I thought I’d take a break from my trip write-up to talk about something that has annoyed me since I found out about it. I missed the last election because I didn’t know about it. And by the time I knew, it was too late to send in my ballot. This time, I was far faster on the ball. However, I did find out that this will be my last election to vote in unless Elections Canada changes their policy.
Right now, Elections Canada states the following for those Canadians voting outside of Canada (bold added by me):
Canadians who will be 18 years of age or older on polling day and are temporarily residing outside Canada may vote by special ballot in an election or referendum. They must have resided in Canada at any time before applying for registration, have been residing outside Canada for less than five consecutive years immediately before making the application and intend to resume residence in Canada.
The five-year limit does not apply to:
- electors who are employed outside Canada in federal or provincial public administration or people living with them
- electors who are employed outside Canada by an international organization of which Canada is a member and to which Canada contributes, or people living with them
- electors living with members of the Canadian Forces outside Canada or with civilians who are teachers or members of the administrative support staff for a Canadian Forces school
Now, what’s interesting about this is that it contradicts something found in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, namely this paragraph under “Democratic Rights” (italics mine):
Democratic rights of citizens
3. Every citizen of Canada has the right to vote in an election of members of the House of Commons or of a legislative assembly and to be qualified for membership therein.
Now, I still am a Canadian. Even if I get US Citizenship, I want to remain a Canadian. As Trudeau stated in the 70s, “Once a Canadian, always a Canadian”. But apparently, this isn’t good enough for Elections Canada. Why do government employees get the right to vote if they’ve been abroad for 5+ years but I lose mine? Did I just not become Canadian? Does the Charter only get paid attention to when it serves someone?
What kills me is that this law/ruling by Elections Canada has been on the books for nearly two decades! This means it’s been acceptable even if it violated the Charter. And apparently no one is willing to take it to court because of the cost. While the Canadian Civil Liberties Association is looking into it, I have doubts that they will truly do so as they are more interested in G8/G20 violations (certainly valid) over basic rights of Canadians. It’s very frustrating.
So Canadians, as you cast your ballots shortly today, revel in it. Revel in being Canadian where you have many parties to vote for; where debate is done civilly, intelligently and with a lot of “ehs” thrown in; enjoy the fact that you can vote now. Because apparently, Elections Canada can violate the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, that very thing that we take pride in having that so many nations do not.
Perhaps we are not as much of a democracy as we thought we were.*
*I submitted this to the Toronto Star. I doubt it’ll make it but who knows. All I know is that I’m sadden and embarrassed by this. Take some time and sign the petition here: http://www.letcanadiansvote.com/ It’s interesting to note that Canada is one of the few places that puts a limitus on voting rights like this, unlike the 97 nations found listed here.