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All inmates can vote

The Story


"I was thrilled," says Rick Sauvé, reacting to the day's news. The Supreme Court has just ruled that all prison inmates who are Canadian citizens have the right to vote in federal elections. A former inmate himself, Sauvé began his fight for the vote 18 years ago. In this clip, he tells As it Happens how he came to pursue this fight, why the right to vote was so important to him, and why it's beneficial for prisoners and society as a whole. 

Medium: Radio
Program: As It Happens
Broadcast Date: Oct. 31, 2002
Guest(s): Rick Sauvé
Host: Mary Lou Finlay
Duration: 5:18

Did You know?


• In 1993, Parliament removed the legal voting disqualification of all prisoners serving less than two years, but all those serving more than two years were still disqualified from voting in federal elections.
• Sauvé remained determined to get the right extended to all prisoners of Canadian citizenship, regardless of sentence length, and continued to fight the decision. In 2002, the Supreme Court ruled five to four that denying the federal vote to prisoners serving more than two years violated the Charter.

• Rick Sauvé had been a member of Satan's Choice motorcycle gang and was incarcerated for first-degree murder when he began his fight for the vote. By the time the 2002 decision was rendered, he had already been released from prison and was working as an in-reach worker with LifeLine -- a service staffed by ex-prisoners who had been successfully reintegrated into society. Part of his job was to visit prison inmates and teach them how to become responsible citizens when they eventually leave prison.

• The 2004 federal election marked the first time all inmates were eligible to vote federally. According to Elections Canada, 9,250 of a total of 36,378 eligible prisoners cast ballots in this election.
• The right to vote for Canadian prison inmates remains a controversial topic. In the 2004 federal election, one of the Conservative Party's campaign promises was to strip federal prisoners of their voting rights once again.

• Countries around the world have widely varying policies on prisoner voting rights. In Italy, the right is dependant on the crime committed and the sentence length. In France and Germany, the right can only be removed from a prisoner by court order. In Japan, prisoners have full voting rights.

• In the United States, prisoner voting rights are extremely restricted. Although three states do allow prisoners to vote (Maine, Massachusetts and Vermont), there are 10 states that completely bar anyone with a criminal record from voting for life: Alabama, Delaware, Florida, Iowa, Kentucky, Mississippi, Nevada, New Mexico, Virginia and Wyoming.
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