Quebec's voter eligibility rules are prompting an outcry from some English-speaking university students, who say they’ve been unfairly denied the right to vote in the provincial election.

The debate over who can and can’t vote in Quebec stems from different interpretations of the domicile rule, which requires all electors to have been domiciled in Quebec for six months.

Stéphane Beaulac, a professor in the faculty of law at the Université de Montréal, explains the domicile rule is based on intention.

“The difference between residing somewhere and being domicile somewhere is that to be domicile, you need to be a resident, but have the intention of making it the centre of your life, of where you live.”

Beaulac said that a person can have more than one residence, but only one domicile. He said it’s up to Quebec revision officers to make that distinction.

He said revision officers traditionally require one of three main pieces of evidence to prove intent to stay: a health card, a driver’s licence or an income tax return.

“If you elect Quebec as the place where you pay provincial taxes that’s a pretty big clue that you have the intention to stay here,” Beaulac said.

But Beaulac said how those rules are applied is a different thing. He said some applicants may have a more challenging time than others, depending on how lenient the revision officers are. 

In one case, a McGill student originally from Ottawa said she was told she wasn’t eligible to vote, despite living in Montreal for four years and paying income taxes as well as property taxes.

In another case, a McGill PhD student said he was turned away even though he has lived in Montreal since 2008.

Rules differ across Canada

The majority of provinces require voters to have lived there for six or more months before the election date, but only five provinces, including Quebec, require voters to prove "domicile" or "ordinary" residence. 

Beaulac said Quebec's domicile rule is nothing new. 

The rule was first codified in 1994, when Quebec's new civil code was enacted. But Beaulac says the requirement was an existing notion long before then. 

Province Requirements to vote
Yukon

Canadian citizen, at least 18 years old, lived in the Yukon for 12 months.

Northwest Territories

Canadian citizen, at least 18 years old, ordinary resident in N.W.T. for 12 months prior to polling day.

Nunavut

Canadian citizen, at least 18 years old, Nunavut resident for at least one year on election day.

British Columbia

Canadian citizen, at least 18 years old, lived in B.C. for six months before voting day.

Alberta

Canadian citizen, at least 18 years old, ordinarily resident in Alberta for six months prior to polling day.

Saskatchewan

Canadian citizen, at least 18 years old, ordinarily resided in Saskatchewan for six months immediately preceding election, in the constituency in which you seek to vote. 

Or a British subject who was qualified as a voter on June 23, 1971, and has ordinarily resided in Saskatchewan for six months immediately preceding election, in the constituency in which you seek to vote.

Manitoba Canadian citizen, at least 18 years old, resided in Manitoba six months immediately prior to election day.
Ontario Canadian citizen, at least 18 years old, resides in Ontario.
Quebec Canadian citizen, at least 18 years old, be domiciled in Quebec for six months.
New Brunswick Canadian citizen, at least 18 years old, students need to have made New Brunswick their ordinary residence, and have been in the province for a minimum of 40 days preceding the day of the election.
Nova Scotia Canadian citizen, 18 years+, lived in Nova Scotia for a minimum of six months before the day the election is called.
Prince Edward Island Canadian citizen, at least 18 years old, resident in P.E.I. for six months immediately preceding the day of the writ.
Newfoundland & Labrador

Canadian citizen, at least 18 years old, resident of Newfoundland or Labrador the day before polling day.