Canadians that live in outside of Canada, regardless of the length of time, can now vote in federal elections. Previously, if they lived outside of the country for more than five years they were barred from exercising their right to vote.
The Supreme Court of Canada has ruled that expats have the right to vote in federal elections no matter how long they have lived outside the country.
In a 5-2 decision, a majority of justices said the infringement to charter rights is not justified.
Writing for the majority, chief justice Richard Wagner said voting is a “fundamental political right, and the right to vote is a core tenet of our democracy.”
The Federal Liberal government passed new legislation last month that reinstated voting rights to all Canadians residing outside of the country but Friday’s ruling could have the effect of preventing future governments from enacting legislation to limit voting rights for citizens living abroad.
The judgment highlighted the global nature of modern society, and says that denying voting rights to non-resident citizens simply because they have crossed an “arbitrary” five-year threshold “does not stand scrutiny.”
Expat advocates argued before the Supreme Court that the right to vote is guaranteed under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, is central to Canadian democracy and is a defining characteristic of Canadian citizenship. Denying them a vote was akin to treating them as second-class citizens, they argued.
There are approximately 2.8 million Canadians that live abroad. The Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs estimates about 125,000 Canadians live in Mexico and other Latin American countries.