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Elections Canada refuses to clarify flawed ruling related to robocall scandal

| August 31, 2012

OTTAWA – This week Democracy Watch released the second letter it has sent asking Elections Canada to clarify a ruling by the Commissioner of Canada Elections on a recent complaint after Elections Canada responded with a refusal to clarify the interpretation. Democracy Watch received the ruling from the person who filed the complaint and in it the Commissioner refused to investigate based upon a much too narrow and restrictive interpretation of a key measure in the Canada Elections Act that prohibits influence of voters by foreigners.

Democracy Watch sent the first letter on August 6, 2012 asking specifically for Elections Canada to clarify their interpretation of the word "induce" in section 331 of the Canada Elections Act which was interpreted in such a way to mean that a voter "was actually induced or affected in their voting behaviour due to the activity complained of." In Democracy Watch's opinion, the legally correct definition of this measure is that "induce" also includes trying to persuade someone to vote one way or another (or not to vote), especially given that the heading of section 331 reads "Non-Interference by Foreigners" and the sub-heading is "Prohibition - inducements by non-residents."

In responding to the request for clarification on their interpretation and their enforcement standard overall, Elections Canada refused to provide any further detail and to publicly clarify how they enforce the Canada Elections Act, instead choosing to dodge the question.

"We're facing an incredibly dangerous situation where Elections Canada refuses to make their interpretation of the Canada Elections Act clear, preventing Canadians from understanding the way they enforce the law," said Tyler Sommers, Coordinator of Democracy Watch. "Canadians expect Elections Canada to ensure that our elections are free and fair and that the rules are followed, however they're refusing to let us know whether they're actually performing this task, instead asking us to blindly trust them, which doesn't make sense."

Given this very flawed ruling which sets a weak enforcement standard, the Commissioner's continuing refusal to clarify their interpretation in this situation, and his refusal to disclose the rulings it made on more than 3,000 complaints from the 1997 election on through the 2011 election, Democracy Watch is calling for a public inquiry into the Commissioner's enforcement standards and practices from the past 15 years.

Democracy Watch is also attempting to shed light on Elections Canada's practices through an access-to-information request, filed last April, seeking details on how Elections Canada handled the thousands of complaints it received since 1997. Democracy Watch is still waiting for a full response while Elections Canada continues to make excuses for the delay.

"Elections Canada runs one of the most important events in Canada's democracy and yet they continue to hide whether they are properly ensuring that federal elections are actually free and fair. Clearly, federal politicians must require Elections Canada to regularly disclose the details of how they handle complaints so Canadians can finally know if they're doing their job properly and effectively," said Sommers.

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