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Shades of voter apathy

Dec. 2, 2005.
LAURIE MONSEBRAATEN
STAFF REPORTER

Sabah Hormiz has been a Canadian citizen for seven years. But he has never voted.And he says he doesn't plan to cast a ballot this time, either.

"When we came here we left too much behind," said the 36-year-old Assyrian Catholic who fled persecution in Iraq in 1994. "It's hard to figure out where you fit here. None of the (political) parties carry my dreams."

Hormiz lives in the ethnically diverse northwest Toronto riding of Etobicoke North, which had Ontario's second-lowest voter turnout in the 2004 federal election. Just 51 per cent of eligible voters in the riding cast a ballot. Only neighbouring York-West was lower. Nationally, almost 61 per cent of Canadians voted in June 2004.

The Star wants to find out why people don't vote and will focus on Etobicoke North during the eight-week campaign because it has a polling station where just 18.5 per cent of eligible voters cast a ballot in 2004.

No other riding in Ontario with an unusually low turnout overall has a poll where so few people voted.

Hormiz is among those who didn't vote in Poll 37 - a pocket of three 40-year-old mid-rise apartment buildings filled with relatively new immigrants like himself - in the riding's Albion Rd. and Martin Grove Rd. area.

Assyrian Catholics from Iraq and East Indians form the largest ethnic groups in the buildings, said Ron Sicard, building superintendent for 1865 Martin Grove Rd. for the past decade. Most are still not citizens, he added. About 44 per cent of households in the area are families with children, according to Statistics Canada.

Although crime in the area is high - the churchyard where Amon Beckles was recently shot dead during a funeral is just across the street - the buildings themselves are relatively safe, Sicard said.

Political sociologists saylow-income groups tend to vote less than middle-income earners.

Professor Robert Andersen, a political sociologist at McMaster University who studies electoral behaviour, said people living in areas of high crime are also less likely to vote.

"When you have communities with high crime rates, people get disillusioned," he said. "Especially in Canada where there really isn't much difference between the two leading parties, people don't see how either party could make a difference in their lives."

People are also affected by what their neighbours are talking about. And if there are many non-citizens in the area who aren't paying attention to the election, it's unlikely those who are eligible to vote will become engaged, Andersen added.

Homa Amiri, 31, an Afghan refugee who became a citizen seven months ago, is keen to vote for the first time in her new country.

"We are living here and this is our chance to make a choice, to vote for peace," she said. "In my country there is so much war and trouble."

Although the mother of two, who works the evening shift in a local bakery, doesn't know much about the candidates or the issues, she said she will be searching the Internet to learn more.

Her uncle, Baz Abedi, 65, who immigrated in 2003 and is not yet a citizen, said he understands why some people don't vote.

"People have lost confidence. They don't want to give the vote to any of the parties. They are all the same. It's just promises, not truth they are telling us," he said.

Some are simply too busy to vote. A 30-year-old East Indian woman who has been a citizen for two years just shook her head when asked if she voted in 2004 and if she planned to vote this time.

"I have twin sons and a daughter," said the woman, who didn't want to give her name. "I don't have time."

Others just don't care.

"It makes no difference for us," said an Eastern European woman who has lived at 1875 Martin Grove Rd. for 20 years.

"I'm not interested. I've never been interested. I'm interested in the arts and other things," said the woman, who also didn't want to give her name. "Politics is a waste of time."

Such indifference outrages Chirag Barot, 18.

"I think some people are just lazy," said Barot, who attends Grade 12 at North Albion Collegiate Institute.

"Many people here are new immigrants and don't know much about this country," he said. "But when you are a citizen, you should be taking part in the election and you should be voting."

But it's not always easy for immigrants, especially those like Younan Younan, who was held prisoner in Iraq for nine years by Saddam Hussein.

Younan, who looks much older than his 48 years, has diabetes and other heath ailments. And although he insists he voted in 2004, he can't recall going to the local school to cast his ballot.

"The war ...," he said, his voice drifting off. "It has affected me in so many ways."

His roommate, also an Iraqi refugee and now a citizen, is sure he didn't vote. The 47-year-old security guard, who didn't want to give his name, said he's not smart enough to vote.

"It's too much for me. My brain. I just don't understand," he said, as he tinkered under the hood of his used car.

But it's not just immigrants who don't vote. Building superintendent Sicard, a native-born Canadian, said he didn't vote in 2004 and won't be voting for any level of government again anytime soon.

"I have absolutely no faith in government to get anything right," he said, citing the gun registry and its inability to stop gun crime in the area."And I don't believe anything any of them say."

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Who are the Christians of Iraq? 

December = Canoon Gadmaya

Shades of voter apathy Dec, 2, 05

Holywood Tapestries Featuring Semiramis is on Auction  Dec. 2, 05

Iraq's Oily Referendum Dec. 1, 05

Iraqi Parliamentary Elections In California Dec. 1, 05

November = Tishrin II 

Burial pictures of the Two Assyrians Killed Nov. 30, 05

Two Assyrian Party Members Killed in Iraq, Two Wounded Nov. 29, 05

Iraq Election Coverage at Ashur T.V. Nov. 29, 05

Iraq's Elections Could Be 'Magnet' for Success, Adviser Says Nov. 29, 05

Assyrian Political posters for the upcoming elections Nov. 29, 05

Islamic reformers struggle to revise school textbooks Nov. 28, 05

Iraq's political-campaign season in full swing as violence continues Nov. 27, 05

The Crusades Remembered, a Different Perspective Nov. 26, 05

Iraqi Factions Seek Timetable for U.S. Pullout Nov. 25, 05

Dora:Baghdad's Neighborhood Becomes Trouble Spot Nov. 25, 05

Iraq: Election Official On Expat Voting Set Up Nov. 24, 05 

Prediction of a Better Future for Iraq Nov. 24, 05

Iraqi Kurdish leadership is more consumed with self-enrichment Nov. 23, 05

Early voting in Iraq's parliamentary election to begin December 12th  Nov. 22, 05

The Assyrian Church of the East Maintains Its Continuity Nov. 22, 05

Not all Middle Easterners are Muslim, Arab Nov. 21, 05

The Middle East Needs Lebanese Christians Nov. 21, 05

Academic Conference on Seyfo [genocide] Held in Sweden Nov. 20, 05

Anovel by Abdulsalam Nov. 20, 05 

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Letter To the Hellenic Parliament  Nov. 20, 05

My Grandmother Heranus  Nov. 19, 05

Books About the Assyrians Nov. 17, 05  

A Moslem discovers the praise of Christian and Jewish scriptures in the Koran  Nov. 17, 05

Iran is behind the Badr Brigade who are accused of jailing and torturing the Sunnies Nov. 17, 05 

Democracy, the Kurdish Style.  Nov. 17, 05

Talabani Promises Pope Equality and Respect for All Religions Nov.16, 05

Assyrian Wedding Comes to Australian TV Nov. 15, 05

In Jordan, Chaldean Catholics help Iraqis Nov. 15. 05

Are you a Christian in the Middle East?  Nov. 14, 05

The Assyrian General Conference Election Platform for Iraq Nov. 12, 05

Old hotel may become home for Hurricane Katrina victims Nov. 12, 05

Iraqi leader affirms Christians' rights Nov. 11, 11, 05

Egypt's Christian-Muslim divide 11, 11, 05

Assyrian Family Attacked in Tikrit Nov. 11, 05

Ancinet Assyrian Style Citadel in Los Angeles Nov. 11, 05

Priests say Iraqi Christians now victims of extortion Nov. 08, 05

Iraq; International Religious Freedom Report 2005 Nov. 08, 05

Chaldean Synod to focus on Iraq and Liturgy Nov. 08, 05

Assyrian Killed in Kirkuk's Car Bombing Nov. 05, 05

Funeral of Grace Mgr. J. Y. Cicek Nov. 05, 05 

Witnesses Describe Ballot Fraud in Nineveh Nov. 04, 05

Chaldean synod should tackle Christian migration and evangelicals' proselytism,  11. 04, 05 

Unexpected Death of His Eminence Mor Julius Yeshu Çiçek Shocks Assyrians & the Syrian Orthodox Church Nov. 03, 05  

Three Christian schoolgirls beheaded in Indonesia Nov. 03, 05

On the trail of stolen Iraqi art Nov. 03, 05

Lost in the Sunni Triangle Leaders of Baghdad church presumed dead.  Nov. 03, 05

Who is Killing the Iraqi's and the Americans?   Nov. 02, 05

What Next in Iraq?  Nov. 02, 05

An American's View of Iraq's Assyrians  Nov. 01, 05

October = Tishrin I

New Coalitions Emerge for Parliamentary Elections in Iraq10, 31, 05

Should the U.S. Withdraw? Let the Iraqi People Decide 10, 31, 05

Those Who Voted Against Constitution Are Terrorists: Iraqi President 10, 30, 05

An Assyrian Engineer Killed by the Kurds in Kirkuk 10, 30, 05

Kurds Reclaiming Prized Territory In Northern Iraq 10, 30, 05

Dwyer: Most Iraqis want a constitution - and want U.S. troops to leave 10, 30, 05

The oldest lense 10, 28, 05

Westminster Hall debate on Iraqi Kurdistan  i.e. northern Iraq 10, 25, 05

Iraq constitution approved  10, 25, 05 

Assyrian and Babylonian medicine was surprisingly advanced 10, 24, 05 

What's in a Name? 10, 12, 05 

Draft constitution denies equal rights, say Iraq's Christians  10, 22, 05

Rejection of Iraqi Referendum Possible as Nineveh Vote Fraud Reviewed 10, 21, 05 

Rosie Malek-Yonan's Schedule of The Crimson Field Book Tour 10, 20, 05

TURKEY DECRIES the Assyro-Chaldean MONUMENT IN FRANCE 10, 20, 05

Vote Figures for Crucial Ninveh Province Don't Add Up 10, 19, 05

Iraq Constitution: Bad news for Christians  10, 19. 05

Assyrian students unite 10, 19, 05

Iraq bishops ready to seek help from Pope  10, 19, 05

Charter vote resonates with Valley Iraqis Likely passage gives many hope 10. 18. 05  

Dividing the Chaldeans from the Assyrians by the Iraqi Constitution  10, 18, 05

A monument in France dedicated to the Remembrance of Assyro-Chaldean massacres by the Ottoman Turks. 10, 17, 05

Swing state' of Nineveh may be moving in favour of constitution 10, 15, 05 

Iraq votes for the Constitution and for its future 10, 14, 05

Forgotten victims - Iraqi Christians who speak the language of Jesus  10, 14, 05

Mgr Sako: people in Kirkuk have not read the constitution but will vote  10,13, 05

Terrorism strikes all Iraqis, says Patriarch 10, 13, 05

Assyriska a national football team without a country  10, 12, 05

Referendum: 'Yes' in Kurdistan and Southern cities and 'No' in Kirkuk, al Anbar and Diala 10, 12, 05

Chaos depriving Towns from Voting - The Minorities Fear the Domination of Islamic Parties10, 12, 05 

Bas-reliefs of winged goddesses discovered in western Iran 10, 12, 05

Immigration of Iraqi Chaldeans Abroad Passes through Jordan 10, 12, 05

Baghdadis tell their stories  10, 12, 05

Assyrialogist Henry Saggs Dies at 84 10, 10, 05

Letter by Ms. Jacqueline Zomaya The Assyrian representative to the Iraqi National Assembly 10, 10, 05

The Kurds are "cleansing" their domain ­ and provoking a civil war in Iraq  10, 09, 05

Nestorian label "imposed unjustly upon the Assyrians"  10, 08, 05

Iran's Assyrian MP-Felicitation to the Supreme Leader  10, 8, 05

Syriac Manuscripts from the Vatican Library: Volume 1 10, 08, 05

Sunnis Threaten Referendum Boycott if Rules Not Changed  10, 05, 05

Helping the Iraqi refugees in Jordan  10, 04, 05

Final Draft of Iraqi Constitution  10, 03, 05

Two More Assyrian Children Orphaned  10, 02, 05

Discoveries of the Assyrian antiquities in Syria 10, 01, 05 

Sectarian Strife tears apart Baghdad's Neighborhoods 10, 01, 05

 

 

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