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First Nations People couldn’t vote until 1960—12 years after the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

First Nations and the vote

In 1918, Canadian women were finally granted the vote in federal elections. Then, in 1948 the Universal Declaration of Human Rights proclaimed that all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. But despite this progress, First Nations People in Canada were considered federal “wards” and were not allowed to vote. The exceptions were veterans of the two world wars, but only if they gave up their Indian Status. When Diefenbaker’s government first proposed extending the vote to First Nations, some Aboriginal community members objected; they worried that they would be forced to give up their Status and be forced to assimilate. After the First Nations received the vote in 1960, they went to the polls for the first time for a federal election in 1962.

Discussion questions

Why did the First Nations receive the vote so late in Canada’s history?

What would it be like not to be able to vote when you turned 18?


Diefenbaker Canada Centre. “The Enfranchisement of Canada’s Aboriginal Peoples.”


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