An international observer mission has set down in Ottawa to monitor and report on the federal election — including whether controversial changes to Canada’s election law help or hurt the democratic process. The six-person mission, deployed by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), is the first to monitor a Canadian election in nearly a decade. It was prompted by widespread concern inside Canada over recent changes introduced by the Conservative government’s controversial Fair Elections Act. “The legislative framework is a key part of any election process. It’s the rules of the game,” said mission leader Hannah Roberts, a British national who has monitored elections in 30 countries. “As we know, there have been some changes here in Canada, and there are different views about those changes. So our job is in part to come and look at that legal framework and be looking at how it works in practice, to see what issues come up.”
Canada is one of 57 members of the OSCE, which is billed as the world’s largest security-oriented organization. As such, it has agreed to allow election observer missions into the country whenever the OSCE decides to send one. The last such mission was in 2006.
Besides Roberts, the other members of the team come from Mongolia, Slovenia, Bulgaria, Croatia and the United States. They are lawyers, academics, former United Nations officials and election administrators. One is an expert on gender issues, while another is focused on minority and aboriginal issues.
The team’s skill set is directly related to concerns that came up when the OSCE sent a fact-finding mission in May to determine whether to actually watch this election, Roberts said. Those included whether some voters would have trouble casting their ballots because of new voter identification rules.