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Advisory Circle of Educators – April 29 and 30, 2019 – Meeting Summary

Introduction

Elections Canada (EC) invited members of the Advisory Circle of Educators (ACOE) to take part in a third consultation in Ottawa, Ontario on April 29 and 30, 2019. Sixteen participants attended, including one from every provincial and territorial jurisdiction, an educator from a First Nations school, and three members at large.

The meeting objectives were to seek expert advice and specific feedback on the development of educational resources, professional learning, teacher support, educational approaches to regulatory changes and jurisdictional differences, and future planning. EC also wanted direction on the pre-registration of 14- to 17-year-olds, recruitment of student poll workers, post-election civic education programming, and next steps for the civic education program and the ACOE.

This report summarizes the key themes and recommendations that emerged.

Learning Environment

Members were asked to provide insight into the general learning environments in their jurisdictions, including the placement of social studies and citizenship education in the regional curriculum. The discussion yielded the following insights on the current educational landscape and jurisdictional differences in Canada:

  • The recent election of many new provincial governments has heightened uncertainty regarding education funding and curricula.
  • Members from several provinces (Newfoundland, New Brunswick, and Saskatchewan) noted that there was an ongoing review of social studies courses.
  • One member noted that their participation in the ACOE had directly influenced their opinion and input on the curriculum review currently underway in their province.
  • The ACOE members representing First Nations schools noted that, since the last meeting, they took special note of the difficulties that First Nations teachers and students face in delivering the curriculum on civic education.

Key Findings

EC staff noted that members of the Canadian educational community had ordered over 6,000 copies of EC's new educational resources since their launch in September 2018, covering 88% of Canada's federal electoral districts. It is estimated that close to 280,000 Canadian students had contact with these resources. It was also highlighted that EC's in-person programming reached over 12,000 people since September 2018.

Members suggested that one of EC's priorities should be to ensure resources are kept up to date rather than to continue to create new resources. However, there was unanimous support for the new resource being developed in partnership with MediaSmarts, noting that disinformation is a valuable topic for discussion in classrooms.

With an expected increase in demand for election-related civic education resources before the fall 2019 general election, members agreed that there is a need for post-election resources to help students make sense of election results and understand the process of forming a government.

ACOE members from every jurisdiction (except one, whose members abstained due to lack of specific knowledge of youth worker legislation) expressed their interest and enthusiasm at the educational benefits of recruiting students to work as election officers. Similarly, the Register of Future Electors was seen as a real educational opportunity, but ACOE members felt it should be approached carefully as a long-term goal.

Finally, there was discussion on the future of the ACOE after the current three-year mandate. Members unanimously agreed that EC would benefit from a standing committee of educators.

Recommendations

ACOE members gave several ideas about data analysis and maps to visualize election results in order to meet the needs of educators in the post-election period. While members appreciated that EC would not be able to produce such content immediately after the election, there was discussion about how to provide simple ideas and classroom discussion prompts for educators.

Furthermore, ACOE members suggested that one of EC's priorities should be to update existing resources after the 2019 election. Many stated that keeping content current, particularly around voter turnout, was key to maintaining the quality non-partisan reliability of EC resources. While the members endorsed the new resources being developed―including Digital Skills for Democracy, the new case study for Voting Rights through Time, and the resource jointly developed with provincial/territorial electoral management bodies―there was consensus that EC had developed sufficient resources to meet educator needs. The only new need expressed was for an international comparative resource.

ACOE members overwhelmingly supported the recruitment of 16- and 17-year-olds as election workers. Many noted how valuable this experience would be for students to develop a deeper understanding of elections and democracy in Canada along with professional skills, such as CV writing. Some members said that, in terms of administration, it could be difficult to release students on a school day, unless the activity was sanctioned as an authorized school activity. Members pointed out that complex policy and legislative barriers vary by province and territory and even among school boards. As such, there would be significant difficulties for EC to recruit high school students as election workers. It was recommended that EC enlist existing provincial teacher associations, such as social studies associations, to gain traction with provincial/territorial ministries of education and school boards.

The ACOE's central recommendation in connection with pre-registering 14- to 17-year-old Canadians in the Register of Future Electors (RFE) involved EC starting with a public information campaign before introducing RFE educational activities or resources. Members noted that educators might be reluctant to discuss pre-registration in the classroom before the public, teachers, and parents are informed about the RFE. They mentioned that both parents and students will require reassurance about how personal data will be used, and teachers will need to be informed about how EC will use personal data to answer any potential questions.

Finally, throughout the meetings, ACOE members commented on the importance of face-to-face interactions and in-person classroom demonstrations to continue to extend the reach of the civic education program and resources. They felt that assigning on-the-ground educational coordinators was the best way to achieve the extended reach. It was also suggested that videos of teachers demonstrating how to use the resources would help engage and support educators in areas where in-person professional development is not readily available. Members thought that including educators, ministry or department of education officials, and consultants in a standing advisory committee is the only valid and proven way—based on their experience—to ensure that resources remain relevant.

“I think that Elections Canada has started something that is now being copied by other organizations; it is setting the standard.”

Appendix 1

Meeting participants
Name Jurisdiction
Jud Deuling Yukon
John Stewart Northwest Territories
Ken Beardsall Nunavut
Sonja Van Der Putten British Columbia
Shashi Shergill Alberta
Robert Jardine Saskatchewan
Connie Wyatt-Anderson Manitoba
Geneviève Goulet Quebec
Stéphanie Babineau New Brunswick
Darryl Fillier Newfoundland and Labrador
Ian Coffin Prince Edward Island
Wendy Driscoll Nova Scotia
Josy Roske First Nations Schools
Alan Sears Member at large
Christina Ganev Member at large (Ontario)
Geraldine Campbell Member at large
Facilitator
Lisa Brazeau Lemmex Group
Elections Canada Staff
Name Group
June Creelman Special Advisor on Civic Education
Rachel Collishaw Educational Consultant
Sandra Baranek Senior Outreach Officer
Kerrie Rodier Senior Outreach Officer
Zoe Flatman Education Coordinator
Joseph Péloquin-Hopfner Education Coordinator
Geneviève Latulippe Outreach Officer
Justin Douglas Outreach Officer

Appendix 2

Meeting agenda – Day 1: Monday, April 29
8:45 Welcome from Elections Canada
9:15 Introductions and roundtable: What's new in your learning environment since our last meeting?
9:45 Program results and updates
10:30 Health Break
10:45 First Nations case study:
Update to Voting Rights through Time
12:00 Lunch
1:00 Post-election programming: How can Elections Canada fill the gap in the post-election period?
2:00 Student Vote Canada 2019
2:30 Health Break
2:45 Fact Checking for Democracy: New resource in collaboration with MediaSmarts
3:30 Assessment and evaluation
4:00 Wrap-up
Meeting agenda – Day 2: Tuesday, April 30
8:30 Session begins: Recap of Day 1
9:00 Student recruitment pilot project
9:30 New educational resource: Collaboration with provincial, territorial and federal jurisdictions
10:30 Health Break
10:45 Pre-registration of 14- to17-year-olds: What is the educational approach?
12:00 Lunch
1:00 What should be next for civic education at EC?
2:15 Health Break
2:30

Wrap-up and next steps

  • Next meeting
  • Future of ACOE
3:00 Round Table
3:15 Meeting ends