Whether a law prohibiting those residing outside of Canada for more than five years from voting is a violation of s. 3 of the Charter and, if so, whether it is a reasonable limit, will be disputed starting today at the Supreme Court of Canada.
The appellants in Gillian Frank, et al. v. Attorney General of Canada were not allowed to vote in the 2011 federal election because they had moved to the United States to work. They successfully sought a declaration that the provisions of the Canada Elections Act, enacted in 1970, violated their Charter right to vote. The majority of Ontario’s Court of Appeal allowed the appeal brought by the attorney general, finding that the provisions in question were saved by s. 1, which subjects reasonable limits to Charter rights.
The court connected the reasonable limit to Canada’s “social contract”, where citizens submit to the law because they vote to influence it. Those outside of Canada, not subject to the laws of Canada, therefore, do not have sufficient stake in the process.