Toronto

Toronto-born woman living in U.S. 'ecstatic' about voting in Canadian election for first time

So far more than 31,700 Canadians living abroad have registered to vote in next month’s federal election, including some expats who get to mark their first ballot in decades.

More than 31,700 expats registered to vote as of Sept. 22, Elections Canada says

Christine Mossman Gallagher voted for the first time in her life this week when she mailed back her ballot for next month's federal election. (Submitted by Christine Mossman Gallagher)

More than 31,700 Canadians living abroad have registered to vote so far in next month's federal election, including some expats who get to mark their first ballot in decades.

Last December, the Liberal government passed legislation that guaranteed voting rights to all Canadians residing outside the country, and a month later the Supreme Court of Canada affirmed the Charter right to vote for expats.

For Christine Mossman Gallagher, 44, the change meant voting for the first time ever. She dropped off her ballot at her local post office in Dallas, Ga. on Monday. 

"I teared up a little bit," said Mossman Gallagher. "It was just such a feeling of empowerment, 'Like hey, even though it's only one vote, I still got to vote.'"

The school librarian was born in Toronto, grew up in Whitby, Ont. and then moved down to the U.S. in 1995 after high school because her father got a job in Georgia. More than two decades later, Mossman Gallagher's still there, but considers Canada home.

For her, the right to vote is a chance to help her parents who moved back to Ontario, and settled in Muskoka, after her father was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.

Christine Mossman Gallagher, far left, and other Canadians living in the Atlanta area regularly go watch the Blue Jays play when the baseball team travels to Atlanta, Ga. (Submitted by Christine Mossman Gallagher)

"I want to be able to take care of them even if it's from a thousand miles away," Mossman Gallagher told CBC Toronto. "I feel like being able to vote and making my voice heard in terms of health care would make a big difference for them."

Each year, Mossman Gallagher spends her summer in Muskoka with her family and plans to move back to Canada with her husband and daughter after she retires. 

"I want to go to a country that I feel proud to live in, that takes care of the environment, takes care of its people, she said. "Sometimes I don't feel that here [in the U.S.]."

42% of expats registered live in the U.S.

About 42 per cent of Canadian expats registered to vote next month live in the U.S. like Mossman Gallagher — followed by the United Kingdom with nearly 12 per cent of those registered and Hong Kong with five per cent, according to Elections Canada. 

Before the writs were issued on Sept. 11, nearly 19,800 Canadians living abroad had registered to vote, and in the two weeks since roughly another 12,000 have registered.

Top 10 jurisdictions where Canadian expats registered to vote: Elections Canada
Jurisdiction Expats registered % of Total
United States 13,456 42.37%
United Kingdom 3,682 11.59%
Hong Kong 1,588 5.00%
Australia 1,437 4.53%
Germany 1,303 4.10%
France 1,201 3.78%
Switzerland 719 2.26%
Netherlands 569 1.79%
Japan 469 1.48%
China (excluding Hong Kong & Macao) 418 1.32%
Total of Top 10 24,842 78.23%
Grand Total 31,756 100.00

 

Araz Najarian is one of about 570 expats in the Netherlands planning to vote in this election.

Born and raised in Toronto, Najarian moved to the European country on a year-long contract back in 2006 and then decided to stay, building a life for herself in the port city of Rotterdam. 

Climate change and opportunities for small businesses are two issues she's eager to weigh in on through her vote. 

"I'm a partner in a company here in the Netherlands and I would like to bring more of that business to Canada," Najarian told CBC Toronto. 

Like Mossman Gallagher, she also has family in Canada and visits her parents in Toronto often. 

Araz Najarian moved to the Netherlands in 2006, and now lives in the port city Rotterdam. (Submitted by Araz Najarian)

"I still have a life in Canada — even if it's far," said Najarian. "For me, it's quite important I get to have a chance to also voice my perspective because I'm always going to keep coming back."

CBC Toronto spoke to half a dozen other expats about why getting to vote is important to them. Most of them shared similar sentiments about being happy to have a voice again, plans to move back to Canada eventually, and concerns about far-right politics. 

Despite their enthusiasm, one expert says the number of expats registered to vote actually shows how "detached" those living abroad are from Canada.

Expat votes will have no effect on election: expert

For example, University of Toronto political science professor Nelson Wiseman told CBC Toronto more than 300,000 Canadians are estimated to be living in Hong Kong, but less than 2,000 of them are registered to vote. 

Overall, Wiseman thinks that even if all of the expats registered end up voting it won't make a difference in the election.

"I don't think the expat vote is going to have any effect," said Wiseman. "There are 338 ridings, you do a little math there and it's not very many votes." 

No matter the impact, Mossman Gallagher says she is still "absolutely ecstatic" to finally have some say in an election.

"I feel completely powerless down here in the States where I can't vote."

About the Author

Nicole Brockbank

Reporter, CBC Toronto

Nicole Brockbank is a reporter for CBC Toronto's Enterprise Unit. Fuelled by coffee, she digs up, researches and writes original investigative and feature stories. nicole.brockbank@cbc.ca

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