Voting ban for long-term expats ruled unconstitutional
A recently repealed law that barred Canadians living abroad for more than five years from voting in federal elections was an unjustified violation of the Constitution, Canada’s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.