Council of Canadians to challenge Fair Elections Act in court, July 2-3

Steven ShrybmanThe Council of Canadians, the Canadian Federation of Students and three voters will be in Ontario Superior Court this July 2-3 seeking an injunction to suspend key provisions of the Harper government's C-23, the so-called Fair Elections Act, for the upcoming federal election expected this October.

The Canadian Press has reported, "The new rules [in C-23] forbid voters from using the Elections Canada voter information card mailed to their home as proof of residency -- although some 400,000 voters used the cards for this purpose in the 2011 federal election. The law also now sets up a more restrictive process for attesting to the identity of voters who don't have proper identification -- a process known as vouching, which allowed 120,000 additional voters to cast a ballot in 2011."

Our legal challenge will target central provisions of the Act, notably the prohibition on the use of a Voter Information Card to prove residency. We will argue these ‘reforms’ infringe the constitutional right to vote guaranteed under Section 3 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and would be impossible for the government to justify as a reasonable limit on that fundamental democratic right. As noted in our motion, an injunction would make it possible "for tens of thousands of qualified voters, who will not be able to vote if the Impugned Provisions remain in effect, to obtain a ballot and to vote."

Our lawyer Steven Shrybman highlights, "The very legitimacy of the government is at issue if these rules stand. Remember that a few hundred votes, even a few dozen votes, can determine the outcome of an election in any riding,"

If the injunction is granted, key provisions of the legislation would not be in effect in the upcoming election pending a full hearing by the court on the merits of the case. The Chief Electoral Office has already given evidence that if the injunction is granted he will allow Voter Information Cards to be used by all 23 million electors this coming election.

For more on this, please see our Fair Elections Act backgrounder.

Photo: Steven Shrybman