A voter walks past a sign directing voters to a polling station for the Canadian federal election in Cremona, Alta., Monday, Oct. 19, 2015. Canada’s chief electoral officer says voting day this fall should not be moved. Election day can be no later than Oct. 21 under federal law, which this year falls on the Jewish holiday known as Shemini Atzeret, meaning Orthodox Jews are not permitted to work, vote or campaign. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

Chief electoral officer decides to stick with voting day amid religious concerns

Election day falls on Shemini Atzeret, a day on which Orthodox Jews are not permitted to work, vote or campaign

Canada’s chief electoral officer says voting day this fall should not be moved, despite the fact that it falls on a Jewish holiday.

Election day can be no later than Oct. 21 under federal law, which this year coincides with the holiday known as Shemini Atzeret, a day on which Orthodox Jews are not permitted to work, vote or campaign.

Elections Canada had been lobbied to change the date, but decided against it this close to an election, prompting a Federal Court challenge to the decision.

Last week, the court ordered chief electoral officer Stephane Perrault to take a second look at the decision and balance the infringement on the charter rights of affected voters against the objectives of the election law.

Perrault’s detailed decision, made public Monday, considered the impact on observant Jews and his mandate “to ensure accessible voting opportunities for all Canadians.” But he concludes it would not be in the public interest to reschedule the vote.

Since no change is recommended, the federal cabinet is not required to sign off on Perrault’s decision. Under federal law, the chief electoral officer can only make a recommendation to cabinet. He doesn’t have the unilateral ability to move the election date.

“This is a difficult situation that directly touches upon the very core values of our democracy,” Perrault wrote in his decision.

“I nevertheless believe, when considering the entirety of my statutory mandate, and especially at this time in the electoral calendar, that it is not in the public interest for me to recommend a change to the date of the general election.

“This is not a decision that I make lightly, but with a view to providing the broadest possible range of accessible voting services to the population at large.”

In early June, Conservative candidate Chani Aryeh-Bain, who is running in the Toronto riding of Eglinton-Lawrence, and Ira Walfish, a voter in nearby York Centre, argued in Federal Court that the overlap of dates meant that Aryeh-Bain, in particular, wouldn’t be able to run a campaign on equal footing to her competitors.

They also argued that scheduled advance polling days are problematic. Three out of four advance voting days — which are held on a Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday the week before election day — fall on dates when observant Jews wouldn’t be able to vote.

Their concerns drew cross-party concerns, with Liberal incumbents Michael Levitt, who represents York Centre, and Marco Mendicino, who Aryeh-Bain is challenging, siding with the complainants.

There was a recommendation that election day be moved to Oct. 28, but Perrault noted that would coincide with municipal elections in Nunavut. He also wrote that 13 school boards hosting polling stations had agreed to make Oct. 21 a professional development day with no classes, and few were willing to make a change to the following week.

Perrault wrote that Elections Canada will continue to do outreach to the Jewish community in affected ridings to find other ways to help them vote.

Orthodox Jews are primarily in 36 of 338 federal ridings, most of them in urban areas.

“There is no such thing as a perfect election day, especially in a country as diverse as Canada. There are always Canadians who are unable to vote on election day,” Perrault wrote.

“I recognize that maintaining October 21 as election day means that observant Jewish electors will have to vote in one of these alternative ways. They nevertheless have a genuine opportunity to participate in the electoral process.”

READ MORE: Court orders Elections Canada to review moving voting day over religious worries

READ MORE: At least 20 people donated max to both Liberals and Conservatives in 2018

Jordan Press, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Hagensborg Water District ratepayers vote to dissolve district

In a close vote of 68 to 63, ratepayers have chosen to dissolve the water district

Bella Coola residents rely on food bank support

Your volunteers at the food bank work year-round, but are especially busy at Christmas

Nations coming together: Haida pole raised at opening of Heiltsuk Big House

‘Haida/Heiltsuk Peace Pole’ part of ceremony marking return of spiritual centre in Bella Bella

Nimpkish back in service while NSW undergoes repairs

The Northern Sea Wolf sustained damage to its propellers from a log strike in November

B.C. forest industry aid on the way, Doug Donaldson says

Layoffs focus of B.C. legislature’s final day of 2019

VIDEO: Federal Liberals’ throne speech welcomes opposition’s ideas

Trudeau will need NDP or Bloc support to pass legislation and survive confidence votes

VIDEO: John Lennon’s iconic Rolls Royce rolls into Vancouver Island college for checkup

Royal BC Museum, Camosun College and Coachwerks Restorations come together to care for car

VIDEO: Rockslide closes part of Highway 93 in Fairmont Hot Springs

Geotechnical team called in to do an assessment after rocks fell from hoodoos

Petition calls for appeal of ex-Burns Lake mayor’s sentence for sex assault

Prosecution service says Luke Strimbold’s case is under review

Northwest B.C. wildlife shelter rescues particularly tiny bear cub

Shelter co-founder says the cub weighs less than a third of what it should at this time of year

BC firefighters to help battle Australian bushfires

Canada sent 22 people, including 7 from B.C.

B.C. NDP touts the end of MSP premiums

Horgan, James held news conference to reiterate that people will get their last bill this month

Illicit drug deaths down, but B.C. coroner says thousands still overdose

Chief coroner Life Lapointe says province’s drug supply remains unpredictable

Trustees ask for more help after tearful meeting on B.C. school’s ‘toxic’ stench

Enforcement has ‘no teeth,’ school trustee says, while kids become sick

Most Read