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.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Chilliwack council awards $255K contract for Vedder Road roundabout artwork

State of the Art Concepts set to fabricate public art featuring traditional canoe design

Métis citizenship questions can be answered at open house in Chilliwack

Chilliwack Métis Association to host open house and Genealogy Day Workshop on Saturday, February 22

Chilliwack plugs into EV requirements for new construction

Consultation underway to determine what level of electric vehicle infrastructure will be adequate

Sabah Fadai leads mixed martial arts resurrection in Chilliwack

Long considered an outlaw sport with a wild west mentality, MMA is gaining legitimacy.

Keeping kids busy with spring break camps and events in Chilliwack

Here’s a handy list of events and classes for kids being offered in Chilliwack March 16 to 27

Pipeline dispute: Tories put no-confidence motion on House of Commons agenda

Conservatives say they have no confidence in the Trudeau government to end the rail blockades

Galchenyuk nets shootout winner as Wild edge Canucks 4-3

Vancouver tied with Calgary for second spot in NHL’s Pacific Division

B.C.’s soda drink tax will help kids lose weight, improve health, says doctor

Dr. Tom Warshawski says studies show sugary drinks contribute to obesity

A&W employees in Ladysmith get all-inclusive vacation for 10 years of service

Kelly Frenchy, Katherine Aleck, and Muriel Jack are headed on all-expenses-paid vacations

B.C. mom’s complaint about ‘R word’ in children’s ministry email sparks review

In 2020, the ‘R’ word shouldn’t be used, Sue Robins says

B.C., federal ministers plead for meeting Wet’suwet’en dissidents

Scott Fraser, Carolyn Bennett says they can be in Smithers Thursday

UPDATE: TransLink gets injunction ahead of pipeline, Indigenous rights protest

The protest rally is in opposition to the Coastal GasLink and Trans Mountain pipeline projects

Province shows no interest in proposed highway between Alberta and B.C.

Province says it will instead focus on expanding the Kicking Horse Canyon to four lanes

Mysterious bang booms over Sumas Mountain once again

Police unsure of source, quarry companies say, ‘not us’

Most Read