New Brunswick

Expat New Brunswickers upset they can't vote in election

Two New Brunswick women now living in England say they're disappointed they can't vote in the upcoming federal election.

Canadians living overseas can't vote if they have been outside for more than 5 years

Two New Brunswick women now living in England say they're disappointed they can't vote in the upcoming federal election.

A ruling by the Ontario Court of Appeal in July upheld federal voting restrictions that deny Canadians the right to vote if they have lived outside the country for more than five years.

It's estimated there are more than a million people affected by the ruling.

There are some exceptions, for military personnel and spouses, and government employees, but most people without property or residency in Canada have lost their voting rights until they return to the country.

People who have committed high treason can vote, prisoners can vote, and I can't, and I find that incredibly frustrating.- Anne Pelkola

The Conservative government has been active in tightening the voting rights of expats. Last year, they introduced the Citizen Voting Act, to enforce the five-year rule.

Jessica Couper is one of the ex-pats who has been informed by Elections Canada they can no longer vote. Couper, from Carleton County, moved to England almost five years ago to work as a teacher.

Couper says she has always been politically active and informed and has voted in every election up until now. She says she's incredibly hurt by the ruling.

"I plan on moving back to Canada some day," Couper said.

"I never, ever considered leaving Canada for good, I still consider it my home, and I still consider myself a Canadian living in Britain, I don't consider myself assimilated or becoming a British citizen."

Couper has a blog called From the County to the Kingdom, and she's written a piece on losing her voting rights in a post titled, "Dear Stephen Harper."

She's received lots of comments, many positive, but there are some negative and personal attacks as well.

She's especially annoyed at the suggestion that she "ditched" the country.

"It made it seem as if I didn't care at all, and that I couldn't wait to make my escape and that wasn't the case," she said.

She said she applied for jobs in northern and western Canada after she graduated from university with her education degree.

Couper said the only jobs that seemed to be available to her were in small communities that were very isolated and just as far away from her home in New Brunswick as England.

'I feel like I've been kicked out'

Anne Pelkola has been in England for almost 15 years. She's originally from Bathurst but now lives in Shropshire, near the Welsh border.

She's never missed voting in a federal election, despite having to fill out "tons of paperwork" to do it. She describes herself as feeling disenfranchised by the ruling.

"I feel like I've been kicked out," says Pelkola.

"I feel like, never mind a second-class citizen, I feel like a third-class citizen and I don't think I'm alone in that feeling."

Pelkola said she finds the federal government push and the court's agreement, to take away her vote mind-boggling.

She said the Charter of Rights says that every citizen of Canada has the right to vote in an election of members of the House of Commons.

"Well, I'm a citizen of Canada, I might not reside there, but I'm a Canadian citizen, my passport is Canadian, and it always will be, I would never give it up," she said.

"People who have committed high treason can vote, prisoners can vote, and I can't, and I find that incredibly frustrating."

The expat Canadians living in the United States, who launched the legal challenge against the voting restrictions are keen to continue the fight.

The Ontario Court's ruling can be appealed to the Supreme Court of Canada, although there's no way it could be heard in time to allow them to vote in the fall election.


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