By Andy Radia (external - login to view) | Canada Politics (external - login to view) – 15 hours ago
Whether it's for work or for love, moving to another country is often a coveted adventure for many Canadians.
In fact, according to Statistics Canada, approximately 2.9 million Canadians currently live abroad.
Are those individuals any less 'Canadian' than the rest of us? Should expatriates be allowed to vote in Canadian elections?
It's a question that has come up this month for a couple of reasons.
On Friday, the New Democrats introduced a private members bill which would strike down Section 11(d) of the Canada Elections Act, which states that Canadian citizens that have lived outside of Canada for more than five years cannot vote in general elections.
The law was actually passed in 1993 but wasn't strictly enforced until 2007.
"It is patently undemocratic to restrict someone’s ability to participate in our democracy because they are engaging in the myriad of opportunities available globally," New Democrat MP Megan Leslie said in a press release (external - login to view).
"Canadians living outside the country still have a vested interest in the decisions of government, taxation, our economy, our justice system and rights.
"Canadians living abroad are a significant asset to Canada, domestically and internationally. These folks may not hold citizenship somewhere else and yet they are being totally and unreasonably disenfranchised."
In their press release, the New Democrats note that five year residency rule "does not apply to members of the Canadian Armed Forces, RCMP personnel or diplomats."
The issue is also being taken up in the courts.
According to the Toronto Star, last week an Ontario judge heard a challenge from two individuals who were banned from voting in 2011 because of the rule.
The duo's lawyer (external - login to view) argues that, under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Canadian citizens who are 18 years and older have the right to vote. But the Canadian government sees things differently.
"The federal government has argued the current law helps strike a balance between the democratic rights of Canadians while ensuring sufficient ties exist between a citizen and Canada," notes the Star report.
Other countries, including the United States, don't have these types of restrictions.
In fact, according to a website titled 'Let Canadians Vote, (external - login to view)' a lot of other countries are more proactive in engaging their expats.
"There are countries with emigrant populations much larger than Canada's that allow overseas citizens to vote without restrictions, such as Italy, Poland, and Mexico. So do Belgium, the Netherlands, Iceland, Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Switzerland, Portugal, Estonia, Japan, and New Zealand," notes the website.
"France, Estonia, and the Netherlands have gone so far as to set up voting over the Internet, to make it as easy as possible."
So what do you think? If a Canadian citizen has been working or living abroad for more than five years, should they be allowed to vote?
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I don't see why not. Odds are that many of them are still filing a Canadian tax return which is more than can be said for inmates, who do have the right to vote. Thoughts?