The Right to Vote as an Expatriate

House Bill c-50, An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act, seeks to restrict voting rules for Canadians who are living abroad. The bill had its first reading in the House of Commons on December 10th 2014. Pierre Poilievre, the Minister of State (Democratic Reform) tabled the Bill.

The summary of the Bill, as taken from LegisInfo, is as follows:

This enactment amends the Canada Elections Act to

(a) eliminate the international register of electors and incorporate all of the information contained in it into the Register of Electors;

(b) require electors who are resident outside Canada to make an application for registration and special ballot after the issue of the writs at each election;

(c) stipulate that electors who are resident outside Canada may only receive a special ballot for the address at which they last resided in Canada;

(d) require that electors who are applying for a special ballot under Division 3 or 4 of Part 11 include in their application for registration and special ballot proof of identity and residence and, if they apply from outside Canada, proof of Canadian citizenship;

(e) require that an external auditor perform an audit and report on election workers’ compliance with special ballot voting procedures and requirements for every election;

(f) authorize the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration to provide the Chief Electoral Officer with information for the purpose of assisting the Chief Electoral Officer to, among other things, delete from the Register of Electors the names of persons who are not Canadian citizens; and

(g) add the offence of voting or attempting to vote by special ballot under Division 3 or 4 of Part 11 while knowing that one is not qualified as an elector and add offences under those Divisions of attesting to the residence of more than one elector and of acting as an attestor when one’s own residence has already been attested

This Bill comes as the government’s response to the case: Frank & Duong v. Canada (Attorney General), which struck down a law which removed voting rights from expats once they’d lived outside of Canada for more than five years. The judge is quoted here, as saying that long-term expats “care deeply” about Canada, which makes the five year rule unjust and unconstitutional. Ottawa is appealing this decision as well.

CTV news reports that the government “is clamping down on the estimated 1.4 million expatriates who’ve regained their voting rights as a result of the ruling” CTV also reports that “the government remains committed to reinstating the ban on voting for anyone who has lived outside the country for more than five years”

Expats argue that the five year cut off is arbitrary and unreasonable.  On the other hand, the CBC reports that the government in its factum for the case stated that “The residence limit to voting ensures the connection of the citizen to the place where he or she casts their vote […] that is the social contract at the heart of our system of constitutional democracy.” Expats, say that this is not enough to deny them of their fundamental, democratic rights.

For the full text of the Bill, please see here.