Vot­ing ban for long-term ex­pats ruled un­con­sti­tu­tional

Penticton Herald - - CANADA -

A re­cently re­pealed law that barred Cana­di­ans liv­ing abroad for more than five years from vot­ing in fed­eral elections was an un­jus­ti­fied vi­o­la­tion of the Con­sti­tu­tion, Canada’s top court ruled on Fri­day.

In a long-awaited decision that so­lid­i­fies vot­ing rights, the Supreme Court of Canada re­jected gov­ern­ment ar­gu­ments that the law, en­acted in 1993, pro­moted elec­toral fair­ness.

Writ­ing for the 5-2 ma­jor­ity, Chief Jus­tice Richard Wag­ner called the right to vote a “core tenet” of Cana­dian democ­racy. Any limit, he said, would have to have “com­pelling” jus­ti­fi­ca­tion — some­thing the gov­ern­ment had failed to of­fer.

“The vague and un­sub­stan­ti­ated elec­toral fair­ness ob­jec­tive that is pur­port­edly served by deny­ing vot­ing rights to non-res­i­dent cit­i­zens sim­ply be­cause they have crossed an ar­bi­trary five-year thresh­old does not with­stand scru­tiny,” Wag­ner said. “There is lit­tle to jus­tify the choice of five years as a thresh­old, or to show how it is tai­lored to re­spond to a spe­cific prob­lem.”

The im­pugned pro­vi­sions of the Canada Elections Act had been on the book for decades, but it was only un­der the Con­ser­va­tives of then­prime min­is­ter Stephen Harper that Elections Canada be­gan ac­tive en­force­ment.

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