High court ruling allows long-term expats to vote in byelections across Canada

High court ruling allows long-term expats to vote in byelections across Canada

Supreme Court decision enfranchised an estimated one million or more Canadian expats to be able to vote

Expat Canadians with ties to one of three ridings now in the throes of byelections may be eligible to vote no matter how long they’ve been abroad given last week’s Supreme Court of Canada ruling.

While the government got ahead of the high court ruling with new legislation passed last month, most provisions of Bill C-76 were only slated to take effect after six months — in good time for October’s general election. However, the Supreme Court decision on Jan. 11 took immediate effect.

Elections Canada wasted little time advertising the change after the high court struck down a 1993 law disenfranchising Canadians abroad for more than five years as unconstitutional.

“A Canadian elector living abroad who has previously resided in Canada is entitled to vote by special ballot in federal elections regardless of how long they have been living abroad,” Elections Canada said. “Elections Canada is currently updating its online forms and information to reflect the ruling, which came into effect immediately and is therefore applicable in the current three byelections.”

On Feb. 25, voters living in Ontario’s York–Simcoe, Burnaby South in B.C. and Outremont in Quebec get to choose a new member of Parliament. All interested Canadians abroad over the age of 18 with certain ties to one of the ridings are now also eligible to vote by way of a “special ballot.”

READ MORE: Supreme Court rules restrictions on expat voting unconstitutional

To receive a ballot, expats are required to register with Elections Canada in Ottawa by 6 p.m. ET on Feb. 19. Among other things, they must show either that they were living in one of the ridings before leaving Canada or that a spouse or relative does.

Jamie Duong, one of two Canadians who launched their challenge of the old law eight years ago, said on Friday that he was pleased Elections Canada had updated its registration forms less than a week after the Supreme Court decision.

“I’m thrilled that I’ll be able to cast my ballot in the upcoming Outremont byelection,” Duong, 35, of Ithaca, N.Y., said on Friday. ”Now that I’ve won back my voting rights, I fully intend to exercise them.”

While the Supreme Court decision enfranchised an estimated one million or more Canadian expats, only a relative handful have so far asked to vote in the byelections. Latest Elections Canada figures indicate fewer than 100 Canadians abroad have registered to vote, with about two-thirds of those doing so in Outremont.

When Bill C-76 is in full force, non-resident voters will only be able to vote in the riding in which they themselves last lived before leaving Canada.

“Once registered at an address in an electoral district, the elector cannot change the address as long as they remain registered on the international register of electors,” said Ghislain Desjardins, a senior adviser with Elections Canada.

In a separate opinion, Supreme Court Justice Malcolm Rowe agreed the five-year limit was unconstitutional even if its impact might have been minimal in terms of actual election results.

“There is almost no evidence of the impact that long-term non-residents would or could have had either locally or nationally if permitted to vote,” Rowe said. “The evidence that exists suggests that the impact would likely be negligible, since a very small number of Canadians living abroad who are currently eligible to vote choose to exercise that right.”

Colin Perkel, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Ashcroft hospital emergency closed sign, 2016. Photo credit: Barbara Roden
Ashcroft Hospital emergency department closed this weekend

Closure due to unexpected limited physician availabiliy, says Interior Health

Residents line up outside the Vernon Recreation Complex for their COVID-19 vaccine Saturday, June 5. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
No appointments necessary for first dose COVID-19 vaccine: Interior Health

People can just show up at clinics, register on the spot and get the shot

Heidi Roy of the Cariboo Jade Shop in Cache Creek with the 3,000 jade boulder, which is now on secure display inside the shop. (Photo credit: Barbara Roden)
Massive jade boulder returns to Cache Creek store six months after daring heist

The 3,000-pound boulder was stolen on Dec. 19, 2020 and found abandoned in the bush a week later

Dr. Albert de Villiers, chief medical health officer for the Interior Health Authority. (Contributed)
Child sex crimes charges against Interior’s top doc won’t impact pandemic response: Dix

Dr. Albert de Villiers is charged with sexual assault and sexual interference

At an outdoor drive-in convocation ceremony, Mount Royal University bestows an honorary Doctor of Laws on Blackfoot Elder and residential school survivor Clarence Wolfleg in Calgary on Tuesday, June 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
‘You didn’t get the best of me’: Residential school survivor gets honorary doctorate

Clarence Wolfleg receives honorary doctorate from Mount Royal University, the highest honour the school gives out

“They will never be forgotten, every child matters,” says Sioux Valley Chief Jennifer Bone in a video statement June 1. (Screen grab)
104 ‘potential graves’ detected at site of former residential school in Manitoba

Sioux Valley Dakota Nation working to identify, repatriate students buried near former Brandon residential school

The Queen Victoria statue at the B.C. legislature was splattered with what looks like red paint on Friday. (Nicole Crescenzi/News Staff)
Queen Victoria statue at B.C. legislature vandalized Friday

Statue splattered with red paint by old growth forest proponents

Police cars are seen parked outside Vancouver Police Department headquarters on Saturday, January 9, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Vancouver police officer charged with assault during an arrest in 2019

The service has released no other details about the allegations

Denmark’s Christian Eriksen receives medical attention after collapsing during the Euro 2020 soccer championship group B match between Denmark and Finland at Parken stadium in Copenhagen, Saturday, June 12, 2021. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner, Pool)
Christian Eriksen in stable condition, Euro 2020 match resumes

Eriksen was given chest compressions after collapsing on the field during a European Championship

Members of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans’ Marine Mammal Response Program rescued an adult humpback what that was entangled in commercial fishing gear in the waters off of Entrance Island on Thursday, June 10. (Photo courtesy Marine Mammal Response Program)
Rescuers free humpback ‘anchored’ down by prawn traps off Vancouver Island

Department of Fisheries and Oceans responders spend hours untangling whale

As stories of the horrors of residential schools circulate after the Tk’emlups te Secwepemc First Nation announced it had located what are believed to be the remains of 215 children, Grand Chief Stewart Phillip of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs said he feels a connection with the former students. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
2 sides of the same coin: Ex-foster kids identify with residential school survivors

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip says the child welfare system takes Indigenous children from their families

Nathan Watts, a member of the Tseshaht First Nation near Port Alberni, shares his story of substance use, a perspective he said isn’t seen enough. (Photo courtesy of Nathan Watts)
Public shaming, hate perpetuates further substance use: UVic researcher

Longtime addict Nathan Watts offers a user’s perspective on substance use

Most Read