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

Morning Start: Women can give birth after they die

Your morning start for Wednesday, Aug. 12, 2020

Morning Start: The Exorcist film set was haunted

Your morning start for Tuesday, Aug. 11, 2020

Former Summerlander receives Emmy nomination for makeup work

Lucky Bromhead recognized for her work with Canadian sitcom Schitt’s Creek

Health care priorities debated following surprise funding announcement

Surprise provincial funding stirs debate on local health care priorities during regional meeting

Morning Start: High heels were first designed for men

Your morning start for Monday, Aug. 10, 2020

Video: SUV burns alongside the highway near Salmon Arm

Footage of the burning vehicle was posted to Youtube.

Federal Conservative leadership candidate skirts COVID-19 rules at Kelowna rally

Derek Sloan held a rally in Kelowna that had over 50 people, which is against health orders from the province

Teachers to get 2 extra days to prepare for students’ return, now set for Sept. 10

Students will first start with orientation and learn rules of COVID-19 classroom policies

High-volume littering at Cape Scott draws ire from hiking groups

Popular Vancouver Island hiking spot not closing, but frustration about crowding grows

SFU to drop ‘Clan’ varsity team name

The ‘Clan’ name is shortened from ‘Clansmen,’ and was introduced roughly 55 years ago

New Tory leader must build a strong team in Commons and for the campaign: Scheer

Scheer marked his final day in the House of Commons today as leader of the Opposition

South Okanagan restaurant ranked among world’s best by TripAdvisor

The Hooded Merganser was ranked within the top 10 per cent of all restaurants by TripAdvisor reviews

Highway 97 upgrade option for Peachland faces 20-year delay

Peachland council disappointed by highways department decision

Kelowna Hells Angels prospect charged with assault, choking

Jason Townsend, 43, was charged after allegedly choking a woman last weekend

Most Read