Across The Globe

North America has a long history of people having to fight for their right to vote. In several countries across the globe, there are still barriers that people face in order to exercise their democratic rights. While our voting systems might not be perfect, we have come a long way to grant previously disenfranchised groups the right to vote. Below is a brief timeline of the evolution of voting and democracy in North America, with a concentration in Canada.


Ancient Greece

The concept and practice of democracy originated in Ancient Greece, somewhere in 5th or 6th century BCE (Thorley, 2005).  While the Ancient Greek version of democracy looked a little bit different than Canada’s current system, the one person one vote principle still applied. However, it only applied to Athenian men over the age of 21. Children, women, metics (a term the Greeks used for foreigners), and slaves were all classes of people who did not have the right to vote. 


Evolution of Voting Rights in Canada

Much like the Ancient Greeks, when Canada was first formed, only men who were 21 years of age or older, and who owned property were able to vote in federal elections (Elections Canada). In 1876 First Nations people were allowed to vote, but only if they “gave up their Indian status” (Elections Canada), which took away a lot of freedoms given to the first nations people by the Indian Act. During the First World War, all male and female members of the armed forces and female relatives of soldiers were offered the right to vote (Elections Canada). This was the first time that certain women, a few men under the age of 21, and some First Nations peoples were allowed to cast a vote in a Canadian federal election (Elections Canada). 


In the 1920s, white and black women were given the right to vote in every Canadian province except for Quebec (Operation Vote Canada). Slowly over time, Canadian women minorities were allowed to vote in federal elections. Asian-Canadians became eligible in 1948; Inuit men and women were given their voting rights in 1950; and First nations men and women were allowed to vote in 1960, without having to give up their “Indian status” (Elections Canada).


The Present

After all the disenfranchised groups had their rights to vote enacted into law, there was also a push to have women and minorities elected into positions of power. Kim Campbell became the first and only female prime minister in Canadian history. She was in office from June to November in 1993; therefore, she was the third-shortest serving Prime Minister in Canadian history.


The political landscape of North America, for the most part, has not been especially diverse. It was only a short 61 years ago that there were groups of both minorities and women that had still been disenfranchised – unable to vote. There had not been many advancements in intersectionality in North American governments, until earlier this year. For the first time, a woman became the Vice President of the United States of America. She is not only the first woman to have this position, but also the first woman of color. Regardless of any individual’s feelings on Kamala Harris’ politics, it is still a historic feat. Representation is important in positions of power in order to assure and inspire the next generation that their goals don’t have limits.  It feels like a fitting triumph to have scored this after the 100th anniversary of the Suffragette movement’s first victory for democracy.



Works Cited


Thorley, John (2005). Athenian Democracy. Lancaster Pamphlets in Ancient History. Routledge.

“A Brief History of Federal Voting Rights in Canada.” A Brief History of Federal Voting Rights in Canada | Elections Canada’s Civic Education, 

“Black Canadian Political Timeline” Operation Black Vote Canada