Language accessibility in provincial elections varies greatly from province to province, with Newfoundland and Labrador at the lower end of the list.
Candidates running in districts in Labrador this provincial election highlighted the fact that none of the voting information or mail-in ballots are available in the three Indigenous languages in the province — Inuktitut, Innu-aimun and Mi’kmaw.
This has become more of an issue this election, since only mail-in ballots are allowed. In past elections, people who were native speakers of an Indigenous language could bring someone with them to interpret, which many provinces allow.
When asked about this last week by SaltWire Network, Elections NL said when the election moved to vote by mail only, Chief Electoral Officer Bruce Chaulk sought translation assistance, but “the timelines for such a translation process would not have met Elections Newfoundland and Labrador’s timelines for mailing out voting kits.”
In addition to the two Indigenous languages represented, Alberta offers 14 other language options, including Tagalog, Farsi and Chinese, tying with B.C. at 16 available in total.
Newfoundland and Labrador is apparently the only province or territory that doesn’t offer French as an option. Only four provinces have voting information available in Indigenous languages: Saskatchewan, Alberta , Ontario and Nunavut.
All those provinces have materials available in Cree. In addition, Saskatchewan has materials in Dene, while Alberta makes things accessible in Blackfoot. Ontario offered information in multiple Indigenous languages in the 2018 provincial election, including Ojibwe, and Mohawk. Nunavut offers all voting material and ballots in English, French, Inuktitut and Inuinnaqtun.
Saskatchewan has been offering materials in other languages since at least 2011, according to a statement from Elections Saskatchewan, and currently has materials available in 12 languages.
“Removing barriers to voting is a priority for Elections Saskatchewan,” the statement read. “Part of making our outreach materials more accessible is by offering them in languages other than English. There are many Indigenous languages spoken in Saskatchewan, with Cree and Dene being the most often reported languages in census programs.”
In addition to the two Indigenous languages represented, Alberta offers 14 other language options, including Tagalog, Farsi and Chinese, tying with B.C. for 16 languages available.
According to Elections Ontario, the province has made available election materials in multiple languages for past elections, including more than 30 languages during the 2018 general election.
“For the next provincial general election, we plan to make available the following in more than 30 languages: a voting guide prior to an election, instructions at a voting place on how to mark your ballot and a poster about voter identification,” an emailed statement from Elections Ontario said.
Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Quebec, Manitoba, the Yukon and the Northwest Territories also offer voting information in French and English only. Prince Edward Island is the only province that did not respond to questions from SaltWire Network by deadline.
Evan Careen, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Telegram