OTTAWA – The Council of Canadians, the Canadian Federation of Students and three individual electors will file a Charter challenge to the Fair Elections Act (Bill C-23) in the Ontario Superior Court today.
Recent changes to Canada’s election laws will interfere with the rights of Canadians to vote in federal elections and remove access to reliable information about the electoral process and investigations. Bill C-23 removed multiple measures for electors to prove their identity, stripped the Chief Electoral Officer of independence and powers of communication and investigation, and made the Office of the Commissioner of Canada Elections accountable to partisan interests instead of the Canadian public.
Public interest lawyer Steven Shrybman from the firm Sack Goldblatt Mitchell LLP will argue that the amendments infringe on Canadians’ right to vote and equality rights as guaranteed by Sections 3 and 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
“The measures being challenged are profoundly anti-democratic,” said Garry Neil, Executive Director of the Council of Canadians. “The Federal Court has found there was a ‘deliberate attempt at voter suppression during the 2011 election [...] targeted towards voters who had previously expressed a preference for an opposition party.’ Now, the government has legislated rules that will make it impossible for certain citizens to exercise their right to vote and next to impossible for citizens to challenge election results that may have been fraudulently obtained.”
Elections Canada statistics show voter turnout has declined to a 60 per cent turnout rate in federal elections with only a 38 per cent turnout rate for youth. The Fair Elections Act’s restrictions on the right to vote will particularly affect youth, members of First Nations living on reserves, seniors, and people with low incomes.
“Canadian youth and students are already disengaging from democratic processes they often regard as inaccessible and unaccountable,” says Jessica McCormick, National Chairperson of the Canadian Federation of Students. “This Act constructs additional barriers between young Canadians and their right to vote.”
The challenge will hold the Fair Elections Act to the standards enshrined in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, protecting rights and values that lay at the heart of our democracy.
Click here for a summary of the Constitutional Challenge to Bill 23.
Sujata Dey, Council of Canadians 613-796-7724, email@example.com
Sarah McCue, Canadian Federation of Students, 613-232-7394, firstname.lastname@example.org