Long-term Canadian expats are set to find out on Friday whether a now-repealed 25-year-old law barring them from voting in federal elections was constitutional. The pending decision by the Supreme Court of Canada should settle a legal battle begun in earnest during the former Conservative government of then-prime minister Stephen Harper, and which gained prominence in the election that brought the Liberals under Justin Trudeau to office. Observers said they would be watching to see whether the country’s top court might justify limits on a constitutionally guaranteed right that potentially affects more than one-million Canadians who live abroad.
The Liberal government is preparing to expand the voting rights of non-resident Canadians, The Huffington Post Canada has learned. Canadians who have lived abroad for more than five years are essentially banned from casting a ballot right now. They cannot receive a special mail-in ballot, and although they can technically come to Canada vote in person, they have a near impossible task of proving residency here. Two sources told HuffPost that Democratic Institutions Minister Maryam Monsef is looking at tabling legislation that would give expatriate Canadians the right to vote by special ballot no matter how long they have been away. The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear a case in February involving two Canadians who live in the United States and want to vote. Jamie Duong and Gillian Frank first challenged the law in an Ontario court and won in 2014, placing an estimated 1.4 million Canadians back on the voter rolls, but the Conservative government successfully appealed the ruling before last year’s election.
Citizenship – and nothing more – guarantees the right to vote, say two disenfranchised Canadian expatriates whose legal struggle to reclaim their votes is headed to the Supreme Court of Canada in a case affecting more than one million non-resident Canadians. Gillian Frank, a Toronto native, and Jamie Duong, a Montreal native, wanted to vote in the 2011 general election but, since both work at U.S. universities, were refused online ballots under a 1993 Canada Elections Act rule that bars citizens from voting if they’ve lived outside Canada for more than five years. The rule was loosely enforced until 2007, when the then-Conservative government said expats’ short-term visits back home no longer reset the five-year clock, as had been the practice.