The federal government’s recent overhaul of Canadian election laws is facing a Charter challenge, one alleging the changes will deny some Canadians the right to vote. The groups behind the case argue that the Fair Elections Act, an amended version of which became law in June after the bill received widespread criticism, will suppress the vote of certain Canadians and make it difficult for some to obtain a ballot on election day. A legal challenge was filed Thursday in the Ontario Superior Court by the Council of Canadians, the Canadian Federation of Students and three individual electors. They are challenging the law under section three of the Charter and Rights of Freedoms, which guarantees citizens the right to vote, and section 15, which says every individual is equal before and under the law. “We believe [the bill] will disproportionately impact disadvantaged groups,” lawyer Steven Shrybman, who will argue the case, told a news conference Thursday.
“We want to prevent the provisions from going into effect, because the results of that will be to actually prevent people from voting in the next federal election. That’s a very serious problem and one we want to avert,” Mr. Shrybman added.
The case is also targeting provisions in the bill that limit what Elections Canada can say publicly, including in advertising – it’s no longer going to be permitted to run ads designed to boost voter turnout, only those giving the basics of when, where and how to vote. The groups argue those provisions will lead to people being turned away from polls on election day because they are unaware of changes. The legal case also takes issue with the law’s moving of the Commissioner of Canada Elections, an investigator, from Elections Canada into a different office.