This case concerns the constitutional validity of amendments to the Canada Elections Act, S.C. 2000, c. 9 (“the Act”) that require voters to prove their identity and residence by prescribed means before casting a ballot in a federal election. The BCCLA intervened at the BC Supreme Court and at the BC Court of Appeal.
The BCCLA has long advocated for citizens’ rights and against circumstances where legislation may disproportionately negatively affect vulnerable and marginalized populations. In this case, the BCCLA argues that the new voter identification rules impose a barrier to voting that disproportionately affects certain groups, such as homeless, Indigenous, and rural voters, and that there is little evidence to suggest there was a voter fraud problem to justify changes to the legislation. The government’s justifications for these measures do not outweigh the serious risk of disenfranchisement for marginalized and vulnerable individuals.
The BC Court of Appeal released its judgment in this case on Tuesday, January 28, 2014. The BC Court of Appeal upheld the decision of the BC Supreme Court, finding that while the amendments to the voting laws do infringe on the Charter’s section 3 voting rights, the infringement is justifiable under section 1. The Court of Appeal held that the trial judge did not err in her conclusion that there were no alternative, less drastic means of achieving the legislative goals (accepted as enhancing the integrity of the vote), nor in her conclusion that the salutary effects of the provisions outweighed the deleterious effects.
The BCCLA is represented by Dan Burnett, Q.C. of Owen Bird LLP and Mathew Good of Hordo, Bennett, Mounteer LLP.
British Columbia Court of Appeal