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

Firefighters respond to two hay barns on fire near Jaffray

Emergency personnel remain on scene throughout Wednesday to put out hot spots

Townsite residents concerned with Sullivan Landing construction activity along tree covenant

This is not the first time residents of 5th Avenue have written to Council for protection of the land.

Know it All: Entertainment in the dog days of August

Cranbrook Arts Dawn Fenwick is our featured artist this month. Her multi-media… Continue reading

Dynamiters prepare for main camp

The Kimberley Dynamiters will host their main camp on Aug. 30 - Sept. 1 at the Civic Centre

UPDATED: MV Balfour ferry returns to service

The 65-year-old ferry had been out of action for a month

VIDEO: Facebook rolls out tool to block off-Facebook data gathering

CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced the “clear history” feature more than a year ago

Pembina buying Kinder Morgan Canada and U.S. portion of Cochin pipeline

The deal also includes an Edmonton storage and terminal business and Vancouver Wharves

Trans Mountain gives contractors 30 days to get workers, supplies ready for pipeline

Crown corporation believes the expansion project could be in service by mid-2022

66% of B.C. residents want opt-out system for organ donation: poll

Support was lowest in Ontario and the Atlantic provinces

B.C. rainbow crosswalk covered in mysterious black substance

Black substance spilled intentionally near Vancouver Island school and difficult to remove

RCMP originally planned to arrest Meng Wanzhou on plane, defence lawyers say

The allegations have not been proven in court. Meng was arrested Dec. 1 at Vancouver airport at the behest of the U.S.

Bodies of two missing Surrey men found near Ashcroft

Ryan Provencher and Richard Scurr have been missing since July 17

Ethics commissioner ready to testify on Trudeau, SNC-Lavalin: NDP critic

A new poll suggests the report hasn’t so far hurt the Liberals’ chances of re-election this fall

Inflation hits Bank of Canada 2% target for second straight month

Prices showed strength in other areas, including an 18.9 per cent increase in the cost of fresh vegetables

Most Read