Thursday July 30, 2015

Donald Sutherland calls on expats to fight for voting rights

Actor Donald Sutherland objects to a new ruling preventing expats from voting he says it violates his rights as a Canadian citizen.

Actor Donald Sutherland objects to a new ruling preventing expats from voting he says it violates his rights as a Canadian citizen. (REUTERS/Luke MacGregor )

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"My name is Donald Sutherland. My wife's name is Francine Racette. We are Canadians. We each hold one passport. A Canadian passport."  - Excerpt from opinion piece in Tuesday's Globe & Mail

He may be a proud Canadian citizen, but Donald Sutherland won't be able to cast a vote in the upcoming federal election. The campaign could be on its way as early as this Sunday. This week, he published a newspaper essay headlined "I'm Canadian -- and I should have a right to vote." 

Jamie Duong Expat vote

Expat Jamie Duong from Montreal, joined Gillian Frank to challenge the Canada Elections Act, arguing the five-year rule was arbitrary and unreasonable. (Diana Mehta/CP)

It's a right that Mr. Sutherland lost last week as with any other Canadian who's lived abroad for more than five years -And that's despite the actor's spot on the Canadian Walk of Fame, or being an officer of the Order of Canada, or even the fact that he's never taken dual American citizenship. 

The Ontario Court of Appeal's decision was actually a re-instatement of that so-called "Five years rule," which had been overturned last year. But to Mr. Sutherland, and others, it hardly seems fair.

Gillian Frank is one of the Canadians who brought this situation to light and started the court battle to change the law. He joined us from Princeton, New Jersey.

Last week's decision by the Ontario Appeals Court has upset expats and begun a debate on what it means to be a Canadian.  To help explain how the latest ruling was made and if it can withstand a constitutional challenge, we were joined by Bruce Ryder. He is a professor at Osgoode Hall Law School, specializing in constitutional law and was in our Toronto studio.

Not everyone agrees with the challenges to the law or that voting is a right that should go beyond our borders. Kelly McParland is an editor and columnist for the National Post.  Yesterday he wrote in a column that "Donald Sutherland is from Canada the same way Mike Duffy is from PEI."  

No one from the federal government was available to speak to us this morning. But we did get a statement from Pierre Poilievre, the Minister for Democratic Reform. It says that,

"Our Government continues to believe that non-residents should have a direct and meaningful connection to Canada and to their ridings in order to vote in federal elections.‎"

Are you an expat wanting to vote in the next election? Or do you feel this is not a right worth fighting for now that you are no longer living in Canada? Share your thoughts with us. 

Tweet us @TheCurrentCBC. Post on Facebook. Or send us an email. 

This segment is produced by The Current's Amil Niazi, Shannon Higgins, Ines Colabrese and Nicole Abi-Najem.