nowhere near what they should be. In an analysis completed by Caroline Blais, she states that, “the most recent generations are less prone to vote in good part because they pay less attention to politics”(1). This general decline in youth voter turnout results from a change in culture in which youth show a lack of interest in politics, limited knowledge surrounding politics, as well as taking the right to vote for granted. Many youth feel that politics do not directly impact their daily lives, and choose to focus their attention elsewhere. Youth in high school are not impacted by matters involving taxes, balancing the budget, and the future of the Canadian Pension Plan. That being said, even when issues directly impacting young people are outlined in the political agenda, “these messages are just not registering with a significant proportion of younger Canadians”(2). Youth are not taking the time to watch parties outline their causes or reading the newspaper to see what issues are being promoted proving that the messages are not resonating with their cohort. It ultimately comes down to a lack of motivation, and the thought that youth cannot make a difference within a system that is perceived to be apart from them and their reality. Contrastingly, in Ireland youth have not been reluctant to vote for cultural/generational reasons, but because politically they do not feel their system of governance reflects their generational concerns. Unfortunately, the Canadian lack of interest amongst the young means that when voting periods come along, youth are unable to form an opinion causing them to just not vote in the first place.
The overall lack of interest by youth towards politics can also be attributed to a general deficiency of knowledge surrounding politics. When looking at the lack of knowledge associated with youth, and the ensuing lower level of political participation, this is seen to be a generational effect (3). In the 2015 federal election, a study was taken to gather up the most popular reasons for youth not voting and, “the most cited reason was a lack of knowledge or political confidence” (4).
Most youth do not prioritize staying up to date with politics, which contributes to their limited knowledge on the subject matter. With no background information on candidates or issues, it is next to impossible to form a reasonable opinion on a candidate creating a decline in votes.
Lastly, for Canadian youth, politics are not deemed to be as important as they once were. Youth did not have to fight for the right to vote or to form a democracy, but were instead born into a world in which that was the norm. Norman Ruff, a professor at University of Victoria states, "It didn't used to be that way I think largely because we've lost the sense of the obligation to vote"(5). When voting was something that people fought for especially women, people looked at voting as a privilege and something they had to do to be a participating member of society. Now, it can seem like a hassle for youth, especially when they have no interest or knowledge on the subject matter. Today’s Canadian youth population definitely takes the right to vote for granted unlike ancestors who felt it was their duty to vote.
Although lack of knowledge and interest in politics are also reasons for why youth do not vote in Ireland, there is the issue of youth being less inclined to vote for more politically and educationally inclined reasons. Irish youth feel the existing political parties do not represent their needs. All over the UK, youth struggle to identify with a political party that represents their requests. It is not that youth are uninterested in politics as in Canada, but rather they are, “disillusioned with politicians and political parties who ignore them and their issues” (6). Issues such as the environment, employment, and gay rights are what youth want to see more representation for. Without these topics being represented, it proves difficult for youth to want to participate when the issues they feel most strongly about are not being addressed.
There is also the influence of the economy on voter turnout. Ireland has a weaker economy when compared to a country like Canada. Ireland has a nation-wide GDP of 294.1 billion, which is drastically smaller than Canada’s 1.43 trillion GDP (7). When compared to Canada, Ireland has less money to be spending on social programs impacting voter morale: “voters feel less inclined to support and participate in a political system when governments show restraint in public expenditures on health care and social security” (8). If Ireland wants to see improvements in their voter turnout, further spending on social programs will encourage participation at the polls. Unlike in Canada, Irish youth feel their political representatives are not doing enough for the public, and fulfilling all of their responsibilities to the citizenry. Youth see a system that holds few opportunities, and that can be very discouraging. For these reasons, Ireland’s economy is in fact playing a role in the declining levels of youth voter turnout.
Not only is Ireland worse off economically, but also educationally which further impacts voter turnout. In Ireland, the education system is completely funded by the central government, and officials are beginning to recognize that individuals with more education are more likely to recognize the values of democracy making them more likely to vote (9). The amount of youth wanting to pursue a post-secondary education has been in decline. In 2012 only 8% of students were thinking of not attending university, meanwhile in 2016 that number rose to 14% (10). Education provides individuals with the cognitive skills needed to form a well thought out opinion, and by improving this sector for the future, voter turnout has the potential to improve.
It is important to acknowledge the general trend of the decline in youth voting, however in contrast to these trends both Canada and Ireland have seen some improvements in turnout in recent years. That being said, it can be questioned whether these upward trends will actually sustain themselves into the future. For Canada, the recent 2015 federal election saw great improvements in youth engagement. Youth voter turnout increased by 18.3% helping Justin Trudeau become Canada’s prime minister (11). Such a significant change can be attributed to a deep craving for a change in government as well as more social media outreach. In future years this increase in turnout will most likely not last unless the overall population believes that drastic changes need to be implemented as in this past election. Most experts say that 2015 was a special year and a one off (12). At around the same time in Ireland, a referendum for same-sex marriage occurred which engaged a large portion of youth voters. This was an issue that sparked engagement from all individuals across the country so once again, it is unlikely this trend of engagement will continue for the general elections (13). Both of these once-off incidents prove that youth do in fact have the capacity to be engaged in politics, however it is not a consistent trend that can be relied upon for the future.
To conclude, youth voter turnout is in decline in both Canada and Ireland. This will not be sustainable for the future, because democracy requires citizen involvement and participation to be successful. Lack of involvement degrades and damages democracies leaving leadership open to threats from ultra-right and left-wing groups that can ultimately damage society. Significant changes need to be made to turn this issue around, such as appealing more to young people’s beliefs and social media habits, improving the political education of youth when in high school, and overall increased stress on how powerful the youth sector and its vote can be. Additionally, offering new methods of voting such as online will make the process less cumbersome, and provide people with more incentive to vote. It will not be easy to do this but is essential to ensuring the world continues to stay politically engaged and creating the best possible results for nations. Canada will have to focus on the more cultural/generational issues they face with regards to youth voting, whereas Ireland will look into the economic/political reasons for youth not being politically engaged.
Anderson, Cameron D., and Elizabeth Goodyear-Grant. “Youth Turnout: Adolescents’ Attitudes in Ontario.” Canadian Journal of Political Science 41, no 3 (2008): 697-718. Doi: 10.1017/S0008423908080773.
CBC News, “It didn't used to be that way': Why voter turnout is so low in B.C. — and may be worse this week” CBC News, May 8, 2017.
Colletto, David. “The Next Canada: Politics, political engagement, and priorities of Canada’s next electoral powerhouse: young Canadians.” Canadian Alliance of Student Associations.
Esser, Frank and Claes H. de Vreese, “Comparing Young Voters’ Political Engagement in the United States and Europe,” American Behavioral Scientist Journal 50 (May, 2007): 1195,
European Anti-Poverty Network Ireland, “Consistent Poverty Rates”
Ireland, Dept. of Children and Youth Affairs, National Youth Council of Ireland, A New Age in Voting (Dublin, Ireland)
Johnston, R., J. S. Matthews, and A. Bittner. 2007. "Turnout and the Party System in Canada, 1988-2004." Electoral Studies 26 (4): 735-745. doi:10.1016/j.electstud.2007.08.002. http://resolver.scholarsportal.info/resolve/02613794/v26i004/735_tatpsic1
Ma, Yuanyuan. "Civic Returns to Education: Voter Turnout in Ireland." The Economic and Social Review 48, no. 2 (Summer, 2017): 145-169, https://www.lib.uwo.ca/cgi-bin/ezpauthn.cgi?url=http://search.proquest.com/docview/1919407581?accountid=15115 (accessed March 15, 2018).
Parliament of Canada, Library of Parliament Research Publications, Youth Voter Turnout in Canada (Ottawa: Legal and Social Affairs Division, 2016)
Pells, Rachel. “Number of young people planning to go to university falls to the lowest level in eight years,” The Independent, August 9, 2017.
Urban, Michael. 2016. "2015 Voter Turnout was a One-Off." Winnipeg Free Press, Jul 09. https://www.lib.uwo.ca/cgi-bin/ezpauthn.cgi?url=http://search.proquest.com/docview/1814177734?accountid=15115.
Vitta, Joseph P. 2016. Assessing the predictors of political engagement among northern irish youth. Journal of Social Research & Policy 7, (2) (12): 5-23, https://www.lib.uwo.ca/cgi-bin/ezpauthn.cgi?url=http://search.proquest.com/docview/1918347799?accountid=15115 (accessed March 14, 2018).
"Young Voter Turnout Jumped Sharply in 2015 Contest, Elections Canada Reports." 2016. The Canadian Press, Jun 15. https://www.lib.uwo.ca/cgi-bin/ezpauthn.cgi?url=http://search.proquest.com/docview/1797583651?accountid=15115
(1) Johnston, R., J. S. Matthews, and A. Bittner. 2007. "Turnout and the Party System in Canada, 1988-2004." Electoral Studies 26 (4): 735-745. doi:10.1016/j.electstud.2007.08.002. http://resolver.scholarsportal.info/resolve/02613794/v26i0004/735_tatpsic1.
(2) Parliament of Canada, Library of Parliament Research Publications, Youth Voter Turnout in Canada (Ottawa: Legal and Social Affairs Division, 2016)
(3) Anderson, Cameron D., and Elizabeth Goodyear-Grant. “Youth Turnout: Adolescents’ Attitudes in Ontario.” Canadian Journal of Political Science 41, no 3 (2008): 697-718. Doi: 10.1017/S0008423908080773.
(4) David Colletto. “The Next Canada: Politics, political engagement, and priorities of Canada’s next electoral powerhouse: young Canadians.” Canadian Alliance of Student Associations.
(5) CBC News, “It didn't used to be that way': Why voter turnout is so low in B.C. — and may be worse this week” CBC News, May 8, 2017.
(6) Ireland, Dept. of Children and Youth Affairs, National Youth Council of Ireland, A New Age in Voting (Dublin, Ireland)
(7) World Bank of Canada
(8) Frank Esser and Claes H. de Vreese, “Comparing Young Voters’ Political Engagement in the United States and Europe,” American Behavioral Scientist Journal 50 (May, 2007): 1195,
(9) Ma, Yuanyuan. 2017. Civic returns to education: Voter turnout in ireland. The Economic and Social Review 48, (2) (Summer): 145-169, https://www.lib.uwo.ca/cgi-bin/ezpauthn.cgi?url=http://search.proquest.com/docview/1919407581?accountid=15115 (accessed March 15, 2018).
(10) Rachel, Pells, “Number of young people planning to go to university falls to the lowest level in eight years,” The Independent, August 9, 2017.
(11) "Young Voter Turnout Jumped Sharply in 2015 Contest, Elections Canada Reports." 2016.The Canadian Press, Jun 15. https://www.lib.uwo.ca/cgi-bin/ezpauthn.cgi?url=http://search.proquest.com/docview/1797583651?accountid=15115.
(12) Laura, Harmon. 2015. “Marriage Referendum Engaged Young People – Can parties now court them?” The Irish Times.
(13) Michael, Urban. 2016. "2015 Voter Turnout was a One-Off." Winnipeg Free Press, Jul 09. https://www.lib.uwo.ca/cgi-bin/ezpauthn.cgi?url=http://search.proquest.com/docview/1814177734?accountid=15115.