Laws that prevent Canadian expats from voting after they have lived overseas for over five years could be declared unconstitutional after a legal challenge was raised with the federal government last Tuesday.
The challenge, which was instigated by two Canadian expats who live in the United States, argues that the inclusion of the five-year law in the Canadian Elections Act is not reasonable. Discussing the limitations that have been placed on him and his subsequent decision to take action, Gillian Frank, 33, who lives in Brooklyn, N.Y, explained: “I was very surprised to learn that I have no voting rights, that I have no capacity to interact with my government formally, that there’s no one representing me. My sense of being disenfranchised and the fundamental unfairness of it all motivated me (to file the suit).” He added that his residency in America is determined by job opportunities and that he would be happy to return to Canada if suitable work positions were available for him.
Discussing his right to vote Frank, who served in the Canadian military and was a Governor-General’s Award winner, commented: “I have a stake in the kind of country I want Canada to be.”
According to law makers, the law that restricts voting rights of Canadian expatriates who leave the country for more than five years was initially enacted in 1993 in response to concerns that Canadians who leave the country for long periods of time are not sufficient informed about the reality of life in the country and the domestic political situation in order to make fair judgments. However, it wasn’t until 2007 that the law was more strongly enforced. Furthermore, while the five-year period was initially reset when expatriates returned for brief visits to Canada, more recent laws dictate that only expatriates who return to Canada and take residency in the country once more will be permitted to vote.
The second challenger, Jamie Duong who is 28 and lives in Ithaca, N.Y. disclosed that he was “shocked” to learn that he was not permitted to vote in last year’s elections and felt disappointed that he was denied such a privilege, despite the fact that he regularly keeps abreast of the Canadian news and domestic political situation. “No matter where I live, I will always see myself as a citizen of Canada,” he told the Huffington Post.
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