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

Country star Gord Bamford and The Reklaws perform free Games concert Friday

Show starts at 6:30 p.m. in heated dome off Celebration Plaza in downtown Red Deer

U.S. franchisee files suit against Tim Hortons, alleging price gouging

Weeks after achieving a breakthrough in two class-action lawsuits with restive Canadian… Continue reading

Japanese spacecraft to attempt landing on distant asteroid

TOKYO — A Japanese spacecraft began its approach Thursday toward a distant… Continue reading

Baby boom for endangered right whales offer researchers a glimmer of hope

After years of increasingly bad news, there’s a glimmer of hope for… Continue reading

Proposed edible pot rules are wasteful, would leave products tasteless: critics

VANCOUVER — Canada’s proposed edible pot regulations would result in tasteless products… Continue reading

Gaudreau snaps goal drought to help Flames double up Islanders 4-2

CALGARY — The drought is over for Johnny Gaudreau. Gaudreau’s first goal… Continue reading

Federal government set to develop code of conduct for sport in Canada

OTTAWA — The federal government is developing a code of conduct for… Continue reading

Jay Baruchel has trained the dragon, now he’s letting go with ‘The Hidden World’

TORONTO — The first time actor Jay Baruchel stepped into a recording… Continue reading

Hockey ref says AC/DC support is giving him motivation in Alzheimer’s fundraiser

Enthusiastic AC/DC fan Steve McNeil says he’s feeling inspired to push even… Continue reading

Gardening: What are you planting in 2019?

What’s new in plants for 2019? Checking catalogues, greenhouses and stores will… Continue reading

Opinion: I spy another energy hypocrite

Talk about biting the hand that feeds you. The mittens provided to… Continue reading

Canada’s bobsleigh team races World Cup on Calgary home track facing closure

CALGARY — Canada’s skeleton and bobsled teams will race a World Cup… Continue reading

Italy becomes ninth international football league to join forces with CFL

TORONTO — Add Italy to the growing list of international football federations… Continue reading

Most Read