North

Yellowknife loses N.W.T. electoral boundaries lawsuit

The City of Yellowknife has lost its lawsuit to have the Northwest Territories' electoral boundaries declared unconstitutional.

City argued re-jigged electoral boundaries leaves it under-represented

The City of Yellowknife has lost its lawsuit to have the Northwest Territories' electoral boundaries declared unconstitutional. (Chantal Dubuc/CBC)

The City of Yellowknife has lost its lawsuit to have the Northwest Territories' electoral boundaries declared unconstitutional.

The NWT Supreme Court found that while new electoral boundaries set in May may not provide perfectly even representation in the legislature, the representation is within the bounds allowed in Canada.

The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees equal representation, but Canadian jurisdictions have established that populations of ridings can vary by up to 25 per cent, and sometimes even more where "exceptional circumstances" warrant.

The federal riding of Northwest Territories is one of those exceptional circumstances. Though the territory has only 45,000 people and most federal ridings have more than double that, the N.W.T. still gets a seat in the House of Commons.

The City of Yellowknife had argued that it was unfair for it to be allotted only seven of 19 seats in the territory's legislative assembly when it accounts for almost half the territory's population.

The written ruling says all of the Yellowknife electoral distrcits are within the 25 per cent threshold, though the figures given in the ruling do not match those in the electoral boundaries commission report for the option chosen by the legislative assembly. In the report, one district, Yellowknife South, has 28 per cent more people than the territorial mean under the new boundaries.

But the judge also said that fair representation sometimes means taking into account considerations other than voter parity, such as geography and community interests. The judge said that's particularly true in the Northwest Territories

The judge also noted the court must exercise restraint when dealing with boundaries set by duly-elected governments.

The N.W.T. election, using the boundaries set in May, will take place Nov. 23.

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