Out-of-Province Students Aren’t Trying to Steal the Election

  • Graphic Graeme Shorten Adams

Dear Directeur général des élections du Québec,

I am not trying to steal the election. We are not trying to steal the election. I wasn’t even aware there was a we until earlier today, when I read an article in the Journal de Montréal where Pauline Marois was quoted as saying that students like me are trying to “travestir” the vote.

Please believe me when I say that, last week, when I went to try to register to vote, I did not do so with malicious or dishonest intentions. I walked around the corner to my local bureau du scrutin with my boyfriend, a born-and-raised Québécois, with my proof of age and proof of address in hand. The bureau was sent up in a former Canada Post building in my neighbourhood that I have passed on a daily basis for almost four years.

It’s big, old, and covered in graffiti. I commented to my boyfriend that it was cool they set up the office there, as I had always wanted to go inside the building that many local residents find interesting. Inside, we gave our documents to the ladies by the entrance. They checked everything and told us to sit down and wait for the workers to signal for us. I was in high spirits, joking and talking with my boyfriend.

When I was called over I sat down and handed over my documents. The man working asked me for a RAMQ card, a medicare card, in lieu of my passport. When I said I did not have one, he called over the président, his superior. The président asked me why I did not have a RAMQ card, and I told him that as I student I did not have the right to have a RAMQ card. He seemed puzzled.

After spending a few minutes explaining to him how RAMQ’s rules work, he decided I could not vote. According to him, if you don’t have a RAMQ card, you don’t live in Quebec. He couldn’t offer me any further explanations or a legal definition of “domicilié,” the contentious word, and offered me no alternatives other than a 1-888 number and an email address. My high spirits turned to tears as one of the employees told me that I wasn’t allowed to vote because I came from “un autre pays.”

It was my turn to be puzzled. I admit, my mother birthed me in a hospital that happens to stand about four kilometres from this province, in Ottawa, Ontario, and I spent 18 years of my life in that city. But people move. I did—four years ago—and I have been living at the same address in St- Henri since August 2010. That is much more than the six months specified in the criteria I had checked online. Moreover, every institution I interact with has my Montreal address on file.

I have never left Quebec for more than a few weeks at a time since 2010. I keep my Ontario health insurance card up-to-date, because if I didn’t I still wouldn’t be eligible for RAMQ, and then I’d have no health insurance at all. I still have my Ontario learner’s driving permit, because I’m not allowed to transfer it either. What should I do, cut it up and throw it away?

Because of this, you say, I still, legally, live in Ontario. And that’s true, technically. But the only reason I still have these documents is because the Quebec government won’t let me switch them over. The only reason I still live in Ontario, in the legal sense, is because the provincial government won’t let me live in Quebec, in the legal sense.

I feel like that kind of circularity is hardly good logic on which to base one’s decisions.

It would seem that we are at an impasse.

But let’s talk about the real issue. The real issue is that I am not from here. The real issue is that we, the student we that you have created, are not from here. You have othered us and we didn’t even know we were other-able. You have created a division that I never even thought existed.

You have labeled me an “étudiante ontarienne,” thereby removing my right to vote while ignoring the complexities of the situation. You have placed me in a category that is now being defamed as malicious and dishonest. I would like to ask that you please stop dragging me through the mud because of where I happened to have been born, something over which I had no control. Please stop acting as though people from somewhere other than Quebec are incapable of voting with honest intentions. A large amount of other Quebecers were not born here—should their intentions be questioned as well?

The way this law is being applied seemingly at random isn’t going to encourage people to vote, and it sure isn’t going to make students want to stay here post-graduation, which is the goal, right?

I am not trying to travestir anything. Four years ago I was so excited to live here, to make Montreal my home and to participate in society. This week has shown me that, even though Montreal is my home, I will never be accepted as part of the Quebec represented by the events of this election. Believe me when I say I never wanted to be the other. I never wanted it to be me versus you. I wanted it to be us, but it seems to me that Quebec has an unparalleled ability to make people feel excluded. If this is the kind of Quebec you want, you should be proud.

Angela Larose is an undergraduate student at McGill University.

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