A ban on long-term expatriates voting from abroad has drawn the ire of Canadian business groups in Asia, who argue the measure runs contrary to both their rights and the country’s interests. In an open letter decrying the rule, the five groups based in Asia call on members of Parliament and Canadians to help their cause. Their appeal, which comes as Canada attempts to close an important Pacific trade deal, carries the signatures of Canadian chamber of commerce members in Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam and Japan under the heading, Out of Sight, Out of Mind, Really?
“We, the undersigned, represent not only business and trade interests, but organizations committed to enlarging Canadians’ and Canada’s presence internationally,” the writers state in the letter obtained by The Canadian Press. “As such, we believe the right to vote is a fundamental, if not the fundamental, right underpinning Canadian democratic values.”
Under part of the Canada Elections Act enacted in 1993, Canadians abroad for more than five years lost the right to vote from where they live. However, it is only under the Conservative government of Stephen Harper that Elections Canada began enforcing the rule, catching many expats by surprise in 2011.
The issue has become fodder for a constitutional challenge. An Ontario justice threw out the law last year, only to see the province’s top court reinstate it in July. Two expats in the United States are now asking the Supreme Court of Canada to hear the case.