Dubai: Canada’s voting-age expatriates living in the UAE for more than five years have been barred from voting in their country’s general elections October 19.
In a 2-1 split decision, Ontario Court of Appeal ruled on Monday that expats living abroad for more than five years can no longer vote federally because they do not live with taxation and law consequences of their votes in the daily affairs of the country.
There are an estimated 40,000 Canadians living and working in the UAE.
The decision affects roughly 1.4 million Canadian voters of an estimated 2.8 million living abroad.
Monday’s court ruling overturns an earlier court victory in February 2014 by two Canadian expatriates living in the United States who challenged the five-year limit and won. The men’s legal counsel say they are weighing an appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada.
In the ruling, obtained by Gulf News, Chief Justice George Strathy said on behalf of the three-member appeals court that “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 consequences for their own daily lives.”
Those who have lived in the UAE less than five years, work as a Canadian public servant or in the Canadian military are exempt from the ruling.
Canadian expat, Yvonne, who moved from Toronto to Dubai more than six years ago, is taking umbrage at the suggestion that her vote no longer matters simply because she has moved to another country.
She is a citizen of Canada and has the right to vote for a government who will also make the best decisions for its citizens living away from home, she said.
“Voting is a big part of being a citizen. To take that away isn’t right. It’s wrong to assume that just because you are you’re not living at home doesn’t mean we are not interested,” she said.
Canadian expat Ravi Vasandane, 57, said he disagrees with the court decision, noting that voting is a constitution right that shouldn’t be arbitrarily restricted.
“My argument is very simple — we do pay taxes even when we are abroad,” said Vasandane. “I feel it’s not the right thing to do. We don’t take any benefits from the taxes I pay [while] abroad.
“Voting is a guaranteed right for every Canadian citizen, it is a constitutional right. It has no caveat,” Vasandane said.
Expat Altaf Hussain, 51, said he isn’t bothered by the restrictions upon voting.
Canadian citizens who move abroad are not losing their voting rights permanently, according to him.
“I think it [the decision] makes sense, they have to come up with some kind of limit. I can always go back,” Hussain said. “I think five years is a reasonable length of time. When I go back, I will vote again.”
Expat Marianna Wright., 26, of Brantford, Ontario, said she fully plans to vote in the fall general election while she is still allowed — she has lived in the UAE for more than a year and is eligible to exercise her franchise.
The court argument that people don’t live with the consequences of their vote is an “incredible contradiction,” she suggested, noting that elected governments “are making decisions that affect Canadians abroad. Who is to say that we’re not affected by their decisions?”
Marianna said, “there are expats paying taxes and following the issues and they should be able to vote.”
Emotions are already running high among Canadian expatriates in the UAE regarding who will assume the mantle of governing the country come fall with an expected heated race to the polls.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who now enjoys 159 seats of 338 seats in the House of Commons, is vying for a fourth term for his Conservative party and will face off against the two main Liberal and New Democratic parties.