About the Issue
The right to vote allows us to have an important say in how we are governed as a country. The right has been described by Canada’s Chief Justice as lying at the heart of our democracy. Historically, the right to vote was restricted to privileged men, but under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms all Canadian citizens have the basic right to vote in federal and provincial elections. Attempts by the government to limit the right to vote undermine our participatory democratic system and the legitimacy of our government.
Why This Matters
Our governments, at all levels, act on behalf of the people. They are elected to serve us and to represent our interests in making the decisions about what laws will be passed and what policies should govern. If Canadians aren’t informed about the electoral process, don’t have access to a vote, or are denied the opportunity to exercise their voting rights, the government’s power loses all legitimacy.
While voting is only one part of participating in a democratic system, it is a crucial one that has and continues to come under attack. CCLA has been vocal on proposed changes to Canada’s electoral system that threaten to disenfranchise citizens and limit the information that voters have access to in making important political choices. We have also argued for extending the right to vote to some individuals who have traditionally been without meaningful political power, in order to ensure that our democracy is truly a representative one.
CCLA’s public education work helps to shape and inform citizens and future voters. CCLA’s work in classrooms encourages students to think critically about the key issues of the day and come to their own conclusions about laws and policies. CCLA has appeared before a Parliamentary committee to raise our concerns about changes to the Canada Elections Act, in particular the proposal to remove vouching as an option for individuals voting without the usual personal identification.
CCLA recently intervened before the Ontario Court of Appeal in a case that challenges one aspect of our federal electoral system. In Frank v. Canada, two Canadian citizens who reside in the United States have challenged the provisions of the Canada Elections Act that deny them the right to vote. The current law says that citizens who have resided outside of Canada for more than five years are not eligible to vote. CCLA has intervened to argue that the value of equality underlies the right to vote and is inextricably linked to it. The limitation placed on non-resident citizens undermines the equality value and is not a reasonable restriction on the right to vote, which is guaranteed to all citizens. CCLA has also argued that the government should be held to a strict standard when placing limits on who ultimately has a say come election time.