January 14, 2019
Partner Andrew Bernstein provided his thoughts to Canadian Lawyer on an SCC decision which upheld long-term expats voting rights, saying the Supreme Court “did a good job of explaining why” it wasn’t the appropriate case to draw a line in the sand.
The case was brought forward by two Canadians who have lived in the United States for five or more consecutive years. The January 11 decision gives people in the same situation back the right to vote in Canadian federal elections and provides constitutional protection for changes in Bill C-76.
“I think in principle, Parliament should be able to—for the right set of reasons—limit a non-resident’s right to vote. But I also think the Supreme Court did a good job of explaining why this case wasn’t the right case,” Andrew said.
“[The dissenting judges] Justices Côté and Brown were willing to give Parliament the benefit of the doubt. They sort of said, you have to draw the line somewhere, what’s wrong with here?
“I think it’s a philosophical difference in some ways—Justices Côté and Brown have shown themselves to be more deferential to Parliament.
“Whereas, the majority says, ‘Hold on, it’s not even clear that you have to draw the line somewhere, but there’s no reason to think the way they’ve drawn the line here is particularly sensible.”
For more of our team’s opinions and commentary on recent appeals, check out the relevant practice page.