Donald Sutherland blasts ruling on long-term expats' right to vote

Veteran actor Donald Sutherland has joined a group of long-term expats critical of the residency limits of Canada's voting laws, amid a recent decision that affects those who have lived abroad for more than five years.

Octogenarian Emmy- and Genie-winner outlines Canadian credentials in Globe and Mail op-ed article

Despite his lengthy career in Hollywood, Donald Sutherland, 80, still has just one passport, he notes: his Canadian one. (Jordan Strauss/Associated Press)

Veteran actor Donald Sutherland has joined a group of long-term expats critical of the residency limits set by Canada's voting laws.

Last week, the Ontario Court of Appeal overturned a ruling that had restored the right to vote of more than one million Canadians living abroad. The decision affects Canadians who have lived elsewhere for more than five years.

"My name is Donald Sutherland. My wife's name is Francine Racette. We are Canadians. We each hold one passport. A Canadian passport. That's it," the Emmy- and Genie-award-winning performer writes in an opinion piece published Tuesday in the Globe and Mail newspaper.

"They ask me at the border why I don't take American citizenship. I could still be Canadian, they say. You could have dual citizenship. But I say no, I'm not dual anything. I'm Canadian. There's a maple leaf in my underwear somewhere."

The 80-year-old, Saint John-born Sutherland continues by outlining his Canuck credentials, from the fact that he spends as much time living in Canada as he can and that his "family house" is in Canada to some of accolades he's received, such as the Order of Canada, the Governor General's Performing Arts Award and a star on Canada's Walk of Fame.

"Americans who live abroad can vote. They can vote because they're citizens," writes the still-busy actor whose recent roles include The Hunger Games franchise, TV's Crossing Lines , The Pillars of the Earth and animated production Pirate's Passage.

"But I can't. Because why? Because I'm not a citizen? Because what happens to Canada doesn't matter to me? Ask any journalist that's ever interviewed me what nationality I proudly proclaim to have. Ask them. They'll tell you. I am a Canadian. But I'm an expatriate and the Harper government won't let expatriates participate in Canadian elections."

Two Canadians living in the U.S. launched the initial constitutional challenge, which argued that the five-year rule was unreasonable. In May, a Superior Court justice threw out the voting ban.

However, the Appeal Court overturned that decision last week.

"Permitting all non-resident citizens to vote would allow them to participate in making laws that affect Canadian residents on a daily basis but have little to no practical consequence for their own daily lives," Justice George Strathy wrote for the majority court.

"This would erode the social contract and undermine the legitimacy of the laws."

The legislation in question applies to more than one million Canadian expatriates. However, according to records, only approximately 6,000 expats voted in the 2011 election.

With files from The Canadian Press


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