The Honourable Mr. Justice Michael Penny has ruled that section 222(1)(b) of the Canada Elections Act, which restricts Canadians’ right to vote if they have been outside of Canada for five (5) or more consecutive years, is unconstitutional. This could result in more than one million Canadian expatriates having newly-restored eligibility to vote in the 42nd general election (currently scheduled for October 2015).

Her Majesty’s Government had requested that Justice Penny suspend this decision for one year — a request which was denied by the Ontario Superior Court justice. The challenge to section 222(1)(b) was brought by two Canadian citizens living in the United States of America. Justice Penny was not persuaded by the Government’s argument that long-term expatriates do not have a vested interest in the results of Canadian elections.

The Honourable Pierre Poilievre P.C., M.P. (Nepean—Carleton), the Minister of State for Democratic Reform, indicated that the Government needs to spend some time reviewing the decision of the Ontario Superior Court before determining whether to appeal the court’s decision to the Ontario Court of Appeal.

Quick Facts
  • Expatriates pay about $6 billion per year in Canadian taxes
  • There are as many as 1.4 million long-term expatriates (non-resident for more than 5 years)
  • Long-term expatriates were disenfranchised in 1993

Source: Voting rights restored to Canadians living abroad long-term
Source: Section 222(1)(b), Canada Elections Act (external - login to view)