Last updated on September 13, 2018
As every corner of North America gears up for high-level elections, many Canadians are still left wondering if they have the right to cast ballots in their upcoming elections. The answer is yes.
With millions of Canadians living abroad, this opens up millions of additional reasons politicians need to point their campaigns overseas and, according to statistics, aim many of those campaigns toward Mexico.
According to the government of Canada, “Mexico is the second-most important tourist destination for Canadians, with 1.6 million visits in 2012. A significant number of Canadians, particularly a growing proportion of retirees, have purchased property in Mexico and spend extended periods there.”
Statistics from the July 2014 census, conducted by the Instituto Nacional de Estadistica y Geografia (INEGI) for Mexico, counted a country population of just over 120 million, 9 percent of which are residing expats. There are more than 100,000 expats, mostly American and Canadian, living along Mexico’s Riviera Maya.
This vast and continually growing number of expats is the reason the Supreme Court of Canada upheld the original ruling, allowing Canadian expats who’ve resided outside the country for five or more consecutive years, to be eligible to cast ballots.
This means Canadians who are registered with the International Registrar of Electors can vote in any by-elections, referendums and the all-important upcoming Federal elections in October 2015.
Prior to May 2014, Canadians who lived abroad for more than five consecutive years without intentions on returning to Canada were stripped of their voting rights. This stemmed from a 1993 enactment amid debate about the domestic political knowledge of expat Canadians and their ties to Canada.
Canadians adamant about living abroad and still being able to maintain their voting rights were able to reset the five-year clock by returning to Canada for short visits until 2007, when Elections Canada began enforcing new requirements that expats “resume residency” in Canada to regain their voting rights.
Ontario Superior Court Justice, Michael Penny, noted that while mass murders have the right to vote expats “who care deeply about Canada” did not. He found that part of the Canada Elections Act, which barred expats from voting, was unconstitutional.
“The [government] essentially argues that allowing non-residents to vote is unfair to resident Canadians because resident Canadians live here and are, on a day-to-day basis, subject to Canada’s laws and live with the consequences of Parliament’s decisions,” Penny wrote.
“I do not find this argument persuasive,” ruling that expats may be subjected to Canadian laws and taxes. It’s estimated that expat Canadians pay $6 billion in income taxes to the Canadian treasury despite using fewer resources than their in-country counterparts. Penny found that the Canadian government made the decision that some of its citizens were “not worthy” to vote despite their constitutional right to do so.
The government requested that Penny put his final decision on hold for 12 months, but had that request rejected.
In his final ruling, Penny wrote, “This is not the lawmakers’ decision to make — the Charter makes this decision for us” and that citizenship, not residency, is a fundamental requirement for voting.
Canadians living or traveling abroad wanting to register to vote in the upcoming 2015 federal elections can do so by completing the application for registration by special ballot.