Bill S-209 had it's second reading recently, a bill encouraging Canada to lower its voting age to 16.
Tabled by Senator Marilou McPhedran (who was appointed by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau), the lengthy second read revealed the many reasons behind the proposal by the senator, most of which — are ripe for debate.
The first reason being “lowering the voting age will increase voter turnout by providing young people the opportunity to vote for the first time,” such a redundant justification does not bode well for the remainder of the reading.
The transcript continues:
“We believe that 16-year-olds are mature enough to provide informed consent for sex and enter into a contract of marriage with the consent of their parents. We defer to the maturity of young people to know their bodies and to have the capacity to speak autonomously for what they do and do not want in pursuit of their health.”
Comparing the moral validity of child marriage/age of consent with the federal voting age is certainly questionable, to say the least.
McPhedran's summary aptly outlines the short-sightedness of the her points, failing to properly compare the validity, morality or the nuance in her examples:
“In summary, 16- and 17-year-olds are already considered mature enough to navigate the responsibilities of joining the military, providing sexual consent, driving a car, paying taxes, getting married and becoming parents.”
Her statement is partially incorrect in stating that 16-year-olds can join the military. In Canada, at 16 one can only join the Reserves (with parental consent), just as at 17 one must acquire parental consent to join the Canadian Forces.
It would be a very hard sell to argue that the sheer ability for a young person to have sex, give consent or get married (which also requires parental consent) are good reasons to lower the voting age.
The senator fails to mention that several of her examples require parental consent or some sort of screening. A driver's permit requires a test, a child marriage requires a parent's approval, etc.
In fact, marriages of those under 18 are “often associated with poor health and economic outcomes, particularly for girls,” according to Canadian researchers.
The fact that the senator does not point out — or perhaps does not know — that marriages under the age of 18 are widely considered as harmful and are categorized as “child marriages,” is troubling. Especially given her aforementioned arguments pointed to a historical mistreatment of women, yet do not recognize underage marriages as being particularly harmful to them.
Of course, this could be argued, but such nuance is not present in McPhedran's arguments, thus such a linear rebuff should be all that is required.