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Council of Canadians, CFS to challenge Fair Elections Act in court

Steven ShrybmanPostmedia News reports, “The Council of Canadians and the Canadian Federation of Students announced Thursday they will challenge the Harper government’s new election bill, hours before Gov. Gen. David Johnston was to grant royal assent, making it law. The council and federation will go to Superior Court of Ontario to challenge the law on the grounds that it violates section 3 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which guarantees the ‘right to vote in an election of the members of the House of Commons or of a legislative assembly and to be qualified for membership therein.'”

“The two groups intend to challenge voter-ID provisions that critics say will make it harder for students, aboriginals and seniors to vote, and changes that limit the mandate of the chief electoral officer to promote voting. …Lawyer Steven Shrybman intends to file applications seeking ‘to declare as unconstitutional certain provisions of the Fair Elections Act for infringing on the right of certain Canadians to vote’, he said Thursday.”

“He will ask a judge to stop the government from stripping powers from Marc Mayrand, the chief electoral officer. ‘What we’re primarily concerned about is the fact that the government has taken power away from the chief electoral officer, which we think is necessary in a democratic society in order to not only facilitate but encourage Canadians to exercise their democratic rights by voting’, he said.”

“One particularly contentious section of the bill restricts the ability of Mayrand to promote voting, particularly to groups of voters ‘most likely to experience difficulties in exercising their democratic rights’. …’There’s a fundamental problem in a democratic society when only 60 per cent of the people vote, or in the case of students, when it’s less than 40 per cent’, he said. ‘That’s a problem and in our view the chief electoral officer should have the authority to address it.'”

“Shrybman hopes to have a judicial order nullifying sections of the act before the next election.”

The full article is at Council of Canadians, students to challenge Fair Elections Act in court.

Photo: Steven Shrybman

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