The right to vote allows us to have an important say in how we are governed as a country. This right is the heart of our democracy. Under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms all Canadian citizens have the basic right to vote in federal, provincial and municipal elections.
Attempts by the government to limit the right to vote undermine our participatory democratic system and the legitimacy of our government.
Gillian Frank and Jamie Duong are Canadian citizens that lived and worked in New York for most of their adult lives. They planned to return to Canada if they found reliable and suitable job opportunities. However, in the last federal election they were not able to vote because they had lived outside Canada for more than five years.
We argued, and the court agreed, that Parliament cannot take away the voting rights of Canadian citizens – even long-term non-residents. CCLA intervened in this important case to argue that the legislation in this case create a regime under which an entire class of approximately 1.4 million Canadians is treated differently and unfairly based on a personal characteristic — place of residence.
The prohibition on voting deprives non-resident Canadians of their personal autonomy and self-determination, and creates a category of “second class” citizens.
A difference in place of residence simply cannot justify depriving individuals of their right to be full and equal Canadian citizens. 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.
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