News, Politics

Protests and Accusations – The “Robo-Call” Scandal Continues

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"Robo-calls" misled thousands of Canadian voters and may have influenced the outcome of the last federal election. Image: Christos Vittoratos

Canadians marched through the streets of Vancouver last Saturday to protest the use of misleading “robo-calls” during the federal election last May.

More than 31,000 people have complained to Elections Canada about the automatic voice-mails they received, directing them to go to the wrong polling station to vote.

Elections Canada is an independent organization (meaning it’s not connected to any political party) that conducts Canada’s elections.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper says that his party had nothing to do with the robo-calls. Representatives from the Liberals and the NDP have urged the people responsible to come forward. The Liberals and NDP have also denied having anything to do with the potentially illegal calls.

On Monday, Conservative MP Maurice Vellacott, suggested that the errors may have been accidentally created by Elections Canada.

Elections Canada supplies some of the information–such as polling station locations–which the robo-calls use.

In the last federal election, Elections Canada changed more than 100 polling station locations for one reason or another. Those changes may have meant the robo-calls were using outdated information, Vellacott said.

In Vancouver last Saturday, hundreds of people carrying signs and chanting slogans marched downtown. They also collected more than 37,000 signatures on a petition asking for a public inquiry into the robo-call scandal.

A public inquiry means an investigation to find out what happened and who was responsible.

The scandal was revealed when Elections Canada was looking into some reports that people in Guelph, Ont., had received voice-mails telling them to vote at a polling station that didn’t exist.

These calls are potentially a big problem, because if someone who wants to vote gets a message sending them to the wrong polling station—or one that doesn’t even exist—they may decide not to vote because they can’t figure out where to vote.

Since the news of the scandal broke, many more people across the country have contacted Elections Canada to report mysterious voice-mail messages relating to the election.

Protests are being planned for other Canadian cities including Ottawa (Monday) and Toronto (Sun., March 11).

Related Link
Click here for last week’s TKN story explaining the robo-call scandal.

CURRICULUM CONNECTIONS
By Jonathan Tilly

Writing/Discussion Prompt
If one of Canada’s major political parties is discovered to be behind the robo-calls that misled thousands of Canadian voters, what should their punishment be? What should happen to the government? If Elections Canada is responsible, what then?

Reading Prompt: Reading Unfamiliar Words
There are some words in this story that may be unfamiliar to you:
• polling station
• Elections Canada
• robo-call
• petition
• public inquiry
• scandal

How did you solve their meaning?

Primary, Junior, & Intermediate
Predict the meaning of and rapidly solve unfamiliar words using different
types of cues, semantic (meaning) cues, syntactic (language structure) cues, and graphophonic (phonological and graphic) cues (OME, Reading: 3.2).

Grammar Feature: Em Dash ( — )
The em dash is a punctuation mark created by putting two hyphens together. It works just like a comma by separating extra information from the rest of the sentence. An important difference between a comma and an em dash is that the em dash shows more emphasis. The sentence below highlights the extra information by placing em dashes on either side:

“These calls are potentially a big problem, because if someone who wants to vote gets a message sending them to the wrong polling station—or one that doesn’t even exist—they may decide not to vote because they can’t figure out where to vote.”

Use em dashes or a commas in the sentence below to show where the extra information is. Use em dashes when you would like to emphasize this part of the sentence and commas in other situations.

1. Maria’s daughters  Lucy, Paige, and Henrietta  had fun at the dance.

2. The drum band was loud  everyone in the crowd wore ear plugs!

3. Cooper’s hockey stick was really cool  its blade had yellow tape.

4. Most of his friends  the nice ones  helped him clean up after the party.

5. The garden were in full bloom  red, blue, yellow, and orange flowers looked up at the sun in full attention.