The million-plus Canadians who have been living outside the country for more than five years have been denied the right to vote. The Ontario Court of Appeal upheld federal voting restrictions in a 2-1 ruling Monday, saying non-residents do not live with the consequences of their votes on a daily basis, so it would therefore harm Canada’s democracy to let them cast a ballot. It would “erode the social contract and undermine the legitimacy of the laws,” Chief Justice George Strathy said for the majority, joined by Justice David Brown. The challenge to voting restrictions was brought by Gillian Frank, a former Canadian Forces member from Toronto who has lived in the United States for 13 years and is pursuing postdoctoral studies, and Jamie Duong, who left Montreal for high school in Vermont and now works at Cornell University. Both have family in Canada and say they would return if they could find suitable jobs in their fields.
In an interview, Prof. Frank, a visiting fellow at Princeton University’s Center for the Study of Religion, said he left Canada after his advisers at York University told him he would have better job opportunities in Canada with a U.S. degree.
“It’s very hard to understand something so precious as democracy until it’s taken away from you. It makes you feel small. It makes you feel marginalized,” he said. He said the Canadian government could pass laws affecting his passport or change tax rules that would affect him, adding that he worked hard and contributed to Canada until his studies took him to the U.S. “At the end of the day, my Canadianness is uncontested.”