Supreme Court of Canada Vindicates Voting Rights of Expats

– For Immediate Release – New York, NY, January 11, 2019: The Canadian American Bar Association (CABA) is pleased with today’s ruling by the Supreme Court of Canada in Frank v. Canada (Attorney General) protecting expat voting rights.

In a 5-2 ruling, the Court found that the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms protects Canadian expats from being disenfranchised on the basis of their non-residency in Canada.

CABA participated in the appeal as an intervener, and made both written and oral submissions before the Court.

The decision brings to an end a long legal battle to vindicate expats’ voting rights and overturns an Ontario Court of Appeal decision upholding electoral provisions—recently repealed by the Trudeau government—that generally denied the vote to expats after five years of non-residency.

In his majority reasons, the Chief Justice of Canada underscored the role that voting rights based on citizenship, rather than residency, play in defining the Canadian political community in the 21st Century: “… [T]he world has changed. Canadians are both able and encouraged to live abroad, but they maintain close connections with Canada in doing so. The right to vote is no longer tied to the ownership of property and bestowed only on select members of society. And citizenship, not residence, defines our political community and underpins the right to vote.”

In describing the effects that disenfranchisement has on expats, the Court recognized the perspective that CABA and other interveners placed before the Court: “Denial of the right to vote, in and of itself, inflicts harm on affected citizens; proof of additional harm is not required. The disenfranchisement of long-term non-resident citizens not only denies them a fundamental democratic right, but also comes at the expense of their self-worth and their dignity.”

This ruling marks an important milestone in CABA’s mission to promote cross-border professional mobility and understanding. It intends to continue its efforts to further these important objectives, including through public advocacy and carefully selected interventions.

The Supreme Court’s ruling can be accessed here

CABA’s submissions can be access here

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