Non-Citizen Voting Rights and Urban Citizenship in Toronto

  • Myer SiemiatyckiEmail author


This paper examines the current regime of municipal voting rights in Toronto as a problematic expression of urban citizenship. Many residents of Toronto and other Canadian cities are denied the municipal franchise because they are not Canadian citizens. The paper explores recent scholarship and campaigns in Toronto striving to re-define the relationship between migration, citizenship, cities and voting rights. In the process, Toronto has become the first Canadian city to formally endorse non-citizen municipal voting rights. Yet, Toronto lacks the authority to establish its own criteria for the municipal franchise, suggesting that greater municipal autonomy may be a precondition for more inclusive urban citizenship.


Non-citizen voting rights Immigrant political participation Urban citizenship Toronto 



I am grateful to Phil Triadafilopoulos for organizing the workshop for which this paper was originally prepared. Subsequent revisions benefited greatly from insightful feedback provided by two anonymous reviewers for this journal and from Alan Meisner’s assistance securing 2011 Canadian census data. Any shortcomings and errors are my own.


  1. Alboim, A. and K. Cohl. (2012). Shaping the future: Canada’s rapidly changing immigration policies. Maytree Foundation.Google Scholar
  2. Andrew, C., Biles, J., Burstein, M., Esses, V., & Tolley, E. (2012). Immigration, integration, and inclusion in Ontario cities. Montreal & Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press.Google Scholar
  3. Artuso, A. 2009. Premier opposed to non-citizen vote, 16 June 2009., accessed 28 May 2012.
  4. Bailao, A. 2013. Interview with author. 4 September.Google Scholar
  5. Baubock, R. (2003). Reinventing urban citizenship. Citizenship Studies, 7(2), 139–160.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Baubock, R. 2005. Expansive citizenship—voting beyond territory and membership. PS October, 683–686.Google Scholar
  7. Bauder, H. (2012). Jus domicile: in pursuit of a citizenship of equality and social justice. Journal of international Political Theory, 8(1–2), 184–196.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Benhabib, S. (2004). The rights of others: aliens, residents and citizens. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Bloemraad, I. (2006). Becoming a citizen: incorporating immigrants and refugees in the United States and Canada. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  10. Boudreau, J.-A., Keil, R., & Young, D. (2009). Changing Toronto: governing urban neoliberalism. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.Google Scholar
  11. Bountrogianni, M. 2012. Interview with author. 21 June.Google Scholar
  12. Brenner, N. (2004). New state spaces: urban governance and the rescaling of statehood. New York: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Broadbent, A. (2009). Should non-citizens have right to vote in municipal elections?: Yes. The Toronto Star, 5, A21.Google Scholar
  14. Careless, M. (1984). Toronto to 1918: an Illustrated history. Toronto: James Lorimer & Company.Google Scholar
  15. Chong, G., & Chambers, M. (2009). Should non-citizens have right to vote in municipal elections?: No. The Toronto Star, 11, A21.Google Scholar
  16. City of Toronto. 2002. Increasing Toronto’s profile internationally and at home (all wards). Report No. 10, Economic Development and Parks Committee (November).Google Scholar
  17. City of Toronto. 2003. Plan of action for the elimination of racism and discrimination.Google Scholar
  18. City of Toronto. 2007. Access to City of Toronto services by all residents.Google Scholar
  19. City of Toronto. 2012. City Council approves 2012 operating budget. retrieved 15 August 2012.
  20. City of Toronto. 2013a. Backgrounder 2011 National Household Survey: immigration, citizenship, place of birth, visible minorities, religion and aboriginal peoples.Google Scholar
  21. City of Toronto. 2013b. Report on proposed electoral reforms. 24 April 2013.Google Scholar
  22. City of Toronto. 2013c. Toronto Newcomer Strategy: Helping Newcomers Thrive and Prosper.Google Scholar
  23. City of Toronto. 2013d. Council proceedings, 11 June 2013.Rogers TV Video.
  24. Cole, D. (2012). Interview with author. 1(June).Google Scholar
  25. Davis, J. 2012. Interview with author. 15 June.Google Scholar
  26. Earnest, D. 2003. Noncitizen voting rights: a survey of an emerging democratic norm. Paper presented at the American Political Science Association, Philadelphia, 29 August.Google Scholar
  27. Essensa, G. 2007. Personal Correspondence, 7 February.Google Scholar
  28. Gillespie, K. 2006. Doubts cast on legality of many voters. The Toronto Star, 17 July A3.Google Scholar
  29. Government of Ontario. 2005. City of Toronto Act.Google Scholar
  30. Hajduk, R. (2004). Democracy for all: restoring immigrant voting rights in the US. New Political Science, 26(4), 499–523.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Jenkins, J. (2010). Toronto can’t handle more people, Ford says. Toronto. Accessed 12 Aug 2012.
  32. Kelley, N., & Trebilcock, M. (2010). The making of the mosaic: a history of Canadian immigration policy (2nd ed.). University of Toronto Press: Toronto.Google Scholar
  33. Khandor, E., McDonald, J., Nyers, P., & Wright, C. (2004). The regularization of non status Immigrants in Canada 1960–2004. Toronto: CERIS.Google Scholar
  34. Kostakopoulou, D. (2008). The future governance of citizenship. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  35. Lewington, J. 2009. ‘Miller to push agenda, despite lame-duck status’. The Globe & Mail,27 September. retrieved 15 Aug 2012.
  36. Lu, V. 2006. Wanted: Toronto election voters. The Toronto Star, 3 August, A22.Google Scholar
  37. Magnusson, W. (1983). Toronto. In W. Magnusson & A. Sancton (Eds.), City politics in Canada. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.Google Scholar
  38. Miller. D. 2012. Interview with author. 7 July.Google Scholar
  39. Mills, Carys, G&M, 2012. How applicants are stumbling on the final step to becoming Canadians. Globe and Mail, 29 June. retrieved 12 August 2012.
  40. Moloney, P., & Mendelson, R. (2013). Toronto city council backs radical ranked ballots and letting non-citizens participate. The Toronto Star, 11 June. Accessed 15 November 2013.
  41. Munro, D. (2008). Integration through participation: non-citizen resident voting rights in an era of globalization. Journal of International Migration and Integration, 9(1), 63–80.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Price, M., & Benton-Short, L. (2008). Migrants to the metropolis: the rise of immigrant gateway cities, an introduction. In M. Price & L. Benton-Short (Eds.), Migrants to the metropolis: the rise of immigrant gateway cities. Syracuse: Syracuse University Press.Google Scholar
  43. Raskin, J. (1993). Legal aliens, local citizens: the historical, constitutional, and theoretical meanings of alien suffrage. University of Pennsylvania Law Review, 141, 1390–1470.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Rodriguez, C. (2010). Noncitizen voting and the extraconstitutional construction of the polity. International Journal of Constitutional Law, 8(1), 30–49.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Sandercock, L. (1998). Towards cosmopolis: planning for multiculutural cities. New York: John Wiley.Google Scholar
  46. Sassen, S. (2000). Cities in a world economy (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks CA: Pine Forge Press.Google Scholar
  47. Siemiatycki, M. (2006). The municipal franchise and social inclusion in Toronto: policy and practice. Toronto: Inclusive Cities Canada.Google Scholar
  48. Siemiatycki, M. (2011). Governing immigrant city: immigrant political representation in Toronto. American Behavioral Scientist, 55(9), 1214–1234.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Somers, M. (2008). Geneologies of citizenship: markets, statelessness, and the right to have rights. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  50. Spears, J. 2009. The Take: Should long-term residents be allowed to vote? The Toronto Star, G12, 12 June.Google Scholar
  51. Spurr, B. 2013. Let non-citizens vote, say councilors. NOW,
  52. Stasiulis, D. (2008). The migration-citizenship nexus. In E. Isin (Ed.), Recasting the social in citizenship. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.Google Scholar
  53. Statistics Canada. 2011. National household survey. Community Profiles, 2011.Google Scholar
  54. Statistics Canada. 2012. The Canadian population in 2011: population counts and growth. Catalogue no. 98-310-X2011001.Google Scholar
  55. Statistics Canada. 2013. Obtaining Canadian citizenship. Catalogue no. 99-010-X2011003.Google Scholar
  56. The Toronto Star. 2009. A right to vote for non-citizens? IN6, 20 June.Google Scholar
  57. Triadafilopoulos, P. 2010. Non-citizen voting in Toronto: a case of too little, too soon? Mowat Centre for Policy Innovation. Accessed 15 November 2013.
  58. Varsanyi, M. (2005). The rise and fall (and rise?) of non-citizen voting: immigration and the shifting scales of citizenship and suffrage in the United States. Space and Polity, 9(2), 113–134.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Varsanyi, M. (2006). Interrogating "urban citizenship" vis-à-vis undocumented migration. Citizenship Studies, 10(2), 229–249.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Young, C. (2005). If you live in Dublin, you can vote. The Toronto Star, 10(April).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Politics & Public AdministrationRyerson UniversityTorontoCanada

Personalised recommendations