Should political participation be a choice or obligation?

How important is a belief in your ability to bring about change? What does participatory citizenship mean? Choice or Obligation challenges you to consider options and opportunities to participate in political processes and issues.

Icon/Photo Created with Sketch.

Above and beyond

news Created with Sketch.

Principled not partisan

Icon/Infographic Created with Sketch.

The myth of youth apathy

Icon/Photo Created with Sketch.

Beyond the ballot box

news Created with Sketch.

White paper for change

Icon/Photo Created with Sketch.

Everyday political citizen

Icon/Photo Created with Sketch.

Mission possible

Choice or Obligation


Make it Matter

Is the perception that young people are apathetic about politics a stereotype? Find out more.


Create your own ballot for classroom votes.

Inquiry Model

Use the inquiry model to keep you organized as you apply research, critical thinking and participation skills.

Plan It

Turn ideas into action. Consider what you would change and the resources you will use.

Why is voting both an individual and collective responsibility?

Is there a collective youth identity? Can different types of political action and participation be associated with specific age groups? Individual and Collective asks you to explore identities and political participation of individuals and groups.

Icon/Infographic Created with Sketch.

Portrait of Youth in Canada

news Created with Sketch.

Feeling like a citizen

Icon/Infographic Created with Sketch.

Engaging young Canadians

video Created with Sketch.

Why I didn’t vote

Icon/Photo Created with Sketch.

Whistle stop campaigning

news Created with Sketch.

Duty or choice?

Icon/Photo Created with Sketch.

Millennial Social Values

Icon/Infographic Created with Sketch.

#Generation Flux

news Created with Sketch.

Barriers to Good Citizenship

news Created with Sketch.

The Elevator Project

  1. Building a railroad


    When Canada became a nation in 1867, it faced the challenges involved in keeping a vast, diverse territory connected and under the control of the federal government. One of the events that marked Canada’s identity as a nation was the building of a railway from coast to coast. When the railway was completed, the Chinese community in Canada organized to provide support to those workers who were left with no jobs, no means of support and no way of paying their way back to China. This community of individuals had no status as either residents or access to rights guaranteed to citizens.

    Photo Credit: Library and Archives Canada/PA-149070

  2. Women Vote


    In 1918, the Women’s Franchise Act was passed. Women who were British subjects and at least 21 years old could vote in federal elections. In 1919, women obtained the right to run as federal candidates. Women in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and British Columbia could already vote in provincial elections.

    Women in New Brunswick, Yukon, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and Labrador, Quebec and the Northwest Territories did not get the right to vote in provincial or territorial elections until after this date.

    Photo Credit: Glenbow Archives ND-3-626

  3. The right to bargain


    As cities grew and ways of life changed, the nature of work and labour was affected by changes in technology, the growth of an urban labour force and unions that grew to protect workers’ rights. By 1919, conditions in Winnipeg came to a head and the resulting general strike was the biggest in Canada’s history. Although the actions of unions and workers during the strike did not gain them the better pay and hours they were demanding, it did gain workers the right to bargain through their unions. Just as importantly, these actions affected attitudes toward labour conditions and rights.

    Photo Credit: Library and Archives Canada / PA-202201

  4. Becoming persons


    In the early 1920s, Emily Murphy was recommended as a candidate for Canadian Senator. She was rejected on the grounds that women were not persons under the British North America Act of 1867. Murphy and four other Alberta women – now known as the “Famous Five” – petitioned the federal government. The government submitted this question to the Supreme Court: “Does the word 'Persons' in section 24 of the British North America Act, 1867, include female persons?” The Supreme Court answered no. The decision was appealed to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in England. The Privy Council stated that the Constitution was a “living tree capable of growth and expansion within its natural limits”, and its interpretation must adapt to new social realities.” Women were officially persons.

    Photo Credit: Glenbow Archives NA-4953-1

  5. The great depression


    When the Great Depression hit Canada in the early 1930s, almost everyone living in Canada at the time was affected. People concentrated on survival, but some focused on improving attitudes to help cope with the difficulties of everyday life.

    Although there was still rampant discrimination and exclusion in the legislation of the time, during the 1930s, some provincial legislation made discrimination based on race, religion and political affiliation illegal, primarily through unemployment relief and insurance acts.

    Photo Credit: Library and Archives Canada / C-029399

  6. Conflict and injustice


    The passage of the Statute of Westminster after World War I solidified Canada’s independence from Britain. Therefore, when World War II started, Canada independently declared war on Germany on September 10, 1939. The contributions made to the war effort from the diverse peoples of Canada were often not recognized until much later, as were many of the injustices that occurred during the war years. One of these injustices involved Asian and Aboriginal Canadians. At the beginning of World War II, many Asian Canadian men like Thomas Shoyama and Douglas Jung attempted to join the Canadian armed forces but were turned away. Some influential politicians argued against allowing Asians into the armed forces in case they used their military service as grounds for gaining the right to vote.

    Photo Credit: Library and Archives Canada, Acc. No. 1983-30-206

  7. Universal rights


    The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was signed by the United Nations members in 1948. Canadian John Humphrey played a large role in drafting the declaration, and Canada was among the signing nations.

    Photo Credit: Library and Archives Canada, Acc. No. 1984-4-860 New Brunswick Human Rights Commission

  8. Aboriginal Right to Vote


    For Aboriginal peoples, the right to vote in federal elections was not to come until 1960. In Alberta, it was not until 1962 that the law was changed, and until 1965 that Aboriginal peoples voted in their first provincial election.

  9. Age discrimination


    The first anti-age discrimination law in Canada is passed in B.C. In 1970, the Canada Elections Act lowered the voting age and the age that a candidate could run for office from 21 to 18. Age discrimination is also prohibited in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, passed into law in 1982.

  10. Human Rights


    The Canadian Human Rights Act was passed by the Parliament of Canada in 1977, and protects Canadians when they are employed by or receive services from the federal government, First Nations governments, or private companies that are regulated by the federal government.

    The Act prohibited discrimination on the basis of race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation (added in 1996), marital status, family status, disability, and conviction for an offence for which a pardon has been granted. In 2001, the Act was amended to include a prohibition on the communication of hate messages via the Internet. This prohibition had only applied to telephone communication. A further amendment in 2008, Bill C-21, meant that the Indian Act was subject to review under the Canadian Human Rights Act.

  11. Task force on Canadian Unity


    In the late 1970s, discussions over threats to Canada’s national unity and identity, mainly from the issues of Quebec separation and western alienation, resulted in the formation of the Pepin-Robarts Task Force on Canadian Unity by Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau’s government in 1978.

    Although the Task Force on Canadian Unity viewed electoral reform as a more minor issue, it suggested that the size of the House of Commons be increased by about 60 members, and that additional seats to be awarded to candidates selected from party lists and distributed on the basis of a party’s share of the national vote. This is called proportional representation.

    Photo Credit: Duncan Cameron / Library and Archives Canada / C-46600

  12. A constitution and independence


    The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms becomes part of Canada’s constitution and the Canadian identity. Since that date many landmark decisions have been made by the Supreme Court to uphold the human rights provisions of the Charter.

    Photo Credit: Library and Archives Canada, R11274-148

  13. Access to vote


    In 1992, special measures, such as blind voting templates, wheelchair access to polls and interpreters, were put into the Canada Elections Act to ensure access to vote for people with disabilities.

  14. Voting for inmates


    In 2002, following a ruling by the Supreme Court of Canada, voting rights were given to all inmates, for federal elections. This also occurred in Alberta, with inmates voting in the 2015 provincial election.

Individual or Collective


How am I doing?

Use this checklist to reflect on and assess your own learning.

Communicate and Implement

Plan how to communicate effectively to share your project goals and progress.

Get Informed

Organize and apply your research to your action project.

Power to Choose

A democratic society is based on the belief that all citizens have a voice in decision-making. However, individuals have differing perspectives about how and when they should participate politically. Consider issues involved with voter turnout, apathy and engagement.

Times Change

What does it mean to be a Canadian citizen? Find out about changing meanings of citizenship, and Canadian accomplishments, struggles and injustices through these snapshots.


How do you describe yourself? Young people born after about 1994 are often referred to in popular culture as “Generation Z.“ Explore perspectives on Generation Z and political engagement.

How is the political process influenced by identities and ideologies?

Issues and ideologies influence opinions about, and participation in, Canada’s political system. This system, including the electoral process, is based on values of fairness, equity and impartiality. Identities and Ideologies asks you to consider issues and values that influence the Canadian democracy and electoral system.

Icon/Photo Created with Sketch.

Make a commitment

news Created with Sketch.

What about politics?

news Created with Sketch.

Lower the voting age

Icon/Photo Created with Sketch.

Open government

Icon/Photo Created with Sketch.

Let your voice be heard

news Created with Sketch.

Talking about democracy

news Created with Sketch.

Fair elections

Icon/Photo Created with Sketch.

What democracy looks like

news Created with Sketch.

The job of elections

news Created with Sketch.


Icon/Photo Created with Sketch.

I side with

video Created with Sketch.

#Choose Your Alberta

news Created with Sketch.

Compulsory Voting

news Created with Sketch.

Leave the Voting Age at 18

Icon/Infographic Created with Sketch.

Voting around the world

Identities and Ideologies


Politics and Policy

Some say that Canada’s citizenship policies and legislation encourage citizens to participate and engage with issues. Others say that policies and legislation doesn’t do enough to ensure that all citizens have equal opportunities to be heard. Consider this range of issues associated with the electoral process.

Election Experiences

Plan and implement a student election.

Commitment to Participate

How and why should youth be encouraged to participate? Create a social media campaign focused on this question.

Plan for Action

Plan activities that best fit your action project goals and the resources you have available.

Assess the Impact

Assess and reflect on the impact of your project.

How am I doing?

Use this checklist to reflect on and assess your contributions and participation.


Use this graphic organizer to compare and analyze a range of perspectives or opinions.

Retrieval Chart

Use this graphic organizer to collect, organize and compare information from different sources.

Sphere of Influence

Use this graphic organizer to analyze the influence of people or events.

Cause and Effect Timeline

Use this graphic organizer to create a timeline that analyzes the sequence and cause/effect of events.


Use this graphic organizer to organize and compare ideas and information.

Triple T-Chart

Use this graphic organizer to organize and compare ideas and information around three topics or categories.

Mind Map

Use this graphic organizer to brainstorm or organize information around a central idea or topic.

Flow Chart

Use this graphic organizer to organize information that is related to one or more main ideas in a sequence.