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Jan 11, 2019

Supreme Court of Canada Restores Voting Rights to Canadians Overseas

In Frank v. Canada (Attorney General), the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that certain provisions of the Canada Elections Act unconstitutionally denied Canadian citizens who have lived abroad for five or more years the right to vote. The Attorney General conceded that limiting overseas voters' rights in this way violated s. 3 of the Charter, and the Court held that the violation could not be saved under s. 1.

The Court found that the distinction between voters who had lived abroad for less than five years (and were therefore eligible to vote) and voters who had lived abroad for five or move years (and were not eligible) was an arbitrary and impermissible distinction. Chief Justice Wagner wrote, "the measure improperly applies to many individuals with deep and abiding connections to Canada and to Canadian laws, and that it does so in a manner that is far broader than necessary to achieve the electoral fairness objective advanced by the [Attorney General of Canada]. The disenfranchisement of these citizens not only denies them a fundamental democratic right, but also comes at the expense of their sense of self-worth and their dignity. These deleterious effects far outweigh any speculative benefits that the measure might bring about."

Cavalluzzo, led by former partner Shaun O'Brien and partner Amanda Darrach, represented the appellants, Gillian Frank and Jamie Duong, at the Supreme Court. We commend their persistence and dedication to this important battle for voting rights.

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Election Law  |  Charter/Constitutional Law