For those of you not religiously following this blog, I’ve a usual sign off that among other things reads ‘Neither voting nor avoiding the vote are sufficient to create the kinds of worlds we wish to live in.’

Over the past month, several people have criticized their approach. Some say I should insist that people vote, others that I insist people don’t vote, and many asking me well if not this, then what. 

A few days ago, someone actually took the time to find my email address and send me a note suggesting I go back to where I came from, etc, but also saying that ‘protesters’ like me won’t change anything.

You know, Mr. Racist, at least here we agree. ‘Neither protesting nor avoiding protests are sufficient to create the kinds of worlds we wish to live in.’

The elections are not just about voting. Protests are not just about the spectacle on the street. 

If the elections were only about which white man would impose austerity on the residents of Canada while allowing/encouraging the pillage and ruin of the rest of the world, it would be a simple to say damn it all. 

But there is more to it. Elections are a moment that can be used. They are a soap box, a time to engage, a time to build, to use the rhetoric and turn it on its head. Elections are not a time for people to participate in the decisions that impact them — they are about convincing people that having the ability to determine our lives is something worth fighting for. 

And that’s why they are (somewhat) like protests. Large demonstrations (like a strategic engagement in the elections), achieve their objectives way before people hit the streets (or the ballot box).

Consider May Day 2011, the 6th annual International Workers Day March in Toronto. This demonstration for Status for All is taglined ‘Elections2011: Vote on the Streets.’**

During the course of the organizing for May Day, No One Is Illegal – Toronto (NOII) members have handed out 13,000 postcards in classrooms, in meetings, in community centres, in apartment buildings and on street corners. Now 13,000 people will not take to the streets, but they will have thought about war, colonization, capitalism and freedom of movement. They would have met someone who will talk to them about these issues.

60 organizations endorsed the demonstration — that meant that at least 60 groups of people had to think about their role in the migrant justice movement and how they would participate in it. Small community events took place over food and drink. 12 independent contingents are being organized to join this march — proof of relations being built among those that struggle for change in very different ways. No matter what happens tomorrow, this demonstration has been successful.

So — have our interventions in the elections been successful? Have we put out our issues, have we grown our organizations, have we connected with our communities? I don’t think so.

Not to worry though, you get one more day. On May 2nd, go to the polling station. Stand in line. Talk to your neighbours about the issues that concern them. Get their contacts, and call a meeting. Sit down with people who you know care enough to do something, anything to change things. Talk about what kinds of worlds we want to live in and how we are going to get there. Lets get organized. No matter who wins on May 2nd, we have a long way to go before the struggle is over.


On elections: Canada is a settler state on Indigenous land and has no moral authority to impose a government. Elections are the means by which this colonial project claims legitimacy for its aggressive policies of cultural and material appropriation and murder. Hundreds of thousands of Indigenous people on this land refuse to vote as an assertion of sovereignty. 1 in 25 residents of Canada, undocumented migrants, temporary workers, permanent residents and others without full immigration status cannot vote. Electoral democracy is a sham where certain people make decisions without building consensus or gaining a mandate from their so-called constituents. The transformative change that most people desire will not come from the ballot box. Neither voting nor avoiding the vote are sufficient to create the kinds of worlds we wish to live in.

** I am neither organizing, assisting in organizing or attending this demonstration. 

Syed Hussan

Syed Hussan is an organizer and writer in Toronto working with undocumented and migrant people, in defense of Indigenous sovereignty, and against counter intuitive programs like war and capitalism....