Our Story Why We Exist
In his early 20s, Taylor Gunn set out to develop a program that would teach kids about voting, foster their connection to the community, and eventually reverse the decline of voter turnout.
With a very limited amount of resources and support from education stakeholders, Taylor recruited a small team to build a student engagement model that would secure the participation of hundreds of thousands of students in the first-ever province-wide parallel election program in Canada. On October 2nd 2003, more than 335,000 students took part in the inaugural Student Vote program during the Ontario provincial election.
Since then, Student Vote has been brought to the federal level, and to other provincial and municipal jurisdictions across the country. By building extensive partnerships with election offices, school boards, media outlets, community and financial support, Taylor and the CIVIX team are ensuring that our democracy is brought to life in the classrooms and homes of young students across Canada.
The participation of citizens in the electoral process is a central component of a healthy democracy, yet a marked decline in voter turnout has plagued Canada over the last two decades. Electoral participation reached an all-time low of 59 per cent in the 2008 federal election, and voter turnout in most provinces is hovering at 50 per cent.
More concerning is the fact that low voter turnout is disproportionately concentrated among young Canadians. In the 2011 federal election, only 39 per cent of voters were aged 18 to 24, compared to 70 percent of voters aged 55 and older.
Research suggests that the habits of voting and non-voting persist over time. If Canadian youth don’t vote now, they likely won’t become voters later in life. This has serious implications for the future of our democracy.
CIVIX exists to give young Canadians a solid base of interest, knowledge and experience to inspire their citizenship. Without it, they will continue to stay away from political participation, public policy and voting.
With it, they will guarantee a healthy and robust democracy for Canada.
Our Impact What We Do
CIVIX provides experiential learning opportunities to help young Canadians practice their rights and responsibilities as citizens. Rather than study democracy in a textbook, students experience it firsthand with actual events and pertinent issues in real-time.
By practicing the habits of informed and engaged citizenship at an early age and nurturing these habits throughout adolescence, students will be able and willing to participate in our democracy when they reach voting age.
CIVIX works with educators to deliver programs in elementary and secondary schools across Canada. We offer resources and innovative approaches so that educators can easily and effectively teach democracy and citizenship. Working within the school system allows us to reach all demographics, including those less likely to be engaged in our political system.
Over the last twelve years, CIVIX has developed a great track record in engaging schools and working with electoral agencies and education stakeholders throughout Canada. Alberta has quickly become one of the most exciting places in the country for us to work. CIVIX has organized Student Vote programs in the last four federal and three provincial elections. Our long-term goal is to reach every school in the province.
In the most recent provincial election, more than 92,000 Student Vote ballots were cast from 838 schools, representing the province’s best-ever participation in the program. In major urban centres like Calgary, more than 50 per cent of all schools took part in the program.
Already in this fall’s federal Student Vote, Alberta has shattered its past participation records. The province has increased its best-ever participation by 20 per cent, with 1,061 schools registered – that’s more than half of all schools in the province!
To recognize the incredible commitment of Calgary teachers to civic education, and to enhance their delivery of Student Vote in advance of the federal election, CIVIX organized a Democracy Bootcamp for more than 300 teachers representing half of the city's schools. Democracy Bootcamp is a professional development conference for elementary and secondary teachers, designed to inspire their own democratic engagement as well as improve their instructional capacity in the areas of government, politics, and civic participation.
Our Programs How We Do It
Our flagship program, Student Vote, is a parallel election for students under the voting age, coinciding with federal, provincial and municipal elections. Participating students have the opportunity to learn about Canada’s government and electoral system, research political parties, discuss relevant issues, and cast ballots in an authentic vote on their local candidates. The Student Vote election results are shared for public broadcast and publication after the official polls close.
The Student Budget Consultation offers students a seat at the federal budget table. Participants learn about government revenues and expenditures, debate varying viewpoints and offer their own opinions on the priorities of the federal budget. Their views are captured in a survey and the results are shared with Canada's Minister of Finance.
Rep Day connects high school students across the country with their local representatives to encourage dialogue on current issues. The program challenges the stereotypes that young people have of politicians and the political process, aiming to aims to develop a better understanding of, and appreciation for, the people and institutions that comprise our democracy.
Democracy Bootcamp is a professional development conference for elementary and secondary school teachers designed to improve their instructional capacity with respect to citizenship and democratic engagement, and enhance their delivery of the Student Vote program. The conferences deliver an inspiring agenda focused on voting trends and research, an insider’s look at election campaigns, tools for civic education and best practices for Student Vote.
Our Requests What You Can Do
CIVIX programing is free for students and teachers, and so we rely on external support to fund our efforts.
With your generous support, CIVIX will remain independent and innovative as we work to build the next generation of active and engaged citizens, capable of guaranteeing a healthy and robust democracy in Canada for years to come.
By making a donation to CIVIX, you will help inspire the engagement of students, teachers and families in communities across the country. Your donation is an investment in the future of our democracy.
Online contributions can be made through Canada Helps.
We also accept donations by mail and are pleased to issue tax receipts for all donations over $25.00:
- 639 Queen Street West,Unit 504, Toronto, Ontario M5V 2B7